More Doom & Gloom In The Euro Zone? – An Analysis of In-Ger-Land’s Chances At Euro 2012

Europe! Far from being a word to induce palpitations in economists, its mere mention ought to send shivers of anticipation tingling down the spine of each and every Mag. It might ‘only’ be whatever they call the Fairs Cup these days, aka ‘the Europa League’ that we’re in – and we do still need to negotiate the Qualifying Round – but it’s definitely something to look forward to over the summer months. Who said anything about bailouts?

In the meantime, we have the small matter of UEFA’s third most prestigious competition – namely Euro 2012, the only one any sunderland player is likely to appear in – and despite the fact that this time round there’s likely to be a wave of French sympathy in these parts, for most of us this means dusting off those In-ger-land shirts and heading down the pub to endure the interminable sound of brass bands playing WW2 themes, while taking care not to get run over by cars festooned with the flag of St. George on the way.

So what are England’s chances this time? Well, unlike other recent competitions, the popular press have written them off straight away – though not for the same reasons they should’ve done in 2006 & 2010, namely that the best sides have better/hungrier/fitter players and are more organised tactically. No, it’s because the new manager (someone with considerable experience in both international competition and European club football) isn’t shifty cockney barstard Harry Redknapp – who incidentally has no international and very little experience of domestic European competition. But he was the people’s choice… or so they said.

Looking at things slightly more analytically, however, they may have a point. I tend to base my own predictions as to England’s likely performances on the basis of precedent, not to mention luck/fate/the will of the gods, and stuff like that. This is because, as ‘success’ for England is classed as progress beyond the last eight (and with them having only ‘succeeded’ four times in 24 attempts during my lifetime), there’s a better than evens chance that when I say they’ll be coming home early, I’ll probably be right.

What’s more, despite the fact that two of England’s four semi final appearances have been in the Euros, their performances in general in this competition have been noticeably poorer than at the World Cup. Having failed to progress beyond the group stages in four of the seven tournaments they’ve qualified for up to now, it’s fair to say that England just ‘don’t do’ European Championships!

Quite apart from such meaningless statistics (which still probably apply more objectivity than your average fleet street hack), things just don’t look good from the outset for England, given the group they’ve been drawn in. The frightening thing is that our best chance of a win seems to me to be the opening game against France, traditionally the strongest side in our group, and one England should obviously fear if our own Cabaye and Ben Arfa are in the starting eleven.

For the other two the odds are stacked against us. Ukraine – they beat England at their place in qualifying for the last World Cup – and, well, England never fare well against host nations anyway: Italy – Euro80; Spain – WC82; Italy again, 3rd place play-off – WC90; Sweden – Euro92; Portugal – Euro04 – all straight defeats, draws which led to elimination in the group stages or penalty shootout debacles. No wins in any tournament against any home nation – England will have to rewrite history just to still be in the reckoning come the last game – and that’s against Sweden, a team they’ve failed to beat in their last seven competitive meetings. Sorry folks but it just doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen, does it?

So it looks like a no-brainer – get your money on anyone other than England – though there is light at the end of the tunnel for the most patriotic of fans. You can take my thoughts with a pinch of salt but the last time the national press were so adamant that England stood no chance in a major international tournament – ostensibly because they didn’t like the manager – they got it spectacularly wrong.

Italia 90 – Bobby Robson – and England got to within a couple of spot kicks of the final! So maybe this could be the year – where’s that bookies?

(Make sure you get a copy of our magazine summer special – only £3 plus postage – buy online by clicking cover above. A bumper 60 page issue of classic Newcastle United coverage with a European flavouring!)