God, what a borefest!
After the afternoon thrill of the Lewis/Andy British double, it was such a disappointing, anti-climactic end to a super Sunday of sport. You know the match was dull when the only excitement was provided by an invading swarm of moths who were the only entities on the pitch interested in attacking. Every two years there is more and more hype surrounding major international tournaments, yet they always end up delivering less and less. The fact that the tournament was won by an extra time goal (albeit a great goal) by a Swansea reject summed it up. It was a tournament where endeavour trumped ambition and football was the loser.
The match should have been a battle of the brilliant no. 7s – Ronaldo vs Griezmann – a repeat of the Champions League final; instead it was lack of ambition vs fear of losing. For that is what international football has become. No one is interested in attacking and scoring goals as they are so scared of conceding that they would rather sit back and park the bus and hope to get lucky at the end.
Well, it certainly worked for Portugal. No wins in any of their 3 group games, only 1 win in normal time in the whole competition against Wales, and a last gasp goal against Croatia in the last 16 without a single shot on goal beforehand. Just stifle the opposition, get lucky on the break and bore the punters to death. Apparently that’s the way to win major international tournaments. But no doubt the experts will delight in telling us how tactically astute, supremely organised and defensively clever Portugal were.
Of course France were no better. Their fabled midfield was suffocated with Pogba sitting too deep, Payet sitting too wide and Kante sitting on the bench. The French lacked intent, with no passionate leader to galvanise the troops and drive them forward. Ronaldo, though forced off the field far too early with a knee injury, to his credit, returned to the touchline, passionately urging his team on and perhaps for that reason alone, deserved to be on the winning side.
Still, it was not much of an advert for football. Yet another major tournament final that failed to deliver. If that’s international football, you can have it. Give me the Premier League any day. It may lack quality, but at least you are assured of exciting end to end football. Rather naive attacking ambition triumphing over cynical defensive astuteness, win or lose. For anyone who would counter that by saying defending is part of football, they ought to be reminded that scoring more goals than the opposition is also a valid footballing tactic.
Perhaps one day, some clever international manager will have a eureka moment and come to the same revolutionary conclusion. International football may then be worth watching again. Until then, it’s only a month till the new Premier League season starts again. Happy days.