Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Billy on the Box: Euro 2012 full of Eastern promise

A Dutch fan holds a replica UEFA trophy during the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group B match between the Netherlands and Germany in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, June 13, 2012
BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 13: German soccer fans cheer during the match of their team's second match during the UEFA EURO 2012 group B match between Netherlands and Germany at a public viewing zone called 'fan mile' near the Brandenburg Gate on June 13, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. Germany won 2:1 versus Netherlands. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
L'VIV, UKRAINE - JUNE 09: Lena Gercke (R), girlfriend of Sami Khedira and Silvia Meichel, girlfriend of Mario Gomez are seen at the airport Lviv on June 9, 2012 in L'viv, Ukraine. (Photo by Joern Pollex/Getty Images)

As you read this there are about two weeks of the Euros left — a sentence that has been used frequently in the business sections of papers in Athens and Madrid in recent times.

But while there is a global credit crunch, with the UK forced to turn to torches for heat and light during the monsoon season, there is still enough cash in the kitty to send our brave boys and Gabby Logan to eastern Europe to eek out a living. A bit like Dungannon in reverse.

It’s been largely entertaining stuff, with the notable exception of Martin Keown, the scariest thing to wreak havoc in that part of the world since Vlad was a lad and all he was impaling was his Ker-Plunk, but in the battle in the east, who has been the winner thus far, the BBC or ITV?

Opening titles: A tricky one. The Beeb have perfectly captured the foreboding menace of the former Eastern Bloc, all it needs is the arrows from the start of Dad’s Army to set it all off, while ITV have seemingly bought a job lot of old Thunderbirds puppets and given them a quick coat of Ronseal. The one of Roy Hodgson is the spit of Parker (the chauffeur, not the midfielder).

Sets appeal: ITV get the nod as they’re the only ones who’ve bothered to go to the event with Gary Lineker giggling that the Beeb are located ‘in the very far west of Poland — Salford!” Very good, although they will go later on, having sent reconnaissance party, Jake Humphrey and Alan Shearer — the most uncomfortable double act since Same Difference — along to check things out.

That said, you have to wonder how long it will be before Roy Keane leaps over that ledge he and the ITV team have been perched on to get away from Adrian Chiles and is it me or have the chairs been made from cunningly fashioned potato waffles covered with one of Bet Lynch’s blouses?

The line-ups: A few interesting head to heads, and I don’t mean Keane and Patrick Vieira, although the Frenchman is superbly filling the classy foreigner role that Clarence Seedorf has been given on the other side. He is also useful to translate for Jamie Carragher whose high-pitched Scouse whines are driving Polish dogs wild. “I’m quietly confident England will get a result,” he said, and indeed he was spot on, a result duly arrived.

Keane and Hansen, no not a couple of tracks from Now 65, but the two curmudgeonly Celts are probably the best either side has to offer, but what Gareth Southgate and Lee Dixon bring to the party still escapes me. Others with much to prove include Steve Staunton, Gordon Strachan and Roberto Martinez — and not just as managers.

Commentators: All much of a muchness really, they all sound the same and say very little of any interest with the exception of a few who say far too much and you wish they didn’t.

Clive Tyldesley for England v France was all that is wrong with commentators, his toe-curling ‘Agincourt, Waterloo and now Donetsk’ simply unbelievable, although his biggest gaffe was saying ‘Andy Townsend who captained his country in a major tournament’ when in fact it was someone else’s country.

Also, when the Republic of Townsend are playing can we please be spared the pictures of fans in Guinness hats all having a great time and even enjoying the craic when they’re getting beaten. To be sure, to be sure

Other daftness included anything Jonathan Pearce says (very loudly), especially THE Ukraine, as opposed to plain old ordinary Ukraine and John Champion for telling us that Czech defender Gebreselassie was ‘no relation to the great Ethiopian athlete’. That’s John Champion, no relation to the Wonder Horse.

Co-commentators: No point beating about the bush here, straight to business, Martin Keown (pictured below being nasty). It was bad enough in Holland’s opening game talking about ‘leg-overs’ and wondering why Robben didn’t ‘just pull the trigger and shoot himself’ but in the one and only Ukraine’s game with Sweden he completely lost the run of himself.

We had a ‘goalscorer with an eye for goal’, ‘Ibrahimovic is like Cantona’ (oh no he isn’t) and someone ‘looking unrecognisable’ although Pearce did solve the mystery over the collective noun for big Swedish defenders — a phalanx.

Mark Lawrenson follows closely, we’ll gloss over his Eric the Eel faux pas and concentrate on how Polish-born Podolski should play for Poland and Germany. Hmm, nice to see Lancashire enjoying the craic of being Irish.

Craig Burley is quite entertaining, Jim Beglin’s fine as long as it isn’t connected to anything in green and Mark Bright is Mark Bright.

Highlights: Match of the Day still treats us like we’re all six, so it’s good that Colin Murray looks after Robbie Savage and David James and his strange talk of zones, while on the other side Matt Smith is only a coat of Ronseal away from being in the opening titles.

So there you have it, a week down and it’s all going swimmingly, apart from the racism, in-fighting and underperforming over-hyped stars — and it’s the same on the pitch too.

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