Stuart Bathgate: Prosperity of stuffy Greeks a blight on football
WE’RE all familiar with conflicting emotions at the weekend, often along the lines of “I’d love to stay for another pint” versus “I hate to think how bad I’ll feel in the morning if I do”. But Saturday night brought a different kind of conflict for this viewer at least: joy at Russia’s elimination from the Euros versus a creeping fear that the Greeks might again go all the way as they did eight years ago.
Nothing against the Russian squad themselves, of course, or that nice wee Dutchman who manages them. But there’s always a certain degree of satisfaction when there’s an upset, especially one which vindicates an argument you’ve been having with friends – the argument in this case being against betting on the Russians, on the grounds that teams which start off as well as they did rarely last the pace.
And it has been easy to take against the Russian fans, or at least those of them who thought it a good idea to march through the centre of Warsaw before the Poland game to celebrate their national day. The tournament will be a happier place without then But then there’s the down side: Greece in the last eight, and now just three games away from replicating the 2004 triumph which set back the cause of positive football for several years. Think back to that tournament and ask yourself what contribution Greece made; what magic moments still linger in the memory.
Apart from the winning goal in the final by Angelos Charisteas, all there was was defence, defence, defence. Sure, some of it was dynamic, and very effective, but the overall style of play was still a bad example for coaches across the continent, and continued to have an inhibiting effect until Spain’s victory in Euro 2008.
Players are so fit these days that a technically inferior but efficiently organised team can often thwart a more gifted one. When it happens once we can all say hurrah for the plucky underdog. When it happens for the duration of a tournament it can be calamitous.
So, Greece, well done on making it through the group stage. Now you’ve made your point, please leave by the next exit.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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