Kasper Schmeichel offered the best gag of the week in his pre-match interview on Tuesday. When asked by an English reporter “is it coming home?”, he answered “is what coming home?” When the reporter revealed he was referring to the European Championship trophy, Schmeichel said: “It can’t come home as it’s never been here”. As we might have expected, the English media are getting carried away with the possibility of winning their first major trophy since 1966, but we have to realise that it’s very much on the cards now that they have made it to the final.
As I said in my column last week, although the Euros are secondary to the World Cup, in my opinion it’s a more competitive and exciting competition and if England are champions then it’s a deserved celebration. Imagine what the atmosphere would have been like in Scotland even if we’d qualified out of our group in third place. Some people would have been saying we could win the trophy.
The semi finals were interesting, with the Spain v Italy match being the outstanding game. Spain were actually the better team over the 120 minutes and the stats for possession and chances showed this. The problem they had was they couldn’t finish these opportunities and this proved to be the case even when it got to penalties. The two players, Dani Olmo and Alvaro Morata, who had performed really well during the tournament and had been responsible for getting the Spanish goal on the night, both missed their spot kicks. Italy have a strong mindset and you could tell that even when they are being outplayed, they continue to challenge their opponents with a belief that they can turn things around. This has come from the terrific 33-game unbeaten run they are on. In fact, before Tuesday night’s semi final, they had amassed 13 straight victories, which is outstanding at international level.
England, on the other hand, are coming good in the short term. Their form in this tournament is improving and Gareth Southgate is becoming more consistent with team selections than he’s been for quite some time. Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw, Phillips, Rice, Sterling and Kane are now being chosen regularly for matches and only two positions appear to be under consideration with Mount, Saka, Foden, Grealish, Greenwood and Rashford competing for these. This consistency generally helps develop an understanding with the players and makes the teamwork more effective. The improvement has been quite obvious with Kane and Sterling now beginning to offer the attacking nous they are capable of. Sterling in particular is the player that I’m sure the Italians will be most concerned about as he’s both a creator and scorer of goals and has the individual skill to take apart even the strongest of defences.
There’s no doubt you also require a bit of fortune in any competition you’re involved in, although it takes more than this to be successful. England won their quarter final with an own goal and a rebound from a saved penalty. They now have a great chance of being European
champions for the first time. I personally think they will win the trophy but I do feel that there will be extra time as there’s not much between the teams. Italy are strong defensively and there’s an amazing stat concerning their goalkeeper Donnarumma. He’s only 22 and has already played 32 times for the national team during which he has never lost more than one goal in any game. This shows that England will have their work cut out to win should Italy score on the night. I think it’ll be an interesting match and hopefully, an enjoyable one to watch.
AND ANOTHER THING
It’s good to see that Ange Postecoglou is now getting his work progressed so that not only can he assess his playing staff but the Celtic supporters can also get a flavour of what he’s got to offer the club. It is, of course, early days to make too much of a judgement but the fans are always keen to see which players are going to feature, how the new signings will fit in and certainly get an indication of whether he’s an attack or defence-minded tactician. I personally liked his initial club interview and felt he offered a good degree of confidence to the fans in terms of how he was going to master a revival for the club after such a bleak season. Every managerial appointment carries a degree of risk and you can never be sure who’s going to be successful at a particular club. Steven Gerrard was not an experienced manager prior to his Rangers appointment but he had played at the highest level and worked under some of the biggest names in world football. This obviously gave him the springboard to take his knowledge and experience onto the next level and Rangers have certainly benefited from it. Postecoglou could well be an excellent appointment too and must be given time to bring about the changes that are significantly required at Celtic.