Are we nearly there yet, Dad?

OPINION: The sluggish start to the Euros suggests we should be careful about wishing for more football

Thursday, 17th June 2021 — By Richard Osley

England fans 01_Russell Square sad_5700

BEFORE heading to cover Arsenal versus Brighton and Hove Albion last month, I told my eight-year-old daughter that it was an important game because it was the last match.

She replied, a little startled, a little hopeful: “What? The last match ever?”

Anybody who has ever logged onto Facebook knows how wearing it is to hear all about the funny things other people’s precocious children have allegedly said, as laboriously recalled by their boring parents.

But Lois had a point. Every time she wants to play Grand Theft Auto, Call Of Duty or something similarly fluffy, there’s football on the screen. The never ending season has had consequences for everybody.

It’s fair for any of us to wonder now whether we’ll ever go to a gig again, but also whether there will ever be a time now without football, such was the seamless link from the Champions League final to the Euros.

Now with the release of next season’s fixtures, we are only 50 days away from a whole new term.

In theory, it sounds like heaven – football on at all times.

Nobody has to watch the news and feel bad about the pandemic. Nobody has to watch shows about celebrities going on holiday. Forget soaps, quiz shows with boring twists and day-in-the-life programmes following chippy police officers gleefully arresting people with serious life problems. Forget, too, intriguing detective series with an interesting premise but rubbish endings. You only need to watch FOOTBALL, at all times.

And yet the opening days of the European Champion­ships suggest we should be careful what we wish for.

The players look almost dazed from their coronavirus season, having played every couple of days. Some of the matches have been dire.

The fact that you can qualify for the next stage in third place in some groups is not helpful to the ambition we want to see. Nor is the challenge for a random selection of the teams who have to fly around different countries – almost mocking Covid – for their fixtures.

But still, France versus Germany should always be a cracker, whatever the situation. And watching Spain should be more fun than seeing a zillion passes exchanged before they reach the penalty area.

At least the wildcard Dutch played it for larks in their first match, but generally it feels like some of the continent’s best players could be putting on a better show if they had been given a little respite first. Everybody looks soggy so far.

Although if everybody is knackered, anybody can win it. Perhaps, even England.

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