1) “England are one of five or six teams with a realistic chance”
Ever since I was old enough to comprehend a football commentary, I’ve heard this mantra intoned with a confidence normally reserved for a fundamental law of physics. So immutable is this law, that even when England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 we technically still remained “one of a handful of teams that could win it”. The fact that England have rarely troubled the latter rounds of this tournament remains an inconvenient detail which is best ignored.
2) “I don’t know much about this team.”
Little Englander attitudes have generally disappeared over the years. Globalisation has exposed us to a myriad of different cultures and broadened our horizons. However, there remains one last bastion of narrow sighted nationalism, where international ignorance is casually accepted with diffidence: football punditry.
Qualification may have finished 9 months ago, providing ample time for leisurely research, however, unfortunately our pundits will have been too busy working on their golf games than swotting up.
Players with long established careers in major European leagues like Serie A or the Bundesliga (even our boys are now aware of La Liga) will be labelled as “surprise packages” for simply having failed to make it onto Mark Lawrenson’s football radar.
And expect to hear complete ignorance of the current tactics and style of any team disguised with such blandishments as: “They always make it through” or “It wouldn’t be a tournament without them.”
3) “I just wish Italy would attack”
Usually heard on ITV, commentators and pundits bemoan that Italy, with all their talent, are never allowed off the leash. Usually followed by; “oh the Italians – so cynical and dogged in defence”. They seem to forget the 2006 semi-final, where Italy went toe to toe with Germany, and with the game stretched decided to bring on another forward rather than to shore up the midfield. Or what about the 2000 Euro final where Italy dominated the match, only to lose on a Golden Goal. It’s also worth noting that for a team supposedly obsessed by ‘catenaccio’ the Italians averaged the 3rd highest total of passes in qualifying, and usually play with 3 forwards with one of whom is Mario Balotelli. It’s not 1982, get with the script.
4) That Denmark came off the beaches in 1992 to win the Euros
If you mention Denmark most pundits and commentators cannot avoid mentioning the beaches. You’d think the Danes victory looked like the Normandy landings, with Peter Schmeichel leading the Laudrups and trusty corporal John Jensen to battle. In reality, it was more Club 18-30, than June 1944.
Tiresomely, despite being 20 years ago, the Danes beach sortie is likely to be mentioned by pundits contractually obliged to find reasons why England could win the tournament. Yes, the Danes won the Euros, yes they’d been on holiday, but don’t let that trick you into thinking that a lack of pre-tournament expectation translates automatically to a winning formula.
5) Spain have no Plan B
A charge that English football pundits have taken to hysterically shouting at the current Spanish team a bit like that crazed bloke you get in sci-fi films who’s trying to alert the world to the fact it’s being quietly taken over by aliens. The fact remains that Spain’s Plan A has successfully secured both the last European Championship and the World Cup. The last thing we need is for Spanish football tacticians to invent an even more sophisticated plan for world domination, so for God’s sake men, stopping harping on about it.