Posing and preening - but prolific
TV VIEW:SO THEN, the quarter-finals, which, according to this official Euro 2012 calculator, means that there were only seven games left before last night’s set-to. There was a time it would have been eight, but Uefa opted to ditch the much cherished third place play-off after Czechoslovakia’s 1980 penalty shoot-out against Italy threatened to go on until 1984.
A mere seven games to savour, then, and after that it’s an interminable wait until Brazil 2014.
By which stage, for the sake of his face muscles, you have to hope Alan Shearer has stopped grinning, the BBC front man beaming so broadly, in a marginally manic sort of way, since the tournament got under way you have to wonder if someone is tickling him off camera.
Last night was a case in point, when he chatted to Jake Humphrey on the Warsaw pitch (not during the game, before it). Jake asked Alan for his thoughts on the quarter-final ahead.
“Both the Czech Republic and Portugal have a great chance of reaching the semi-finals,” he revealed. “What, as opposed to, say, Russia, Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Croatia, Ireland, Ukraine and Sweden,” Jake should have replied, but he moved on.
And then he handed back to the studio, while Alan turned to face the camera, launching in to the kind of smile you only ever see from entertainment reporters on American telly. Or Fox News presenters when they’re telling their viewers about rising unemployment figures.
Jurgen Klinsmann has a sunshiny face too, if not quite of Alan-esque proportions, so it was good to see him join the BBC panel for the occasion. Since moving to California, to take up his job as Team Soccer USA coach, he’s developed an accent that’s a little Arnold Schwarzenegger-ish, but it was still nice to hear from him.
“Anyone can beat anyone,” he said of the tournament, “even Spain on a God-given day,” an assessment that almost tallied with Eamon Dunphy’s over on RTÉ, although he didn’t quite feel divine intervention would be required to overturn the champions.
Their “ticky tacky football has been found out,” he said, pointing to Chelsea’s triumph over Barcelona as an example, and you hoped Jose Mourinho wasn’t watching, in light of the fact that he gets highly vexed when people forget his boys play for Spain too – and he’d rather get stuck in a lift with Arsene Wenger than produce ticky tacky players.
Richard Sadlier pointed out, not unreasonably, that if their opponents had found them out they still hadn’t actually managed to put that knowledge to good use (eg by actually beating the Spanish). But time will tell.
England? Dunphy had told us they were a “train wreck” waiting to happen, which was, not altogether unexpectedly, in contrast to Gary Lineker’s buoyancy when he informed his viewers later in the evening that “from here on in every England game at the Euros will be live on the BBC”. (Italy: “All?!”)
Match time. Granted, the boy Ronaldo tends to dominate proceedings, but you’d be forgiven for taking it from the commentary that he was actually the only player on the pitch.
Some would argue he was, but still.
Which side of Ronaldo, Jonathan Pearce wondered, would we see: “A strutting peacock or a striding colossus?” Both, as it proved.
But despite allegations to the contrary, he can defend too. A Czech corner. The mother of all leaps from Ronaldo to head it clear. Martin Keown was impressed. “Incredible spring, hasn’t he? He’s like an NFL basketball player, the height that he gets from a standing jump!”
And as he proved with that nifty effort that hit the post later in the half, he’s as gifted as any NBA footballer. There was almost a slam dunk field goal too from a free-kick.
“Posing, preening, prolific,” said Pearce poetically as his pot-shot went perilously close.
The RTÉ panel wasn’t mad impressed, though, at half-time, highlighting his early “tantrum” when his face told a team-mate “you’re rubbish, I’m brill, me”.
“And he’s forever looking up at the large screen to see if he’s on telly,” said Sadlier, but that, he said, was part of the package, a balance to “the moments of genius”.
Some time later: Ronaldo looking up at the large screen to see if he was on telly. He was, he’d just scored the winner. And which one of us wasn’t happy for him? Ah now, behave.
Just the six games left, then. Next: Germany v Greece. Should be, eh, lively.