Keep those Mails coming in to email@example.com, and fill this horrible little two-day break.
COYBIG, or go home
COME ON IRELAND! This is what it’s all about. I don’t care if it was Italy’s second string. Nothing comes close to this. Nothing.
The Flan, North London
…Robbie Brady, what a moment you have given your nation. The whole team, you have done us so proud.
Wes Hoolahan has sadly been overlooked for almost his entire career for being small. It would warm any fan’s heart to witness the sunset of his career.
Seamie Coleman played his heart out. I can’t remember a player taking the role as captain so seriously and driving his team. I’m including Roy in that statement.
This Euros has been magical. Ireland, England, Wales and Norn Iron all through. That is amazing. What were the odds? Genuinely delighted for all four (yes, even England). Iceland got through too. Seriously.
Paul, Mayo, Ireland
Some piping hot political chat
It was wonderful for us just to qualify, but it’s absolutely marvellous to see all thirty two counties of Ireland through to the knockout rounds of a major finals.
Here’s hoping that one day it won’t require two separate squads to achieve it. Imagine what we could do if the FAI and IFA sat down and, like the egg-chasing rugby boys, put politics aside and joined forces.
Eoin (I’d even sing that awful Ireland’s Call to see it happen) Ireland
Poor Glenn Whelan
Ireland’s best performances recently were the win against Italy tonight and the win against Germany in qualifying. Glenn Whelan didn’t feature in either match.
I’m sure it’s just a coincidence though
Fiachra Delea, Cork, Ireland
The draw has hardly screwed England over
So, after all the hand-wringing about Roy’s changes and the sterner test we face as a result of not winning Group B, we now know exactly what lies ahead and it’s not so bad after all.
Our last-16 game is against Iceland, whereas if we had won the group we would have had Northern Ireland instead. Both are determined underdogs who will put men behind the ball and if we haven’t worked out how to overcome that style of play after the group we had then there is no hope for us. Given the choice I’d take Iceland simply because the Ulstermen know us better.
Next up is a QF against either France or Ireland, while as group winners we would have been up against Belgium or Hungary. The favourites there are France and Belgium, both are whom have fantastic squads and look great on paper but have failed to impress so far. Belgium were pre-tournament favourites but France have home advantage, so there’s nothing to choose between them either.
Then we’d have a semi-final against the Germans, and what is a tournament with an agonising semi-final defeat to Germany on penalties? Had we won the group we would certainly have had an easier looking SF against Croatia, or Portugal if they get their act together. But Portugal have almost taken over from Germany as our bogey team in recent tournaments and you can bet that they would have made it through to beat us with a combination of diving and winking.
To be fair though, the semi-final is the only round where we see ourselves at a disadvantage by not winning the group. Get through that and we face a final against leaderless Belgium, which after beating the hosts and the Germans should be a breeze. Finishing as runner-up at the group stage has worked out fine and it doesn’t give us any excuses going forward.
Iceland: The hipster wet dream
Watching Iceland score a last minute winner against Austria to clinch a last 16 spot has to be the most enjoyable moment of this championship and one of the most enjoyable of any Euros. It’s hard to avoid sounding patronising but it is a staggering achievement.
The celebrations of the supporters and players, the footage of the mayor of Reykjavik celebrating in his home like a loon and the Icelandic commentary of that winning goal was strangely heartwarming and the pure joy actually made me emotional.
At least when England fail to break down the Asgardian defence and lose on penalties, I won’t hate their conquerors.
Yeah, this wasn’t a strong look
See. This is the reason I have never, nor will ever support England. Lineker, Ferdinand and Murphy sat on live TV celebrating the fact that they will be playing Iceland not Portugal, demeaning the side (to the point where Henry had to stop them and warn them that Iceland finished second and beat Austria), calling it an easy tie and, and this is the icing on the cake, the whole conversation concluding with Ferdinand calling them ‘the icelands’.
Unbelievable arrogance and personally, i hope the Icelands give them a damn good thwacking.
Stu AFC Wrexham
Just think about Kiraly’s chafing
What a game, best of the tournament so far. Never seen a keeper sweat as much as Hungary’s Kiraly, though. And quite visibly too due to his trademark sweatpants. Man, he must have felt the heat too… Quality goalkeeping nevertheless. Massive Hungary, off to face the underwhelming Belgians. Hajrá Magyarország!
Also, shout out to Iceland who got a deserved dramatic late win over Austria.
It’s almost like different groups are different and they knew what they had to do
There was always going to be some sort of compromise when it came to deciding how to whittle a field of 24 down to 16, I suppose, but I have to say that I think it is completely out of order when a team that hasn’t won a game in the group stages can make it through, at the expense of teams that have.
I know the rules were probably there for all to see well before the tournament, and I would have written in about this sooner, only Ronaldo’s Portugal didn’t qualify for the knockout stages without winning a game at the expense of teams that did win games until yesterday.
The Odegaard warning
The story about Odegaard has left me seething. It should be held up as a warning to all young (and indeed old) players against letting excitement from being linked to big names and agents (who see dollar signs from fees) sway your decisions when moving clubs.
Odegaard was a hugely touted young player, who really looked something special and was being woo’d by the best teams in the world. He was a Liverpool fan and yet still plumped for Real.
Yet the sad reality is that he would be in the Liverpool first team (or at least the squad) over the last few years, getting games, experience and developing as a player. Instead, he’s been left in the wilderness by a club who can’t do legacy and development; who’s version of the latter is selling a player abroad and then buying him back if he turns out good.
On top of that, the quotes from Ancelotti make me sick. “He could be the best player in the world, but I don’t care because he was not a player who I asked for.”
Instead, out of spite, rather than recognise what he had – one of the most sought after players i’ve ever heard of – he rejected him entirely and gave him no development time. My respect for him is entirely gone.
As this lad looks to rebuild his young career at the club he originally favoured, it should stand as a salutary warning. There are some clubs you shouldn’t ever join as a young player – and I’d probably include Arsenal in that.
The latest from our (oh, another) man in Japan
Inspired to send this in as I’ve been enjoying James T, Kanazawa’s updates from Japan. I was there for a skiing holiday at Christmas and was looking around for a football match. The J league was finished but I noticed the Emperor’s Cup Final was on in Tokyo on January 1. This is the Japanese equivalent of the FA Cup Final but as far as I could tell on the internet tickets were available. I wasn’t able to work out how to get them so I went to the Tourist Information at Hakuba, up in the snow fields, for some advice. They confirmed that the match was on, that tickets were on sale, but likewise couldn’t work out how to get them. But they told me not to worry – just go down to the local Lawson Station and get them there. Lawson Station is a convenience store chain, exactly like 7-11. It didn’t sound very likely to me but I thought I might as well try. In about 4 minutes, without a single word of Japanese and only one common word of English (“soccer”) I managed to get 3 unreserved seats for the Cup Final! In a convenience store!! For about 50 quid!!!
We took the train from central Tokyo to the Ajinomoto Stadium in the ‘burbs along with about 50,000 others. The Japanese are good at lots of things, and mass transport is one of them. The train was packed but not uncomfortable (they have to be the cleanest race on the planet) and we got to the stadium in good time. We asked where we should sit and as we were all happened to be wearing blue (deliberate on my part, CFC scarf) we were directed to the Gamba Osaka end. Which suited me – the other end was Urawa Reds and it would have felt wrong supporting a team who dress like Man U.
The crowd were fantastic – huge flags, kettle drums, crowd marshals leading the songs… Everyone (except us) seemed to know the words and the bulk of Gamba fans bounced for 90 minutes. Two-thirds of the ground was red, and the rest blue. It was like a scene from a Kurosawa movie and it was easy to imagine the 2 armies sprinting on to the pitch and clashing on the halfway line.
But this is Japan, so nothing so crude and horrible. It was a pretty good match, our boys Gamba winning 2-1 with 2 goals from an excellent Brazilian whose name I can’t remember. We didn’t stay for the presentation as we had to get the train home. So we shuffled our way back to the station in the company of about 30,000 disappointed Urawa fans – not a whiff of trouble or bad temper – just sadness. It was like one single queue all the way from the ground to the station – we didn’t move fast but we moved constantly until we got to the front of the platform where we waited a few minutes for the next train. We were back home at our hotel an hour after the final whistle.
It was a brilliant experience – noodle soup and rice balls as our game time snack instead of pie and chips, and beer delivered to us in our seats. I’m going to make this a regular holiday feature from now on.