With Euro 2012 kicking off in Poland on Friday June 8, we desperately need a good championship. In my view, international football is in severe decline against the all-consuming English Premier League and the Champions League. When was the last time we had a good international tournament? When was the last time you were on the edge of your seat watching a half-decent game? We used to live our lives by the sensational World Cups of 1970, ’78 , or ’82. Now, Greece against Poland has me reaching for the matchsticks to keep my eyes open.
This follows a heated debate on the last Friday Footy Show, during which I said if England were playing a friendly in my back garden, I wouldn’t open the curtains. I’d choose a club match over a country fixture every day of the week. Indeed, Manchester United fans even sing anti-England songs.
I suppose the argument runs that it’s hard to be slaughtering Frank Lampard one week when he’s in a Chelsea shirt, then cheering him on the next just because he’s wearing the Three Lions. And don’t give me this nonsense about international football being a step up in class. What, against the Faroe Islands or Liechtenstein?
I know they’re going to cut back on the meaningless friendlies, which I agree with, but I also realise it’s another indication that international football is being relegated to second rate. If it wants to stage a comeback, coaches have to adopt a more attacking approach going into the tournament. Every tournament in the past 20 years has seen teams bore the pants off the punters, in the hope of stealing a 1-0 win or playing for penalties.
The Euros need to be dramatic, spectacular and, above all, exciting. The decline of international football isn’t terminal… yet. But it needs one heck of a shot in the arm.
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And another thing…
They call international management ‘an impossible job’ – why? Roy Hodgson is on Dhs14.8 million a year to take England to a major tournament, knowing he’s going to fail valiantly against the Germans on penalties. I could do that. Honestly, I think it’s the easiest money in the world because every fan now could pick the England team and, 1966 aside, you’ve got nothing to beat.
Roy has a great deal of international experience, including a stint here as the UAE national team coach (2002-2004), time with the Swiss national team (who, in 1994, he guided to their first World Cup since 1966), and Finland, where he narrowly missed out on qualifying for Euro 2008. With England, at least, he won’t get hammered if they’re rubbish because no one expects anything, but he’ll be a hero if they go all the way.