England ‘never learn’ after patronising Austria, Swiss, Italians etc. with ‘lucky’ Euro 2024 draw

Editor F365
England striker Harry Kane
Harry Kane during the 0-0 draw with Slovenia.

It’s a single-issue Mediawatch today.

Now most of the time when this happens it’s about an issue that really is important. Often it’s to do with wider societal issues that have been viewed through a football lens on that particular day. It can and has been racism, misogyny, right-wingers being really f***ing weird about Marcus Rashford. That kind of stuff.

Today is not one of those days. Today, we’ve got ourselves really quite embarrassingly worked up about the utter tish and absolute fipsy that is journalists being wrong about the nature of England’s knockout draw for Euro 2024.

We knew this was coming when we saw this Ollie Holt tweet on Wednesday night.

We can and will do you 1000 words on that tweet alone. It ticks so, so many of our boxes. It grinds so many of our gears. Boils so much of our p*ss. We should be better and rise above it, but also f*** that.

There are multiple levels of annoyance here, okay?

One, it is always, always, always infuriating when football journalists – and specifically tabloid football journalists – whose outlets spend so much time whipping people into a frenzy around major tournaments, then attempt to loftily elevate themselves above that particular fray and affect an air of detached intellectual superiority about the undeniable weirdness of the national psyche around these events.

And that’s precisely what’s happening here from a repeat offender.

Holt’s own Daily Mail have, inevitably and quite correctly, reported on England’s potential path to Berlin.

England to play Slovakia next at Euro 2024 thanks to Georgia’s shock win over Portugal as they’re handed IDEAL potential run to the final, with last-16 ties confirmed now group stage has ended

Apart from its baffling yet on-brand length, there really isn’t much to argue about there.

Is it really patronising to suggest that playing the team ranked 45th in the world in the last 16 is preferable to playing one ranked seventh? Or that a semi-final against Austria is a less terrifying prospect than one against France?

And the coverage from everywhere else really is broadly along those lines.

The Sun and Daily Express both call England’s draw ‘favourable’, which it just absolutely is. The Daily Star call it ‘good news’, noting it will be Italy or Switzerland next ‘if they can get past Slovakia’. If, not when, you’ll notice. They then list the semi-final opponents England could face while not ‘wishing to wishing to get too far ahead of ourselves’.

So far, so patronising. But also, what on earth are you actually on about, Ollie? It is just wilfully, laughably contrarian to pretend England aren’t on the favourable side of the knockout draw. It is objective, measurable fact.

We’ve all had a good laugh at FIFA rankings over the years, but they exist and on one side of the draw you’ve got the teams currently ranked second, third, sixth and eighth in the world as well as a host nation that has, after some hilarious recent efforts, sadly got its sh*t together again.

The four top-ranked teams on England’s side of the draw are fifth, seventh, tenth and 19th. There’s a group winner ranked 47 in there, England’s next opponents are ranked 45th and the undeniably impressive Austrians are the 25th best team in the world on the latest ranking list.

There are five national teams who have won either the World Cup or Euros since the 1990s and four of them are in one half of the draw.

These are facts.

It is equally true England are ‘lucky’ to be where they are based on their own performances and results, and the array of results in other games that have fallen their way to create this specific scenario.

It’s not any kind of stretch to say every single relevant result since England so unconvincingly secured top spot in Group C (and a good few significant ones before) has gone their way, with Georgia’s win over Portugal the last and least expected gift to land in England’s lap.

Then there’s the cognitive dissonance of a man chastising everyone else for being ‘patronising’ about the draw when he himself has literally right at that very moment dismissed half the teams now in England’s half with a single ‘etc.’

There is so much projection going on here. It’s only patronising to suggest Austria or Romania or Slovakia are easier teams to play against than Germany or Portugal or France in a major tournament knockout if your own interpretation of that perfectly rational statement is to decide it means those other teams are sh*t.

Almost nobody is doing that with any seriousness. If there’s one positive from England’s efforts at this tournament thus far it’s that there is very little danger of anybody going overboard about their chances. England supporters aren’t being patronising when noting how the draw now looks. They’re being self-deprecating.

The sleight of hand Holt has used to create his straw man here is to pretend the words ‘easy’ and ‘easier’ mean exactly the same thing. This is the easier half of the draw because it just demonstrably is.

The bottom half of the draw is easy in comparison to the top half. It is easier for England or anyone else here to go all the way than it is for, say, a France side that now potentially has to pick its way past Belgium, Portugal and Germany or Spain just to get to the final. England, Austria, Netherlands, Italy and Switzerland have all been backed in with the bookies over the last 24 hours; Denmark and Belgium have drifted. It’s not complicated.

Easier is simply not the same thing as easy. Almost nobody is seriously suggesting it is easy, as much as anything else because everyone has seen those first three games. Okay, Mark Goldbridge did suggest it was easy, but that really is an exception that proves the rule.

And ‘England never learn?’ Again, who’s being patronising here? Is he seriously suggesting that only in England are we looking at that draw and thinking ‘Hello, that’s better than the other half of the draw…’?

There was a whole discourse in the Netherlands about whether it would be better to finish third in their group, as they eventually did, rather than second specifically to land in this half of the draw. Do they also never learn?

And above all Mediawatch simply doesn’t trust anyone who doesn’t look at a tournament bracket and instantly start plotting potential paths for everyone. Admittedly, that may very well just be us, but there’s nothing arrogant or patronising about ‘If we do this, then next it might be this, and then…’

That kind of dreaming is in our view an absolute cornerstone of fandom. If you can’t dream and imagine ‘What if?’ then really what’s the point of any of it?

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