goodbye euro 2016

Euro 2016 GER-ITA

What will you do, now that it has gone, now that it is over? Euro 2016 is finished, Portugal walked away as champions, and that is that, no more football for a little while. Well, the football wasn’t always of the highest quality – it is international football, it rarely is – but there were a few good games, and a few historic results. Here are the last few sketches I did during some of the games, starting above with Germany beating Italy. Sorry, technically Germany did not beat Italy (they never actually have, in a competitive tournament), they drew, and it went to penalties, hilariously bad penalties, penalties you would not believe. Simone Zaza. I did enjoy the creativity of Twitter after his very odd pre-penalty river-dance routine.

Euro 2016 POL-POR

Speaking of penalties, Portugal played out another draw, this time with Poland, beating them on swift and well-taken penalties. What else happened? Lewandowski scored in the 2nd minute making everyone think “this will be a great game!” but it wasn’t, and I can’t remember much else. Ronaldo probably took his shirt off.

Euro 2016 WAL-POR

Wales were the last British team to exit Europe (if only there were some useful contraction to describe that phenomenon). Seriously, Wales got to the semi-finals of the Euros. I was starting to imagine that they might in fact go on and Do A Leicester. It was that sort of year. In the end, they Did A Tottenham, sis us all proud but ultimately fell down just before the end. They wore that black and grey kit (I must say, I don’t like it much) to play Portugal (who also for some reason wore the away kit, that odd teal number (I don’t like that either). It was a decent match though, but Portugal had enough to get past the Welsh, who frankly suffered from losing two of their best players (Ben Davies and Aaron Ramsay) due to simple yellow cards (UEFA, your stupid rules ruin these tournaments). If they had played, I’m pretty confident it would have gone to 120 minutes or penalties, like all of Portugal’s games.

Euro 2016 FRA-POR

And so the Final at the Stade de France. Portugal looked like they were going to stand aside and let France do what was necessary in order to win the final at home, until they realized that France just couldn’t do much. Portugal defended rather a lot. It was a terrible game, but in the end Portugal won it with a wonder-strike by a player who Swansea didn’t think was good enough, Eder, a kind of modern-day John Jensen but in reverse. No, the Final was notable for two things – moths, and Cristiano Ronaldo. So the whole stadium had been invaded by billions of moths after some clever sod left the floodlights on all night. It was an invasion of moths. Anyway, a little while into the game, the Portuguese star Ronaldo was tackled and fell badly, his leg hurt. He tried to play on, like Gazza in 1991, but eventually collapsed. He sat on the pitch in tears waiting for the medics to come and get him. The camera did a close-up of him, and at that moment a moth came and landed on his face, as if to lick up his tears of sadness. What a cold, heartless moth. He was too sad to even swat it away. I know he gets a lot of stick, but I felt sorry for him, and he didn’t need some giant moth creature coming up and taking the mick out of him and feeding on his tears. I wondered whether the moth actually said something to him, like “Lionel Messi sends his regards”, Red Wedding style. All I knew is that when Ronaldo went off I knew, from the flashbacks to Gazza in the 1991 FA Cup Final, that this game would end up going to Portugal. And that’s how it went. It took a long time and a lot of very uninteresting football, but they came together and did their captain proud. He was Happy Ronaldo again by the end. Maybe that moth actually said to Cristiano, “don’t worry my man, we got this” and rather than just flying about randomly, they actually influenced the game, distracting French forwards, swerving the ball away from the goal, doing whatever meddling moths do. Remember that little moth Gandalf spoke to when he was imprisoned by Saruman on top of Orthanc? Same concept, but with football. Happy Ronaldo. Sad Messi, but that’s another story. So, Euro 2016 is over. The Premier League starts in August. Cannot wait…

clash of the titans

lionel messicristiano ronaldo
As you know I don’t like getting wrapped up in unnecessary hyperbole, but we are living in a time of absolute legends, of whom our grandchildren’s grandchildren will tell tales of unfettered genius and unrivaled skill. Yes, I’m talking about the Tale of Two Footballers, the great sporting rivalry of our time, the main reason TV companies around the world are trying to convince you to spend some of your lunch hour watching the first leg of a Spanish Cup semi-final. Yes, I’m talking about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and unfortunately for our Portuguese friend, we really are all obliged to say their names in that order for all eternity. They are Mozart and Salieri, McEnroe and Borg, Pepsi and Coke, the USA and the USSR, Tesco and Sainsburys, er, Professor X and Magneto…
It’s easy to get carried away. For sure, they are the talismanic figures of their teams, Spain’s ridiculously massive Barcelona and Real Madrid (the Celtic and Rangers of La Liga, the Target and WalMart, etc). And fair enough, they both scored so many goals over the past couple of years that no other player in their league comes close, but that’s not to say…oh, let’s accept it, they are unbelievably great footballers. The 2012 Ballon d’Or ceremony recently was another clash between the two titans (oh, and Andres Iniesta, who many smart folk said really should have won it, though he of course doesn’t have the huge bags of goals but did win a European Championship with Spain, not that international football means anything any more). Ronaldo had an outstanding year, finishing 2011-2012 with a whopping 60 goals – sixty, and he’s not actually a striker – and a Spanish league title. But oh no, even though Barcelona didn’t win anything, Lionel Messi had to go and get 73. That is SEVENTY-THREE, in one season, a European record, and that is just for his club. Yeah, he’s not a traditional striker either. Then when he broke Gerd Mueller’s world record for number of goals scored in a single calendar year, well, Messi just had to get that fourth consecutive Ballon d’Or.
I like Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s easy to paint him as the villain, self-obsessed and sulky, and even more so when compared to the cuddly selfless mercurial goody two-amazing-shoes Messi. (I imagine Ronaldo standing there, fist clenched, “Messi!”) When he first broke out as a young lad at United, with his funny step-over and his waving of invisible yellow cards he was pretty easy to deride, but what a player he became. Ronaldo just gets better and better and better. And as he does so, Messi gets better and better and better and better. I often wonder if they spur each other on to reach new levels of greatness; I get the impression Messi would be doing this anyway. Their habit of collecting goals each week really is like an arms race. Ronaldo got a hat-trick at the weekend; so Messi scored four. (“Messi!”). In any other age, our Cristiano would be the legend. What can he do? I would drown my sorrows in hair gel too.