SportsNet - June 2012
When it comes to making a disaster out of difficulty, we in England are the masters. No more so that when it comes to our national football team.
English fans already knew that the cards were stacked against them when Rooney was red carded and realized he would miss the first three matches of the tournament. One thing that then-national team manager Fabio Capello did get right, was to beg UEFA to cummute the ban, and he duly got his way and the penalty was reduced to two games. Even then, journalists in the media carped about the propriety of such a decision. The same journalists whom are now leading the false cheerleading of a lost hope.
Now we have the pessimism transformed into to kind of reverse psychology where, because we accept we have no hope of success, and have no expectation, by some twisted logic it means we actually have a better chance. In case you are finding that hard to follow, by following that logic to its conclusion, that would mean that Germany and Spain have no chance, because they are so far superior to us.
The launch of Euro 2012 means that the two-year wait for quality international soccer has ended. Euro 2012 has finally kicked off in Poland and Ukraine to a dramatic start with a loss by the Dutch and a tie salvaged by Greece. But will the drama continue, or will the underdogs of the tournament be forced to accept their fate?
Group A: Czech Republic, Greece, Poland and Russia
This is easily the weakest bracket in the tournament, and therefore the most likely to finish according to their respective FIFA rankings. Russia is the obvious frontrunner, as it has had a good run up to the tournament. Their defensive form has been exceptional, but will have to continue and accompany a clinical striking performance if they plan on advancing past the quarterfinals.
The onus of that offensive surge will fall to captain Andrei Arshavin. He cannot afford to go missing at any point during the match. He will be his teammates' first option when they look to play the ball, if he shirks his playmaker responsibilities, Russia will stall.
Eleven months out of every year, Omaha, Nebraska is your typical midwestern All-American city. Recently named by Kiplinger.com as the #1 city in America to raise your kids, Omaha is by all accounts a big city with a wholesome small-town atmosphere. That will all change for about three weeks in late June and early July. The city, as it has done every year since 1950, will host the NCAA Men's Division I College World Series, welcoming the top eight college baseball teams in the country to the heartland. This year, however, Omaha is also home to the U.S. Olympic Swimming trials.
Manchester United are undergoing slight changes after losing the Premier League title to Manchester City in the final seconds of the season. United are looking for a new No. 9 after striker Dimitar Berbatov confirmed that he wants to leave Old Trafford because he believes he is not getting an opportunity to play regular football. United also confirmed the release of Michael Owen from the club.
United is left with their top striker Wayne Rooney alongside Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernadez, however, Sir Alex Ferguson is also planning to add more force to his attack.
Borussia Dortmund Robert Lewandowski would be an ideal replacement for Berbatov. Ferguson and his assistant Mike Pheelan were in Germany to watch the Borussia Dortmund players Shinji Kagawa and Lewandowski. Ferguson has successful in landing the Japanese star and now Poland boss Franciszek Smuda has claimed Lewandowski is set to move to Manchester United during this summer.
Lewandowski was a key player alongside Kagawa last season for Dortmund's success as they helped with the club's first domestic double success.
It would be easy to forget that an actual football tournament was about to start with all the bewildering confusion surrounding hapless manager Roy Hodgson and his England B team. However, the time for action is nearing with Monday's day of destiny against a surging French team on the horizon.
You would think therefore, that Hodgson would be deep in thought about tactics and planning his strategy for the match. However, an alarming report has been trickling out of Sweden by an obscure reporter stemming from an interview with Hodgson last week at Wembley Stadium.
This interview came after Sven Goran Ericksson's laughable comments about there being a smear campaign against his friend Roy Hodgson. Coming from the manager who took 17-year old Theo Walcott to the World Cup in 2006 without having watched him, it has to be taken with a pinch of salt.
When Hodgson was asked about the match against Sweden, a match that could very well end England's participation if the anticipated hammering against France ensues, he seemed particularly bemused.