Less than two months after the World Cup final in Johannesburg — and with their club seasons in their infancy — Europe’s finest met up again for the first qualifying games for Euro 2012. But it seems many national sides have just picked up from where they left off in June/July.
Witness England’s 4-0 demolition of lowly Bulgaria. Even though the Three Lions impressed in front of a packed Wembley… storm clouds will continue to linger over the head of Don Fabio Capello. The British press have been incredibly derisory towards the Italian, unwilling to forgive him for England’s performance in South Africa. Despite success against Hungary in last month’s friendly — and despite Wayne Rooney’s impressive partnership today with hat-trick scorer Jermain Defoe — it will never be good enough for several sections of St. George’s Army.
On the positive side, outstanding shot-stopping for both England and Man City — including a life rope to salvage an almost-own-goal by Glen Johnson — means 23-year-old Joe Hart may stay in net for a entire generation. But there continues to be fitness problems… including Defoe limping off with a knock to his ankle. As well, a horrible knee injury to Michael Dawson adds to Capello’s centre-back crisis… and the rubbish play of the aformentioned Johnson means more of the same defensive headaches. It will be interesting to see whether the stingy Swiss will allow England to run roughshod in Basel.
Those injuries mean the club vs. country debate will also continue. The loss of Spurs starters Dawson and Defoe will likely have ‘Arry Redknapp sputtering, since he’s not allowed to wheel and deal buy replacement players after the trade deadline. Yikes!
It was more humiliation for France as they lost 1-0 at home to lowly Belarus. Midfielder Florent Malouda chided the French fans for booing… because apparently, it is the fans’ fault that Les Bleus are 1) awful, and 2) spoiled millionaires who have to be goaded into singing their own national anthem.
The World Cup hangover continues for the Italians as well. They had to come from behind to scrape past Estonia 2-1. And the Portuguese had to battle in a tit-for-tat scrap with Cyprus. A Seleccao had to settle for a 4-4 draw after the Cypriots scored in the 89th minute.
In the “Hyperbole is the Best Thing Ever!” category: World Cup champions Spain posted a massive victory over Liechtenstein, 4-0. That’s about as impressive as me remembering to unzip before going to the loo…
In the “Why Won’t He Just P!ss Off?” category: Former Liverpool gaffer Gerrard Houllier is interviewing for the Aston Villa job. Expect whiny washed-up French players to descend en masse on Birmingham.
More Euro news on Tuesday. Happy Labour Day weekend!