A short History of the Henri Delauny Trophy

As the quarterfinals are about to commence, the tension is increasing ever more in France as to who will be winner come Sunday July 10. Read more →

Tiny Whiny Ronaldo

Euro 2016 has so far not been a hugely exciting tournament. No team suffered a thrashing like Spain did at the hands of Holland at the Brazil World Cup two years ago. The surprise so far surely were Belgium who appeared tame against Italy on Monday night and Austria who were unexpectedly beaten by Hungary yesterday. Though the biggest surprise was the iceland team who denied Cristiano Ronaldo to shine.

The Icelandic English language magazine The Grapevine posted a number of tweets throughout the game providing a humourous edge to the game.

The Portuguese can’t say they have not been warned:

On completing a few passes:

No comment needed:

The draw for Iceland was almost unthinkable before kick-off as was for Portugal. The celebrations of the players were therefore understandable. Unfortunately, so was Ronaldo’s reaction.

Football, Riots, Hypocrisy

The first days of Euro 2016 already gave enough material for discussion. This is the first in a series of observations from the tournament that’s happening right at my door step. Read more →

The Writers’ Game

Just before the EURO 2016 gets underway for real, the French Sports Writers Association hosted the German national writers’ team in Paris as a warm up for EURO 2016. The match was a game of German organisation vs. French improvisation. Read more →

Muhammad Ali

The greatest boxer of all time, the most excellent man as Bob Dylan has described him, has had an opinion about a particular English football manager, Brian Clough.

image credits: National Archief via WikiCommons under CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

Germany – England 1956

It was 60 years ago that England played in West Berlin against West Germany; the first time since 1938. While England maintained their record against their beloved rival, the impressions of the press and of Colin Grainger talk of admiration for the Germans. Read more →

The Magic of the Cup

There is a saying in Germany that the Cup has its own rules. It means that the underdog has the chance to beat the favourite if the latter have a bad day at the office. Looking at the Cup Final results from Europe one can but note that this rule has somehow been made obsolete. In Germany, Bayern won a long battle against Dortmund only after penalties. Paris Saint German beat Olympique Marseille 4-2 with two parting gifts from Zlatan. In Italy Juve have long established a dominance that could turn out to be problematic for the league. Yesterday they beat Milan 1-0 after extra-time in the Coppa Italia. Today will see Barcelona face Sevilla in the Copa del Rey in Spain. Sevilla could add another trophy to their third consecutive Europa League title. In England, where the FA Cup is the oldest established football competition in Europe, Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-1. It was a traditional London vs. the North East encounter. There is some bitter aftertaste as Louis van Gaal, the United manager will be relieved of his duty as manager of the Red Devils.

However, not all hope is lost. The Scottish Cup final saw Hibernians take on Rangers. Normally, a win for the latter would be nothing but expected. After years of playing in the lower leagues of Scottish football, Rangers are no longer the powerhouse they once were. The game ended 3-2 for Hibs. It is their first Cup in 114 years! Accordingly, the fans celebrated in style.

Euro 2016: Ready to create its own stories

The countdown to Euro 2016 is well under way, with the showpiece event beginning on June 10th when hosts France take on Romania. As kick-off approaches it had us thinking of the more memorable moments of the past, where heroes were made and nations rejoiced. Read more →

Dilly-Ding, Dilly Dong!

What a season it has been for Leicester City! Written off a year ago as they were bottom of the table and secured their Premier League survival only rivaled by Fulham’s great escape a few years previous under Roy Hodgson and now they are crowned Premier League champions! Read more →

Euro 2016 – Preview

We are now just weeks away from another tournament that will take a strong hold on football fans in Europe and maybe globally: Euro 2016 in France. For the second time the tournament will be hosted by France; the last edition in 1984 saw Michel Platini guide his team to overall victory. On their way to the final, the French beat their nemesis from the previous World Cup, West Germany.

Only once before has the western hemisphere experienced a major sporting event in the wake of terrorist attacks: The Olympic Games of Salt Lake City in 2002. The mood in France after that annus horribilis 2015 is certainly one of concern, at least from the point of view of the organizers and security services. What to do if November 13 was just a test run for a much larger operation? The idea alone is terrifying.

These concerns notwithstanding, there are more than 60 games of football to be played before we have another European champion. Will it be Spain for a third consecutive time? Germany, the world champion? France, the hosts? Or will we see a dark horse running away with the title? Here is a brief look at the teams that are deemed favourites and dark horses. For convenience the limit is set at 6 teams altogether, 4 favourites and 2 dark horses, based on the Euro 2016 odds.

The Holders: Spain

Despite having suffered an abysmal World Cup, including a 5-1 defeat against Holland, Spain had 2 years to prepare during which most people switched their attention onto Germany or England and saw that Holland have not qualified at all for the tournament. This period of calm could have proved to be a vital lifeline and it should not surprise anyone if Spain will make the latter stages of the tournament or even another final.

The World Champions: Germany

Of course they are among the favourites; the Germans always are. Perhaps the defeat against Italy in the semi-final in the previous edition 2012 was THE crucial eye opener for Jogi Löw to turn this immensely talented squad into World Cup winners. Their qualification was a rocky road suggesting that all might not be well. A surprising defeat against England in March added fuel to the worst fears among German fans. However, this was rectified by a magnificent victory against Italy only a few days later. It is important to keep things in perspective. Both were friendlies and while one suggests that Germany switched off after 60 minutes, the other points that the team in fact can turn it on if they have to.

The Hosts: France

They are playing at home and their record under such circumstances speaks for itself: 1984 they won the European Championship in France and added a World Cup in 1998 also in France. They at their best when they play on home soil or nearby. A strong display in 2014 in Brazil saw them go out to Germany, who went on to win the tournament. Without any competitive match for two years, no one knows what could happen to France: will they rise to the occasion or will they crumble? Or something in between? There was unrest surrounding Karim Benzema but national coach Didier Deschamps has made it clear that such a personality has no place within the French squad. Who will be Zizou’s successor and lift another trophy?

Italy

Yes, Italy. The state of Italian football currently is not the best, but so it was in 2012 and they still managed to beat Germany comprehensively in the semis without giving them a chance to get into the game at all. The masters of minimalism could be the team no one has on their notebooks. Remember 2006 when everything seemed to be against them. They created a siege mentality that carried them through the tournament, gave them the edge over Germany in the semi-final and even held out against a superb France team that destroyed itself.

England

For a long time England look like a team again that actually knows what team play means. Previous England managers did not put the best team together but assembled the biggest names in English football and hoped for the best. Where this went, everyone is familiar with. The quarter-final stage has become the glass ceiling for England in recent years. If Jamie Vardy can use his speed to the team’s advantage and can pair up with Harry Kane, England possess the best attacking duo in Europe and should not fear anyone. This is the achievement of Roy Hodgson who has not been popular with the English press but who kept his head and could be in for a surprise in France.

Belgium

There is a stir about Belgium; the team is young and they play very good football. If the axis Hazard-Fellaini-de Bruyne works well, no one knows what could happen in France during the tournament. Yes, qualification is one thing and a tournament another, especially with games every three to four days. Since Hazard et.al. play in England they are used to this rhythm and surely can perform at this level. However, league football is a different matter to a tournament where every game is important.

Whatever happens in France we will see while it happens. Surely, this will be an interesting tournament, the last in the traditional format before the 2020 edition will become a flying circus.