The final of the Euro 2008 was played last Sunday and most soccer fans are already over it and are involved neck deep in the transfer activities that will go a long way in determining the destiny of their favourite clubs in the coming season. It is therefore a good time to look back and try and identify what could possibly be the lasting memories of Euro 2008.
Let us pick out the memories which will define Euro 2008 and remain entrenched in our minds forever – much in the same way as the Van Basten volley of 1988, the double strike of Olivier Bierhoff in Euro 96, the Danish fairy-tale of 1992 or the heroic performance of the Italian defence in Euro 2000.
To ensure that the process is robust, I am not going to be relying on the internet – as I saw enough of the tournament to not miss anything important.
So here goes (in no particular order)
The ‘wonder goal’ scored by the Dutch against Italy
Most of us never saw the ‘Total Football’ of the 70s (in person that is). But we caught a glimpse of what it would have been like as the Dutch scored a spectacular counter-attacking goal against Italy. Holland’s perfoamnce in the first 270 minutes slightly made up for their disappointing exit from the tournament. We should be hearing more of Van Basten the coach in the future.
The ‘heart-breaking’ Turks
Grabbing one win with a sensational late goal is usually gratifying enough but the Turks managed three in a row!. Their late comebacks were heartbreaking for the opposition fans – the Swiss, the Czechs and the Croats. No one would have broken so many in the course of one tournament. And this happened when nearly half the squad was injured or suspended. Their exploits could usher in a new term – doing a Turkey, every time someone gets a late winner.
No suffering as an English fan
I am an Indian. But we identify a lot with the English – having been ruled by them for so long and then from watching the comprehensive coverage of the EPL week in and week out. Not having our home nation India to cheer for, we invariably end up supporting England at most major tournaments and needless to say, we are a dejected lot when all is said and done. Therefore for once, we could watch the tournament in peace without the threat of a heart break looming large (I am not counting the 1994 World Cup as we had no EPL coverage then). Unluckily for us and luckily for England (now that Capello is on board) this might be a one off. The memory will surely last.
The ‘Master Coach’
It takes a really special manager and an outstanding coaching job to pass the ‘lasting memory’ criterion. Guus Hiddink and his effort with the Russians got full marks on both. The most accomplished manager heading into the tournament was also the ‘best manager of the tournament’. This does not happen too often in major tournaments. We will always remember the Dutchman who brought the Dutch juggernaut to a grinding halt and did that with such attacking verve that we almost forgot that it was the team at the receiving end (Holland) which had been winning hearts for their attacking play. As a neutral fan (who just supports good football) I had been rooting for the Dutch, yet there was no sadness when they went out.
The blunders and the ‘what if’ discussions
There is a chance that we might forget those who did well but rarely are the villains forgotten. Usually, their blunders have a decisive impact on their teams’ fortunes and spawns a ‘what if’ discussion for the ages. Romanians will talk about Mutu’s missed penalty and what could have been. Same goes for the Czechs and the horror goal conceded by Petr Cech. Portuguese fans will debate the impact of Scolari’s Chelsea announcement and then there will be the regulars – the referees and the usual set of refereeing decisions which could have gone either way.
Euro 2008 did not have a single player who took the tournament by storm – a clear cut ‘player of the tournament’. Many like Ronaldo were expected to do so but failed. There were some wonderful performances but no player stood out like a colossus.. Rather than associating the tournament with any particular player’s performance, we will remember the team efforts. The ‘Total Football’ of the Dutch. The crisp passing of the Spaniards. The boundless energy of the Russians and the indefatigable spirit of the Turks.