How's it been for you so far? I must say I think some of the games have been bloody good. All the obvious things have been said correctly about Holland, Spain, and Portugal. What of the Germans, the pre-tournament faves who started so nicely? Here I should interject that:
a) I hold no brief whatsoever for the England team, and am relieved by their absence from this tournament, since the side is largely compromised of players I hate from club sides I hate; so I have no problem taking a friendly interest in the Germans (though I did hate them back in 1990 and 1996, when England sides more properly composed of the staunch likes of Beardsley, Gascoigne and Shearer were cruelly robbed.) And,
b) Following on from the above, though I can get interested in teams that don't feature players I know of and/or like, I'm instinctively more interested in teams who can claim some relationship, however tenuous, to Newcastle United. Turkey vs Czech Republic was a funny one last night, since Emre Belozoglu and David Rozehal lined up on opposed sides but both are headed out of St James's Park. But frankly you rarely get to see too many Toon players at the highest international level. What you do tend to see a lot of are the conspicuously over-priced duffers whom Newcastle are likely to offer for once their post-tournament price has sky-rocketed. Most such players go to Man United or Real Madrid, or even Spurs, or these days probably Portsmouth. But if they're really crap they may just end up being paraded in front of a dubious Gallowgate End. For instance Kenny Dalglish in his ill-fated 18 months at Newcastle made a strange and spectacular hash of buying players who would fail miserably at the 1998 World Cup.
I return to this sore subject with a bit less regret, because a month ago I learned Newcastle were keenly tracking Mario Gomez of Stuttgart and Germany, a shooting-boots sensation who clearly had no interest in coming up the Barrack Road to play for the Geordies against Wigan next season. Still, I've watched Gomez closely in this tournament, and so far the alice-band-wearing charlie hasn't managed to hit a cow's arse with a banjo. 10 minutes ago he achieved the Miss of the Tournament against Austria. Maybe he'll fill his boots in the second half. But for the moment Newcastle are looking lucky...