Ten reasons why the nerds are wrong and Euro 2024 has been brilliant

Dave Tickner
Euro 2024 has been brilliant.
Euro 2024 has been brilliant.

Have you been enjoying Euro 2024? Yeah? Of course you have, apart from England’s games it’s mainly been tremendous fun with all manner of entertaining nonsense going off.

But the backlash has begun. The nerds are revolting, complaining about underlying numbers and stats that show it is actually rubbish. We mustn’t let them win this argument. Major international tournaments are absolutely not and can never be entirely about some vaguely specific or specifically vague concept of ‘quality’.

The best international sides cannot, for multiple and really quite obvious reasons, ever hope to match the levels reached by the very best club sides in the modern global sport.

And that’s even before you throw in the fact major tournaments happen in the summer at the end of long and exhausting seasons. If we wanted them to be the best possible standard we would play them at another time. Actually, FIFA tried that. It went okay. Shush.

Major tournaments cannot – or should not, at least – be measured or defined by the same methods as club football. To do so is to miss the point of the whole affair.

Here are just 10 of the many and varied reasons why Euro 2024 has been great so far.

 

Shitpingers
Really simple and obvious starting point. Thunderbastards. Shitwhistlers. Call them what you will, Euro 2024 has had loads of them. And the sheer number of long-range nonsenses that have crashed, thundered, and flown in over the last couple of weeks is almost certainly directly linked to that supposed lack of ‘quality’.

International teams just aren’t as cohesive and organised as the very best club sides. They can’t be. And thus lower percentage options like shooting from long range happen more often. The shots-on-target numbers for this tournament are, to those used to watching elite club football, wretched. But have a look at the far, far more important shitpinger-per-game numbers and you’ll soon realise how good this all is.

Good major tournaments should have plenty of long-range ‘nothing else on’ madnesses, and we’ve already had a bumper crop. Is it just too simplistic to say a good major tournament is the one where you’re most often to be found declaring that some random midfielder from Georgia or Albania or Slovakia must have a foot like a traction engine? No.

 

Own goals
We really have been blessed in this regard. We’ve already got six official own goals, plus Scott McTominay’s Fabian Schar-assisted effort for Scotland against Switzerland, a goal that exists at the very outer edge of Not Own Goals. We’ve ranked them here.

We’ve had lots of different types of own goals. The Unlucky Pinball Ricochet has had a fine tournament, as has Eerily Precise Header, while the one conspicuous gap in the collection was magnificently filled by Turkey’s Disastrous Defensive Mix-up.

There have already been three times as many own goals at this tournament as the entire Qatar World Cup and we’ve got well over 20 games still to go yet. Double figures is absolutely on.

MORE ON EURO 2024 FROM F365:
👉 Euro 2024 Power Rankings: Spain dethrone Germany with half the last 16 now known
👉 Euro 2024 Group Stage Permutations: England through, what others need, third-place rankings
👉 Who will win the Euro 2024 Golden Boot?

 

The Next Gen
This is quite a serious one, so apologies for that. But we have enormously enjoyed the extent to which this tournament really has felt like one era ending and another beginning.

It was not fun to watch Luka Modric’s major tournament career (almost certainly) end with the harrowing sight of him having to pose for pictures and accept a man-of-the-match award after having his heart broken by Italy’s 98th-minute equaliser, but all around the tournament the story has been of new heroes.

This has not been the tournament of Modric, or Ronaldo, or Kane but of Musiala, Bellingham, Guler and Yamal.

 

England at their very ideal tournament level
Let’s not pretend England aren’t an important part of how a major tournament feels to us. It’s just always going to matter. And there are a few ways England can get it right at a major tournament, but one of the very, very best ways they can get it right is by being so bad the entire nation falls out with them and loses their collective minds in dramatic fashion.

Everyone should be angry with the manager, and if you end up with the Daily Mail pretending England’s problems could have been solved by Lewis Cook and that they had always said this, then so much the better.

But the real key to this is that despite this irredeemable rubbishness, England must nevertheless hang around the tournament for quite an extended period of time.

Gareth and the lads are nailing the sh*t out of it, frankly.

 

The Lineker-Shearer-Kane Striker Beef
And England have even managed to find time to have three of their finest ever strikers engaged in some good old-fashioned beef. That two of these men are Gary Lineker and Harry Kane is nothing short of hilarious.

England being rubbish but not quite rubbish enough to truly fail is one thing, their captain and striker finding time in the middle of it all to get into a row with the BBC’s most prominent crisp salesman and Twitter opinion-haver is a different level altogether. And Kane attempting a ‘you didn’t win anything either’ tactic with anyone is, let’s say, bold.

 

Weary superstars and energetic underdogs
With many of the big stars looking quite tired after a lengthy season, it has been possible for the weaker teams on paper to close the gap with energy, organisation and endeavour.

The smaller nations at Euro 2024 have largely been game enough to generally avoid getting too many unpleasant pummellings. While Slovakia’s win over Belgium is the only result that could be accurately described as a shock, there have been plenty of fraught moments for the bigger beasts on their way to expected results, while not since the opening night of the tournament have we seen anyone get truly smashed to bits.

That’s pretty much perfect. There’s not much fun to be had watching a small team get ripped apart by a big one, but at the same time you don’t really want to run the risk of too many big teams going out too early. There will never be grave peril in a group stage that eliminates only eight of 24 teams, but we’re pretty much on track now for the right teams to be slugging it out at the end without anyone having been too horribly embarrassed along the way.

 

Scotland going spectacularly full Scotland
Apart from Scotland, of course, but you’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh. It’s been yet another absolutely textbook contribution to a major tournament from Scotland, whose supporters have won hearts and minds wherever they’ve been and whose team have now gone home and left the proper teams to it.

That’s now 12 big tournaments for Scotland and a neat dozen group-stage exits. It is the history of the Scotland.

This one had everything. That opening night evisceration from Germany, the much improved and battling point against a very decent Switzerland side to raise hopes, and then a match against Hungary that was close to must win for both sides yet only with about 10 minutes to go did either side appear to actually want to do so.

Scotland had the slight wrinkle of knowing that a point would leave them waiting on a tantalising series of results that could sneak them through anyway. It was, again, perfect. Because it was a list of results lengthy enough to be unlikely, but no one specific individual result they required was outlandish. It just needed favourite after favourite to keep winning. Anyone who’s ever built an acca knows how deceptively likely these scenarios can be in your mind.

And that slight stick-or-twist doubt in the back of their minds could not have manifested more Scotlandly than by winning a 98th-minute corner, deciding not to risk the draw you’ve worked almost 100 minutes for by sending the keeper up, and then conceding a goal on the breakaway anyway.

 

Proper tournament vibes
Hard to really quantify or define this one really, but it’s something that has struck us repeatedly about the action in Germany after the weirdly sterilised unfamiliarity of Qatar.

This has really felt more like it. One of the low-key joys of a big summer tournament is seeing incredibly familiar and recognisable stadiums looking just different enough to be intoxicating but without losing that sense of place.

Like we said, this one is quite ineffable. But even things like UEFA’s camera angles being slightly different to the Bundesliga ones adds to the effect, while perhaps the single clearest specific example of what we’re trying and failing to explain here was the sight of Turkey supporters turning the Yellow Wall red at Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion.

 

VAR targeting Romelu Lukaku specifically for some reason
We’ve got absolutely nothing against Romelu Lukaku. He’s a fine player playing well at this tournament. But what he’s done – heroically, really – is become a lightning rod for almost all the VAR unpleasantness.

It’s an incredibly selfless act. It is not fair to put this burden on one man, but he has carried it for us without complaint. An entire continent’s worth of misgivings about the technology on one man’s admittedly broad shoulders.

In a tournament where no player has managed to score more than two actual goals that count, our hero has already managed three that have all been chalked off for reasons that are small and twatty thanks to two offsides that laugh at the very concept of ‘level’ itself and a handball decision seemingly custom built for “Well, I suppose by the letter of the law…” punditry harrumphing.

 

Wild late drama
A simple pleasure but one which has truly blessed this tournament. International tournaments are supposed leave you an emotionally confused wreck, and this one has delivered plenty already with vast scope for more.

We’ve already seen five result-altering goals in injury time at this tournament. Think of that; it’s pretty much one game in every five where the result has changed beyond the 90 minutes.

And these are things that are not only altering individual results but affecting every other team and the entire path of the tournament itself, changing the order of groups and sending everyone down fundamentally altered knockout paths.

All four teams in Group A moved position after 90 minutes were on the clock in the final games. From Switzerland, Germany, Scotland, Hungary to Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Scotland with significant consequence for all.

Italy went from possibly out to definitely through and Croatia from definitely through to almost certainly out with the final brilliant kick of the game after 98 minutes and it isn’t even the latest or most dramatic twist of the last 48 hours.

Long (and late) may it continue.