In the immediate aftermath of The Final, I texted the following to my footballing friends:
“Southgate was a statue at the key moments of the game and, when he did act, he made some poor calls. The team that played to their potential won, the other didn’t and lost. Perhaps it’s harsh to blame this on the manager but that is how I see it.“
After a poor night’s sleep, this has morphed to:
“It’s hard to rationally analyse last night. In the end the result itself came about due to the character of those taking & saving penalties. But, in reality, the match itself is a story of an England team that lost momentum and an Italian one that gained it, but yet in the end clung on for penalties. If the game had ended as a draw after 120 minutes of football the verdict would have been what? I’m pretty sure we’d say the England had not played to their potential and had frozen again on the big occasion, as per Croatia in the last World Cup. However, I think this may hide the fact that England were on the easy side of the draw and, when we came up against a ‘better side’, we simply weren’t good enough? Southgate? So many things one can criticise him for but would that be wisdom post the fact? I think that perhaps England – both the team and the country – need to go through the Stages Of Grief before we can reasonably come to any meaningful conclusions.“
I remember, after the death of Princess Diana, reading a commentary about the difference between the Public’s emotions after a famous death and the personal grief felt by individuals who have lost a loved one. The article came to the conclusion that the feelings had similar intensities but the time-spans involved were vastly different i.e. a few days vs. months & years.
About 30 minutes after the final penalty, I was already through the Shock & Denial stage – from “Why didn’t Southgate make changes earlier?” to “Why have 2 players who have hardly had a touch of the ball and a 19 year old take penalties” through to ‘That’s England For You”. Less than 12 hours later I am working my way through the Anger & Depression phase and the Release & Honour phase is beginning to come into focus; thus I have been able to text my Sicilian-born hairdresser, who this morning sent me a triumphalist video full of the joys of life, the following:
Err, thank you for that – you will not be surprised that I’m not feeling quite the same as you, this morning! To lose on penalties is always cruel on the loser. Though inevitably England will look at the Final and feel we let ourselves down, the solid truth is that Italy had by far the tougher route and, in the absence of a defeat in The Final, deservedly won the tournament on that basis alone. To the victor the joys and the congratulations. We lick our wounds – heaven knows, we’ve had enough practice – and move on. What other choice do we have? Well done 🇮🇹. Cherish the moment & enjoy the memories!
And I think that is about right. Lest we forget it, by the time Italy had reached The Final they had won all their group matches, had dispatched a gritty Austrian side and had beaten the likes of Belgium & Spain. England, on the other hand in my estimation, still had to prove that they deserved to win the tournament after a relatively easy ride to The Final which included a less-than-potent Germany and a wounded Denmark.
Perhaps in the fullness of time Euro 2020 will be seen by The English Football Nation as a stepping stone to something even greater … as, it is often remarked in footballing circles:
It’s The Hope That Kills You!
THE FINAL RECKONING
The best things in life are free
But you can keep them for the birds and bees
Now give me money, That’s what I want!
I would much rather had The Moment, but I will have to settle for Mammon. During Euro 2020, I placed the following bets:
TOURNAMENT (£10 bets)
Belgium To Win (Lost) & England To Reach The Final (Won)
SEMI FINAL (£10 bet)
QUARTER FINAL (£5 bets)
England & Spain (Won)/Czech Republic & Belgium (Lost)
ROUND OF 16 (£3 bets)
Denmark, Italy, Czech R, Belgium & England (Won)/Croatia, France & Sweden (Lost)