THE high quality of the football in evidence so far during Euro 2012 will have come as no surprise to those such as our esteemed chief football correspondent Richard Sutcliffe, who anticipates the tournament with more relish than he does the World Cup on the simple basis that less is more.
Fewer, but higher quality participants plus the increased risk of quick elimination would, Richard prophesised in these pages, lead to more evenly-matched contests and less sterile play.
He went on to lament the fact that Euro 2016 will be expanded to 24 teams, closing the gap on the World Cup’s complement of 32, believing the probable result will be that the early stages of the event will be more predictable and less exciting.
Richard, as so often, is right but despite the welter of matches available to the armchair viewer nowadays I simply cannot get enough, and will happily tune in to France v Faroe Islands with nigh on the same enthusiasm as I will to England v Italy.
Yesterday was an appalling day as far as I was concerned – rest day indeed. If I had my way, the Euro quarter-finals and semi-finals would be seven-game series akin to ice hockey’s Stanley Cup play-offs, and the Euros would last until the Premier League and nPower Leagues are up and running again.
You would not need to lay me down on a psychiatrist’s couch – and would not be able to unless I am put in charge of the remote control – to deduce that such a problem, if problem it is, derives from my childhood.
When I was a lad (how I wish I owned the copyright to that phrase) live screening of football in odd-numbered years sans international tournaments was limited to a glorious fortnight which began with the FA Cup final and continued through the Home Internationals – a grand total of seven matches.
That was the quotient and, to a football-obsessed lad such as myself, it was starvation rations.
So when the even-numbered years offered up the Euros or World Cup I would binge feast, using all my eloquence – and the threat of involving the NSPCC if necessary – to persuade my parents that we should watch matches such as Belgium v El Salvador rather than, say, discover who Elsie Tanner was walking out with that week*.
Twenty-four team European Championships? That will do nicely.
* When I was a lad© everyone knew that Elsie Tanner was the lead female character in Coronation Street and walking out means ‘to romance’.