Sport on TV: The Euros are up for grabs – it's all about the first touch
Sunday 17 June 2012
As Ruud Gullit might say, there has been a lot of sexy football played in the first week of Euro 2012, and without Sven the Swedish lothario anywhere to be seen. But not much of it has been played by England, who have discarded their fancy foreign clothing in favour of Roy Hodgson's "No sex please, we're English" mentality, with its focus on rearguard actions and opening up from the back.
Hodgson, of course, has taught the Swedes a thing or two, although only on the footballing front. On the eve of the game against Sweden (Match of the Day, BBC1, Thursday), Colin Murray asked our columnist Alan Pardew, who has a Swedish wife, if it would be "separate rooms, Alan?" when it came to the match. "Yes, certainly, she screams too loud for me," came the reply, inducing much sniggering in the grand manner of Test Match Special. But you knew what he meant, just about.
Meanwhile in the Swedish camp, some of the players were experiencing the unusual problem of not being very good at keepyuppy. The first one to lose control of his balls was being forced to drop his trousers and endure his team-mates firing shots at his bare backside. The cheek of it, you might think.
For England, in the second half of their matches it is looking like a case of backs to the wall, an altogether familiar position for them. In Europe, an Englishman's sensibilities go before him. How many times have we heard Messrs Lineker, Shearer, Hansen and Co say that England must hold on to the ball and not be afraid? Still, their intense vulnerability after making the first move is keeping the fans in a state of high arousal.
Even Mark Lawrenson was roused from whispering his barely decipherable sweet nothings in our ears – with emphasis on the "nothings" – when Hodgson brought on Theo Walcott. The little winger immediately provided the extra penetration that his team needed, and Danny Welbeck's finish was a fitting climax to a game between two sides who were leaving gaping holes at their back.
Gullit's fellow Dutchmen are renowned as the great exhibitionists of European football but they are also well known for quarrelling with each other like bickering lovers. This time it is Germany who have been turning it on – we'll refrain from calling them sex bombs – with the unlikely name of Bastian Schweinsteiger making the advances.
It's not a name that's easy to get your lips around, but after all the adoration that has been heaped on the narrow shoulders of Lionel Messi, who looks like the weirdo teenager in an American high-school movie, at least the new man has some film-star looks. And the Germans haven't even really needed to bring on Bender to liven up the action and provide an alternative approach.
Of course it's not just Germany who have got the pulses racing. The hosts Poland have been strutting their stuff too, which has led to a lot of Poles dancing. Even Denmark have had the pundits drooling and purring with pleasure. After their last-gasp defeat of Portugal (Euro 2012 Highlights, ITV1, Wed), Gareth Southgate remarked that the Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner "might as well stick his underpants on his head". But no one wants to see that. Perhaps we're all getting a bit carried away by this sexy stuff. Fingers crossed for England, legs crossed for everyone else.
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