English Way – UEFA Euro 2024

English Way – UEFA Euro 2024

Norway could learn from England.

When Norway reaches the European Championships – hopefully sometime before 2044 – they should remember that the secret is not winning matches.

It is important to avoid loss.

You can go a long way in a tournament with a draw, and no one knows that better than England, a team that reached the semi-finals with unimaginable football. They conceded few goals and took some good penalties.

And that's it.

It should have been much better.

So far, England have not played any good match.

Against the five teams they faced – Serbia, Denmark, Slovenia, Slovakia and Switzerland – at least four wins in qualifying were expected. England won. One Among these teams during regular time in the European group, was Serbia (1-0).

The other four matches were drawn after 90 minutes. England twice stumbled thanks to penalties or extra-time equalisers.

It was predictable, uncoordinated and lucky. Nobody planned to score four minutes of extra time. England are not the worst team in the European Commission, but they have the biggest gap between how good they are and how good they are. Can Be, and how good they are.

But then we've been here before.

Southgate England

Coach: Gareth Southgate has led England in recent years, as they have been closer to a tournament gold medal than they have been for a long time.

Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP

In 2018, England reached the World Cup semi-finals with these results:

  • England 2-1 Tunisia
  • England 6-1 Panama
  • England 0-1 Belgium
  • England 1-1 Colombia
  • England 2-0 Sweden

Three wins over Tunisia, Panama and Sweden, plus a penalty shootout win over Colombia, and England were now among the top four teams in the world.

These are results that even Norway can achieve.

Channel of change

England are not alone in benefiting greatly from poor performances.

France, who were knocked out by Spain on Tuesday night, reached the semi-finals by winning two of their five games in normal time, both 1-0 and an own goal. The football was so dull that coach Didier Deschamps told people to switch to another game if they were struggling to stay awake.

What about the Netherlands? They had more fun, but finished third in Group D, before eliminating Romania and Turkey.

Good? Yes then. Nice? Not so much.

Mickey Van De Ven Netherlands

Chasing a final spot: Mickey van der Veen and the Netherlands can celebrate after reaching the quarter-finals against Türkiye.

Photo: Ariel Shalit/AP

The 24-team format increased the chances of qualification by drawing. Since three countries often advance from the group, several can reach safe spots to share points in the final round. If only the top two had advanced, the Netherlands would be out by now.

The same was true for Portugal in 2016.

That year, Portugal won just one of their seven games in regulation time. They faced Hungary, Austria and Iceland in the group – without beating any of them – and needed a penalty shootout against Poland in the quarter-finals. If those were league results, Portugal would have had 1.29 points per game, which would mean a mid-table spot.

In the European Union, that was enough to take the title.

More than just Messi

At the same time, it is true that all knockout tournaments aim to avoid defeat.

Argentina are living a golden age, led by Lionel Messi, but the piece no less important is Emi Martinez, the goalkeeper who saves penalties and organizes them with long kicks, distracting gestures and psychological games.

Argentina became the South American champions in 2021 after knocking out Colombia on penalties in the semi-finals. They won the World Cup in 2022 by doing the same against the Netherlands and France.

Now they have reached the new Copa America final after beating Ecuador on penalties.

Amy Martinez

Star goalkeeper: Emiliano Martinez was crucial as Argentina won the World Cup gold in 2022.

Photo: Elsa/AFP

In the European Union, even teams that play good football need luck from eleven metres out.

Many will remember that Spain stormed to victory in 2008, but drew 0-0 with Italy in the quarter-finals. In 2012, they beat Portugal on penalties in the semi-finals. And when Italy charmed us with their festive football three years ago, they beat England on penalties in the final.

Do you know which team last won the European Championship without needing a penalty kick?

It was Greece in 2004.

The Greeks were accused of spoiling the tournament with a five-man defence and heavy set pieces. In fact, they gave us a beautiful example of a well-crafted plan executed with coordination and precision. They didn't have the skills to win any other way and got the most out of the squad they had.

This is more than can be said about England.

secret recipe

However, manager Gareth Southgate can reach the semi-finals three times in four tournaments.

He deserves some credit. The atmosphere in the team is good, and he has done a good job of preparing England for the penalty shootout. Their penalty shootout in the quarter-final against Switzerland has to be one of the best in UEFA history.

Indeed, England blocked press questions about how they prepared for the penalty shootout, as if the details were a secret recipe.

England vs Switzerland Euro 2024

Good at penalties: England won on penalties against Switzerland.

Photo: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

But the contrast with Spain, the best team in the European Commission, is huge.

On their way to the final, Spain won five of their six games in regulation time, and the sixth after extra time. They knocked out hosts Germany and France. They play beautiful football, with coordinated movement, free play from the back and magic on the flanks.

In purely football terms, Spain and England are like Beauty and the Beast.

But England have not come to the European Commission to entertain people. This team will not be absent.

The best that can be said of England is that it has shown how little it is needed.



10.07.2024 18.00

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Najuma Ojukwu

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