The only good thing I’ve ever heard about Dr. Joseph Goebbels is that he reportedly banned the publication of “overnight notices” in German newspapers, that is, reviews of operas, plays or concerts written immediately after the performance for the next morning’s paper. Most of of us think clearer after we have slept on it, and my instant response to France vs. England three days ago didn’t give the French their due. It was also, if anything, too generous to England. Just how bleak their chances are even if they beat Sweden tomorrow can be seen from some hair-raising statistics.
In the first matches of the tournament, of all 16 teams, England came 15th both for possession and for passes. The only team which made fewer passes was Greece, playing with ten men in the second half. England made 345 passes against France, Spain made 733 against Italy (okay, Spain only drew, but that should not delude Ireland before tonight’s game.) England were 16th of 16 both for total shots—no more than five to the 27 Holland took while losing to Denmark—and for shots on target— just one to France’s seven.
Enough of my unhappy country—and maybe enough of stats. As if to prove they aren’t everything, Holland had the majority of possession last night and still lost to Germany. But then the Dutch, while they haven’t repeated the odious brutality of their play in the World Cup final two years ago, seemed afflicted by an old problems—internal dissension and an inability to keep their mouths shut. We had Wesley Sneijder saying before the game, “Enough of these pathetic egos,” then Rafael van der Vaart ignoring that advice when he whined “I am very disappointed” not to be in the starting team, and Arjen Robben sulking like a big baby when he was substituted. All that and Robin van Persie waiting till the 73rd minute to score the kind of goal that seems to come so easily to him when he’s playing in Arsenal red but almost never in Dutch orange.
Compared with that, the previous match between Denmark and Portugal was a real treat, exhilarating throughout, and surely the game of Euro 2012 so far. Denmark can’t honestly say they were unlucky to lose to an 87th-minute goal, but for the neutral spectator that was redeemed by the sight of Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s most expensive player and—in a hotly contested field—the most pleased with himself, missing two goals that even I could have scored (well, on a good day some time ago). Ronaldo has scored an amazing 112 goals in 101 appearances for Real Madrid—and 32 in 92 for Portugal, just five in 21 major international games. Is he entitled to bawl out his team-mates whenever they lose the ball? Is this jerk even trying?