Sucking heartily on life's half-time oranges

Sunday, 24 June 2012

EUROTASTICS 4! England v Italy

Lawks. My hair is standing on end, my stomach is in turmoil, my hands are raw, my head hurts, and I've made the room smell weird. It's not bird 'flu, I've just watched England get knocked out of an international tournament again!

Kicking off with a near-smasheroo from the Italians, and then a slight fumble-o-rama from Glen Johnson, the first half was pretty marvellous, especially that purple patch from 5 to 25 minutes, or should I say white patch. It was lovely to watch the boys fluttering around like wood white butterflies, with a light touch on the ball. But just like those wood whites, whose population on our soil is declining fast, England's performance faded throughout the second half, just clinging on for dear darned life by the end of extra time.
By the time there was a shot of the subs, I was GRATEFUL to see Andy Carroll on the touchline, though of course his small bag of party tricks (1: standing 2: leaning 3: heading, very well 4: flattening Italians) were only beneficial for so long. I thought we defended quite fearlessly and brilliantly - how else didn't the Italians score with all those ludicrous chances? Terry and Lescott fended off the terrifying Balotelli, who with his current haircut is basically a human circular saw, and who would bolt from his line like a glistening, hotly steaming horse, nostrils flaring alarmingly. But defending is only half the battle, and elsewhere we were giving away balls like sweets at a children's party. Hodgson looked more and more spooked by the second, and Wayne's magic was not quite there, though that overhead kick at the end of 90 minutes was heart-stopping. The brass section sounded increasingly like party blowers in the cold light of morning after the night before.

Penalties, though of course nerve-wracking, felt different this time. It had been such an Italy-heavy match that (at least as a spectator...), it REALLY didn't matter if we got knocked out. Not like 1990, or 1996, or 2006. It's weird to say it, but I felt quite RELIEVED when that last penalty went in. We clapped Italy, who obviously deserved to win by several country miles; it would have been embarrassing for England, bless their hearts, to go onto the semis to be pulverised by the Germans. Now I can just ENJOY it (and recover my health).

ENGLISH HERO: Joe Hart, just utterly unflappable, and often caught grinning at madly tense moments, like he was just enjoying himself hugely. I liked his yoga lion face in the penalties. Surely our captain for the next tournament?
IRRITANT: Mark Lawrenson, who is becoming more and more like the embittered uncle at your Christmas party, full of barbed, mildly bigoted remarks and general idiocy. 'Or you can tweet', he sneered, 'if you're sad', to some remark about how to stay in touch with the Euros, possibly insulting hundreds of thousands of viewers. Obviously he's not the sort of man to do anything as pathetic as use Twitter, do yoga (like Shay Given) or use hair product (like Wayne Rooney), as he reminds us from time to time on screen, with his mean, drooping fizzog. Promote Martin Keown, quick!

HOMOEROTICA: Balotelli, advancing, and Hart, walking backwards, eyes locked, faint smiles playing upon on their lips, as they headed for the goalmouth for the first penalty. HIGHLY SEXUALLY CHARGED! Also, Balotelli getting his magnificent thighs massaged by two supplicant physios before penalties. HEAVENS.

SHIRTWATCH: A quiet night, but Alan Shearer snuck in a curious double-layered collar.

ADVICE OF THE NIGHT no. 1: 'get one of the strikers to sit on him!' - Alan Shearer, urgently, on how to cope with Pirlo. Think you would have needed the whole team to flatten him like a pea under a mattress-pile of players, subs and coaching staff. Or just Andy Carroll, of course.

ADVICE OF THE NIGHT no. 2: 'We've GOT to get hold of that football!' - Shearer again, futilely.

TATTOO OF THE MATCH: Diamante. Like a load of 90's rave stickers have melted onto his right arm. DREADFUL.

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