Sucking heartily on life's half-time oranges

Monday, 11 June 2012

EUROTASTICS! England v France

The first England match! Brilliant. No London pub full of steaming, beery men for me; I decided to enjoy the first one in solo slumber slumber party fashion, complete with blueberry facemask, chocolate and nail-painting, at home in my living room. Up here on the 5th floor in Camberwell, you could see the city's grimness in full force, and the weather surely reflected the nation's mizzly feelings in the run-up to the game. None of that usual blazing sunshine and raging optimism. That said, it seemed a pretty promising line-up for England - as promising as you could muster from our diluted team; Roy Hodgson had probably considered bringing along a couple of cardboard cut-outs along on the plane to pop on the pitch just in case.

Of course, the 'low expectations' shtick was only kept up for about 10 minutes. Once Ashley Young broke free for the first attempt towards goal, I swear I could hear the whole country thinking 'we can do it! We can get a goal, in this match and the next and get through to the quarters and WIN THE WHOLE BLOODY THING!', and people turning to each other in pubs and saying 'I knew Hodgson was the right choice. I mean, he reads books, for goodness' sakes! BOOKS!' We just can't help ourselves.

But bless their hearts, England truly did keep those spirits toasty during the whole game, with plenty of feisty play, gutsy defending (Scott Parker winning the award for Best Gung-Ho Lunging - tally ho, Scotty!), and nice work from the likes of Milner and Little Oxtail-Chamberlain. Lescott proved the worth of his bafflingly high hairline on 29 minutes with a lovely header off that polished pate, before Nasri got one back for the French, making them hover, sleek and sharkish around the goal for a bit. It was a cheering game, especially after those very 'meh' friendlies: good-humoured and civilised, at least until the East European temperatures started making the oldies sag. In the second half, there was a short spell of genuinely good passing from England, almost to chicken tikka standards, or whatever they call it. Hur. It got a bit nervy towards the end, but was really rather fun, and I got to clap and shout my best managerial advice to my heart's content without anyone sniggering at me. Even ITV didn't do badly, bar their crap curry house-style scoreboard graphics: I actually found the punditry and engaged discourse of Jamie Carragher (chewing on his Scouse consonants as if they were gobstoppers) and Patrick Viera quite refreshing after the boorishness of the Beeb's boys all year. Anyway, to Friday: onwards and upwards, chaps!

TATTOO OF THE MATCH: Glen Johnson's sleeve.

USELESS COMMENT OF THE DAY: 'EXCELLENT feet' - Andy Townsend, earnestly, on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

CLICHE-WATCH: 'Keep calm and carry on'! Clive Tyldesley, chirpily.

SHIRT-WATCH: Carragher: middling; Viera: safe, classic; Southgate: disastrous 1980s cityboy

CRAP ARTY JOKE OF THE DAY: What sentence can you usefully say at both Wigmore Hall and the Donbass Arena, especially if you have a lisp? 'I enjoyed the beautiful Arabesques of Debuchy.'
ADORABLES: The newbies, Oxtail and Henderson, the latter rocking a wholesome Gary Barlow look. Scott Parker's noble retro countenance is struggling in that ghastly heat.
ROY HODGSON EXPRESSION-WATCH: He cracked a smile in the post-match interview! A SMILE!

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