For the last few months I’ve been busy rehearsing for a play, Neil Simon’s comedy Plaza Suite. It was all wrapped up at the weekend, and after a celebratory meal with a few glasses of house red, I’m now finally able to relax. It’s such a relief to get back from work in the evenings without having to rush off to practice curtain calls, try on costumes and perfect lines. The end of the play coincides almost perfectly with the start of what looks like a summer as well as the beginning of Euro 2008. I have to say I’m not unimpressed by the standard of football so far. Out of six matches there’s only been one 0-0 draw. France have been disappointing, but I’m sure they’ll improve – or at least I hope they do, as I’ve got money on them to win the tournament! Holland’s spectacular demolition of Italy harks back to the golden age of Cruyff et al and the “total voetball” strategy of all-out attacking.
The beauty of the European Championships, although always coming a poor second to the World Cup is the tendency for the underdog to triumph. Who would ever have tipped Greece to win in 2004 or Denmark in 1992, after qualifying by default following the break-up of Yugoslavia? The tournament has also produced some of the greatest matches ever, notably the nail-biting France-Portugal semi-final of 1984.
As much as I would love one of the dark horses like Croatia, Romania or the Czechs to bring home the silverware this time (even though this would incur personal financial loss), I can’t see it happening. Pleasant surprises like the Danish default or the German-engineered Greek victory only come round once in a blue moon. 2008 I think will belong to France or Germany. Although, based in what we’ve seen so far it looks more likely to be the latter. And as luck would have it I’ve drawn Germany in the sweepstakes at work.
Incidentally I watched the 2004 final in Palmers Green, a suburb of North London renowned for its large Greek community, and subsequently referred to as Palmers Greece. The scenes in the street that night were unbelievable. Cars driving up and down beeping their horns, fireworks going off, flag waving, singing anf dancing. Joyous times certainly, it was all Greek to me.
Also, as an irrelevant footnote, out of the 16 countries taking part, I’ve visited them all, except for Romania, Russia and Turkey – so ideas for the next holiday destination spring to mind.
I notice the organisers have added a nice touch of retro chic in using the old 1970s style polka dot balls. Thankfully though we’ve been spared the perms, moustaches and tight shorts.