16 Conclusions From Being At Euro 2012

Philip Cornwall comes away from Poland and Ukraine with lots of fuzzy feelings and the sense that Michel Platini's 'no host' theory is bunkum. What has he learned?

Last Updated: 02/07/12 at 16:23 Post Comment

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* Supporting England can be enjoyable even when the team fail to perform in their biggest test. Our support has lost its pariah status and accepted defeat - after coming so undeservedly close to victory - with admirable stoicism.

* Watching matches as a neutral at a tournament is still immensely pleasurable even if they no longer represent a welcome relief from the embarrassment of being an England fan.

* Never underestimate the ability of countries to make a success of staging an event. Ukraine in particular cut things fine and perhaps just enough people were put off from going to enable the infrastructure to take the strain, but they got away with it.

* Eastern and central Europe are changing for the better, if unevenly. It will take a lot of getting used to on both sides but every other country in the former Soviet bloc should study how successfully you can open yourself up and feel good about yourself.

* But the truer test of how much progress Poland and Ukraine have made will come down the line. My guess is that club football will still have to go through some of the pain that we did in the post-Heysel years. England have both hosts in their 2014 World Cup qualifying group so we will get to see if the changes in football culture at the national team level were temporary or have solid foundations.

* Russia 2018 is still a concern. Vladimir Putin welcomed, rather than condemned, the confrontational approach of a march through Warsaw before the game with Poland and expressed the wish that Russia play Germany on June 21, the anniversary of the 1941 Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Clearly, political problems remain in Ukraine but its much larger neighbour seems far less prepared to meet the rest of the world halfway.

* Surviving members of Queen should not assume that anyone - least of all a crowd drawn to a free concert the night before a European Championship final - will be able to sing along to the more obscure parts of their back catalogue.

* Only a gambler - such as Michel Platini - would discard the successful format of 16 teams but by doing so he may enhance the atmosphere, if not the football, of the group stage. The cities here could not approach the cosmopolitan feel of, say, Cologne at the 2006 World Cup because of the distances between venues. Nonetheless there was a brilliant buzz and having supporters of 24 teams involved, especially in a more navigable country such as France, will make Paris and other transport hubs fantastic places to be in four years' time.

* Only a fool - such as Michel Platini - would consider ditching the host-nation(s) principle in favour of spreading the tournament across the continent. By doing so you will dissipate the sense that this is an event and create merely a series of football matches. Crowds, atmosphere and - close to Platini's heart - revenue will suffer.

* The hosts may struggle to use some of the new infrastructure - Ukrainians seem resistant to long-distance daytime train travel and the idea of continental hosting in 2020 may have its roots in this. This may be an expression of remorse over Portugal's misplaced investment in white elephant stadiums for Euro 2004 but there are plenty of countries who could stage the finals without splashing out. Indeed, if there really are so few candidates for 2020 then I'll buy the stamp and the envelope if the FA will dig out a 2018 document and use 'find and replace' to change 'World Cup' to 'European Championship'.

* Advertising will never cease to be baffling. Why were the Canary Islands trumpeting the millions of Britons who visit each year in the Warsaw Fan Zone, and using the big screen to congratulate the people of Poland on the Queen's diamond jubilee?

* Do not ask why certain large, expensive cars were allowed to drive through police roadblocks around the Fan Zones and stadiums, and park on pavements.

* Fan Zones may be overly commercial but you cannot argue with their popularity or dispute that they provide a focus to a host city, especially when they have an out-of-town stadium.

* Always pack fewer T-shirts than you will need as you are bound to buy several.

* Take a breather at some point. It may seem fun on paper to chase every game you can over three-and-a-half weeks but, especially in large countries, you risk not seeing enough of the hosts beyond their railway lines and stadiums.

* Cherish every moment of the Olympics. After all the excitement of winning the bid, the expectation of success caused by the medal torrent in Beijing and the increased frenzy of anticipation brought about by the torch relay, it will be over before you know it.

Philip Cornwall

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