• Tuesday, 12 June 2012

    Yesterday at the Euros #4

    Whatever the opposite of tiki-taka is called, it looks a lot like what England served up against France yesterday. There are many ways to play the game and England's pragmatic approach is as valid as any other. What it isn't is attractive. Having taken a lead from a set piece via the preposterously large forehead of Joleon Lescott, the wagons were circled. France only penetrated the defences once, a long range effort from Samir Nasri beating Joe Hart at his near post. Yohan Cabaye went close in among the 21 shots France had on goal, but it remained 1-1. It was beyond tedious, but remains a job pretty well done by a very average England side. France will be kicking themselves. Chelsea have a lot to answer for in showing that this method can win trophies. The only way it could have been worse for the casual viewer was if the authorities had let that sodding English band in.

    Ukraine made their bow against Sweden who looked exceptionally dashing in that blue shirt with the yellow diagonal stripe. It was inevitable that Zlatan Ibrahimovic would score, but within four minutes Andriy Shevchenko equalised and six minutes later put Ukraine in front. The Ukrainian captain is 35 now, but showed all his class in ghosting away from markers, finding space and guiding a pair of headers past Andreas Isaksson. Written off by many after the ill-fated spell in England - the 'fail in England, fail in life' rule - he showed that class is the last thing that leaves a footballer.

    The second round of games in group A follow, Poland up against Russia in what could so very easily be termed a grudge match and the Czechs fighting for their survival against Greece.

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