Euro 2020 is over, is captain hindsight already saying thank goodness? Maybe. Is it too early to cast back out of the tear-stained rear view mirror and gaze upon on this tournament without any thought of negative, agenda filled, emotion driven, largely nonsensical review? Probably.
Undoubtedly the mention and even passing thought of Wembley, Three Lions, Neil Diamond or a sweet woman called Caroline is enough to bring out any poisonous mix of anger, dejection or the undying relentlessness of a penalty shootout in English fans.
Bowed heads trudged off to the closest packed, sweaty tube station, no longer physically and metaphorically bouncing to the tunes of Atomic Kitten or David Baddiel. Even before heads turned to throw England’s second most successful manager of all time under a London bus there will have been preparation for Chelsea’s Premier League opener against Crystal Palace. But for the past week, gradually dying down as the focus turns to football’s domestic showpiece, Gareth Southgate’s head has been on the block, a guillotine hanging precariously above him, albeit from those that only wish to see his weaknesses and refuse to accept the unrivalled changes to England’s prideful national team that he has not only overseen, but commandeered.
For England fans it is too soon. The tournament could have been famous. Now it will forever be agony, imprinted on the minds of everyone that braved the nerves and came together to forge an empire of cheering soldiers, watching their heroes wherever they may be.
Admittedly, it has been a hard tournament to analyse, the brief overview could be that the group stages were largely forgettable, average games of football. What followed was a combination of chaos which represented the current world state and the past 18-months, both coming together to express the players and fans feelings of carnage on and off the pitch.
Football was back and when we’re all ready to process the home final tragedy, the second two weeks of games should be retrospectively praised for their part in transforming a summer. Banishing minds of inexcusable political decisions or social injustice and providing a tangible way out for the followers, Euro 2020, played in 2021, was a brilliant tournament.
Even with the obvious faults, questionable travelling codes and violations, home crowds or bent rules, a tournament delayed; like no other in so many ways, was special to our hearts, even if it did end with the predictable unpredictability of a lottery shoot out.
Maybe it was the blinkered and bleary alcohol goggles of the knockout stages that meant actually knowing how a team won wasn’t important as long as fans saw their team progress. The emotion of winning and hugging a friend you never thought you would overawing any thought of attacking wingbacks or a double-pivot. How did Italy win the final? I haven’t given it a moments thought.
After the events in London some would say this is wrong, but why drive innocent fans away from the pure nature of the game. Spectating sport is becoming a spectator sport itself, the media, public and government becoming more interested in the sideshow than the event. The rules of how to indulge in football, how to experience it being written and dictated to those that football is built upon. The code of fandom, ripped apart and replaced with democratic, insecure, so called correctness.
Perhaps it’s because within the first week of a delayed international tournament there was an eery, placebo backdrop for an argument involving football’s commercialisation and commodification once again. Nobody wanted to say it as Christian Eriksen fell to the ground, but posting on social media wasn’t going to stop the overworking of players for two years straight. The tragic incident rightly brought the attention and the tense stage lights onto greedy broadcasters, commercial mismanagement and the biggest of elephants in the room. But does anyone actually believe that there will be a change in attitudes?
This isn’t the way football or sport is meant to be. Why aren’t we talking about the action, there was plenty of it. Unrivalled drama on the world stage, 60,000 fans more often than not there to watch it unfold. Football isn’t meant to be predictable, maybe that’s why the stories after the matches aren’t football related anymore. Why speak about human error on the field when the larger, money makers are transcending the football world into an unrecognisable, unfollowable mess.
Euro 2020 is over. Does anyone know what to think?
When the bloodthirsty fans parted way at the end of Sunday night, slumping back into their beds and subsequently entering work with the inevitable hangover on Monday morning, the world wasn’t right. Even if it only lasted two weeks, since the memorable carnival at Wembley after beating Germany 2-0, England was united. Football fans were together, linking arms, sharing beer and ultimately everyone loved the size of Harry Maguire’s head.
As the week drew on though, times changed, reverted even, back to the normal hostility of club football. Nobody cared about Kane not squaring it to Sterling or Saka being just 19, the one-up-manship had started again. HMS Premier League was peering over the horizon, the cut-throat fan attitude was back.
When the league does get going again there will be two double-European champions in the Chelsea squad after Euro 2020. Both Jorginho and Emerson, sure to be booed more than usual in away grounds, lifted their second major trophy of the past two months. They made it a year to remember, the Pride of London once more.
Euro 2020 was also a tournament to remember for Chelsea anyway. Their squad consisted of the most players at the tournament, from the semi-finals they were guaranteed a winner, if Rashford had slotted his kick home, there might have been three…
There were moments of jubilation as Andreas Christensen and his brave Danish warriors captured the hearts of all that felt pain as they were forced to take in the horror of human tragedy, celebrating each minute with ferocious athleticism and skill. Times were sad, witnessing Ethan Ampadu retreat from the field after a red card, marring his Euro 2020 off the back of a poor refereeing decision. Then, the fate that only Covid-19 could write and execute, forcing Scotland and Chelsea starlet Billy Gilmour to depart from Euro 2020 after his typically (and now very much expected) mesmerising senior, international tournament and Euros debut against England at Wembley.
There were stories for all the players involved. Be it heartbreak or heart-warming, the squad are assembling at Cobham once again. Under the tutelage of a master coach, on a mission to dominate the domestic scene like he so calmly broke the European stage last season.
Euro 2020 has been and passed, the memories will last in pain, scars and alcohol stained clothing, but now it’s time for the European (and double-European) champions to take the limelight at home once again.
Written and edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)
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