I have had time to sort out what has occurred. I still am lacking the appropriate tools to assimilate it. No. It is just not possible. Is it not inconceivable? Well you may not be able to make it possible in your own mind. That does not make it possible, or even stop it from happening.
The Copa in South America garners the usual suspects, Brazil and Argentina. These 2021 Euro’s are breaking the boundaries of reality. One suspects that this a trick by Disney and will tie in with the Loki series that promotes the next Marvel movie phase. It is the only way this is possible.
How did we get here? We are a few days away from the 50-50 chance that England could win its first major tournament since 1966. As commentators could not stop pointing out, most of the English crowd had not been born when that event occurred.
Who do they face. Italy. Italy the scourge of all righteous nations who say they do not dive. Australian’s have not forgotten Italian football #neverforget. Italy, who when they play are brilliant. Who defend with aplomb, who score with panache.
It was at the coin toss for extra time against Spain, Italian captain Giorgio Chellini was hugging and laughing with Jordi Alba. How relaxed is Chellini? Or was it a psyche out? Another form of Italian funny business. Will Harry Kane get the same treatment on Sunday?
All of this distracts us from the importance of the actual games that were played. That were won by Italy and England. Oh really. I just typed England as winners into the final of a major tournament. More than 48 hours later and I still cannot believe it. Though I watched it all unfold.
Italy v Spain
Dani Olmo was amazing. Spain was amazing. If this was a game of Aussie Rules, Spain would have been six goals up at half time. Futbol is not Aussie Rules. Futbol is ninety minutes of defence versus attack based on set patterns of players and ball distribution. Hopefully one team puts the ball into the goal past the defence and a goal keeper more times than the other. Hopefully.
It is not that Italy did not have chances in the first half. Like Spain not none of them ended up in the back of the net. Unlike Spain Italy had less chances on goal. The Spanish held on to the ball better. Still no goals though.
Italy had a chance earlier after a nice forward riposte. The shot was on target but saved by Spanish keeper Unai Simon. Not long after another forward assault by Spain was blunted. Italian keeper Donarumma took an easy save.
From Donarumma the quick counter attack was on. Imobile’s run was blocked by defenders, the ball was poorly dispatched. The ball rolled in front of Chiesa, three defenders and keeper to beat. A head high, swerving ball left Chiesa’s boot finding its home in the netting. Cue Italian fans sining Seven Nation Army’s lead break.
Alvaro Morata is not the Spanish fans first choice. Defended by manager Luis Enrique, Morata has been good. Have the naysayers been rebuked? Well they were at the 80th minute when Morata equalised. A lovely one-two pass with Dani Olmo, and a great shot past Donarumma.
So we end up at extra time. Scores level one all. We go past extra time. Scores still level. Once again in the knockout stage we come to penalties. Is there a better way to break the deadlock? No one has found a way to replace penalties.
I know of people who cannot bear penalty shoot outs. They turn their backs, some just leave the game. Both Locatelli and Olmo missed their turns to shoot. Pressure builds as the next five shots all beat the keeper. Italy ahead 3-2, still time for Italy to miss and Spain to level up.
Remember Morata and the naysayers. That Luis Enrique substituted Morata in and was as the lone Spanish goal scorer. Penalty shoot outs are remembered more for failure than success. Morata’s shot was blocked by Donarumma.
No one will remember the deflected shot Morata had that was on target in extra time. They will all remember that when he took the penalty, it had no power and the keeper predicted the direction perfectly. At least Mbape has French fans on his side. Morata better get back to Juventus quickly.
Italy win again. On their way to the finals. Still together, still happy. Mancini is praised. Luis Enrique is not. Spain can look forward to more tournaments, but this one has passed them by.
England v Denmark
In the stands of Wembley before the game the camera alighted on two men. Their names are Baddiel and Skinner and they wrote the song “Football’s coming home”. A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE NOW SINGING THEIR SONG. Because England have made it to the final.
As I have said before about this England side, they are perfunctory. Gareth Southgate’s English side are good. They play to a set style, they play as well as they do for their clubs, they execute the plans well. Best yet they are playing in front of their home crowd, and winning.
Denmark are dutiful, determined, and they have a purpose to play for. Fairy tales are popular and the narrative is strong for Denmark. So very strong. But against Football’s coming home? Against the dreams of an entire nation, starved of success for so long. What happens?
Both teams tried to score. England had early attempts denied. Denmark had a few themselves. Then enter Mikkal Damsgaard. Damsgaard’s first shot on goal was wide but stunning. His set shot from range, over the defensive wall, dipped into the goal past the fingers of keeper Pickford. Just, wow!
Denmark led for just a few minutes. The equaliser resulted from the attack of Bukayo Saka put through the Danish defence by Harry Kane. Saka’s pass to Sterling was beyond clearing bouncing off the Danish captain Kjær for an own goal.
In the second half both teams harried the other and attempts were made. Denmark probed, and England searched. The Danish defence was tall enough to blunt McGurie’s attack by head. Most were on target from both sides. Both Keepers were resolute.
Extra time came and Denmark had already made most of its substitutions. England had only made one Jack Grealish. Who was substituted for another later. In this tournament there are five substitutions available, six if the game goes to extra time. Historically only three are allowed.
Southgate used them later in game. Fresher replacements. Some have said that it was England’s deeper bench that saved them. The ability to replace like for like, without a change in quality. Of course depth is never truly proven till used. Consider it proven now.
By extra time the Danish players were tired. England attacked and eventually were rewarded with a penalty. Was the penalty dubious, definitely. That Schmeichel saved the shot by Harry Kane was moot. Schmeichel’s parry was nabbed by Kane and duly slotted away.
With ten minutes to go the Danish players were exhausted. England gained control of the ball. It was an amazing feat of passing. For minutes at a time the English players crisply passed, holding onto possession making it impossible for their opponents. Another new trick for England.
Sweet Caroline was sung by players and those in the stands. Prince William was applauding. Shirts off for those celebrating. You only sing like this when you are winning and England had won. What happens Sunday night, Monday morning is up to then. For now the impossible is a chance. England are in the final.
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.