Three Lions – Much Ado About Nothing

Another big tournament, another failure. England’s non-performance at the big stage continues. Krishnendu Sanyal takes you through the agony of watching England’s abject surrender and another penalty shoot-out failure

Familiarity, so they say, breeds contempt. England can relate.

England has been there before, to the extent that it seemed quite inevitable. England is out of another tournament on penalty shoot-outs and again failed to beat a ‘major’ football nation.

The kick that finished it all

This quarter-final was different to the other quarter-final exits that preceded it. At least against Portugal (2006 World Cup) and Brazil (2002 World Cup), England gave their opponents a decent run for their money. Against the Italians, England were by far the second best team. The Azzurri created more chances, had better possession and Roy Hodgson’s two banks of four was clearly intending to park the bus and winning the lottery via a set-piece.

This doesn’t mean England had a bad tournament. There were a few positives to take away from Poland-Ukraine and was definitely an improvement on the disaster that was Germany 2006.

Roy Hodgson: Deserves more time

Deserves time

Roy Hodgson’s tactics were considered negative by many and the possession statistics clearly second that thought process. On the other hand, we can say Hodgson was building a base from which he can start his work and was using the resources that were available to him.

We mustn’t forget that for varying reasons England were unable to call on John Ruddy, Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill, Kyle Walker, Micah Richards, Gareth Barry, Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverly, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick and Darren Bent. At some point all of them would have been considered for selection for the tournament.

Who knows what would have happened if Hodgson had a Jack Wilshere and a Michael Carrick at his disposal. We should also remember he had only a month to prepare the team for the tournament and come 2014 World Cup qualifiers, when he will have had more time, his tactics might not be as rigid and defensive as it was during the tournament. The Fulham and West Brom teams of Roy Hodgson were an organized bunch but were not as defensive as the England team, so he deserves more time to work with the team and with better players at his disposal, he might make a difference to the England set-up.

As I earlier said, Hodgson built a good base. While defending, the back four together with Scoot Parker and Steven Gerrard conceded only 3 goals in four games plus an extra half hour and 2 of them came against Ukraine. The defence was rigid and organized and rarely lost its shape and together with the midfield, were a difficult structure to break down. That is an extremely good record and something that the team can definitely build on, especially with the manager having more time and players becoming available after recovering from injury.

Truth Be Told

There were negatives though. A number of players had a poor tournament. Ashley Young flattered to deceive and was nowhere close to replicating his club form with Manchester United. To be fare to him, he spent most of the time in his own half and was running into blind alleys when with the ball, due to the rigid tactics of play that England adopted. Wayne Rooney was banned for the first two games, came back and scored a goal against Ukraine but was largely anonymous against Italy. He looked off the space and England should really contemplate on whether they should take a player to a tournament if he is unavailable for the whole duration or look for his alternatives who could be a part of playing eleven from the start of the competition.

Unimpressive duo

But England’s greatest problem is their woeful passing. The ball seemed to bounce off every England player straight to the opponent and many passes were strayed and pointless. The most ridiculous statistic that showed England’s problem was that the best pass conversion for England players in the quarter-final was between Joe Hart and Andy Carroll. The problem is both technical and tactical. If you put on a passing drill, I don’t think any England player of the squad will hit 10/20/30/40 passes and that is due to the British way of playing football. The tactical side is that England players are very rigid when it comes to positioning, they rarely create enough room or space to create an opportunity for pass to be made, and opponents find it easy to read the game and get the ball back under their possession.

Moving Forward

England will have to progress. Functional football such as this is good as short-term fix, but wholly unacceptable in the grand scheme of things. For some such as John Terry and Frank Lampard (who was injured here), they will need to be phased out. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can expect a bigger role in the future; Jack Wilshere’s return from injury will be met with great anticipation.

Wilshere – Hope for the future

So there we have it, positives and negatives. A disappointing exit to a tournament where England did better than expected, there is hope for the future and certainly some good elements to build on but, and it may be a cliché, the hard work really does start now for Roy Hodgson and his men.


Title courtesy: Souvik Basu

Euro 2012 – Hosting Issues

Debopam Roy looks at the hosts of the 2012 European Football Championship, their relations and how they have prepared for their first ever tournament of this scale

From a long turbulent relation and numerous wars fought over shared territories especially Galicia, Poland and Ukraine have now come to signify the best example of solidarity among the Slavic countries. They are the second and third largest Slavic countries, after Russia and both have aided each other in development and partnered successfully towards growth.



Figure 1: Victor Yushchenko (R), President of Ukraine, kisses Aleksander Kwaśniewski, President of Poland, Davos 2005


The Winning Bid

That bond of cooperation was sealed further when in 2004, Poland and Ukraine decided to bid for the 2012 European championship. A joint bid made sense as the new millennium had already seen a spate of joint bids – Belgium-Netherlands in 2000, Austria-Switzerland in 2008 and even the 2002 World Cup. This was one way for small nations to experience the pleasures of hosting a major football tournament. Though they were up against the might of Italy and Croatia-Hungary bids, but with favourites Italy beset by Calciopoli scandal and problems with football-related crowd trouble, the less fancied Polish-Ukrainian bid won through.

Figure 2: Poland-Ukraine bid beat the more fancied Italian one

UEFA President Michel Platini while picking the bid remarked, “They are a worthy winner. However, there are no losers today, only bids that have not won this time round.” The Italians though cried foul and the ire towards Platini only intensified when they lost out the 2016 bidding process to Platini’s home country. But that is another story.

Indeed the solidarity of the hosts was evident in the slogan that they coined for the tournament – “Creating History Together” and it reflects the shared history that these two countries have had.

The Promise and the Failure

There were some valid doubts about the readiness of two nations which had never held a tournament of this stature. A look at the bid structure on the infrastructure level would show the concerns

City Stadium Status in 2007 Plan by 2010 2012 status
Gdansk, Poland Baltic Arena To Be Built 44,000 capacity ready
Poznan, Poland Municipal Stadium 24,166 capacity 46,500 capacity ready
Warsaw, Poland National Stadium Not Yet Built 70,000 capacity ready
Wroclaw, Poland Olympic Stadium 10,000 capacity 45,000 capacity ready
Chorzow, Poland Slaski Stadium 47,202 capacity 60,000 capacity scrapped
Krakow, Poland Wisla Stadium 14,657 capacity 33,000 capacity scrapped
Kiev, Ukraine Olympic Stadium 84,000 capacity.  FIFA and UEFA have threatened to withdraw permission to hold matches here over construction of a nearby shopping complex Proposed final. Proposed reconstruction and upgrading would reduce capacity to 75,000 ready
Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine To Be Built 35,000 capacity scrapped
Donetsk, Ukraine To Be Built 40,000 capacity ready
Lviv, Ukraine Ukraina Stadium 40,000 capacity Plans call for construction of a new stadium or reconstruction of the present facility ready
Odessa, Ukraine Chornomorets stadium 35,000 Plans call for complete reconstruction scrapped
Kharkiv, Ukraine Metalist Stadium 30,000 Renovation ready

There were many misgivings on the promises made in the bid and how the progress was going. Most of the issues were on the Ukrainian side. Even Igor Miroshnychenko from the Ukrainian FA conceded: “I have heard the story about the possibility of the championships being taken off us. I spoke with UEFA on Wednesday and they told me that they have no plans at the moment to move elsewhere. But it’s not a good situation here at the moment. We have no main stadium and there are problems with the roads. It’s not a good situation politically. People here feel there are too many problems to host this tournament. Can we host it? I really don’t know.”

UEFA did conduct an interim check in 2008 and even though there were countries like Scotland and Italy ready to take over the organizational role, UEFA kept faith in the nations though the UEFA Executive Committee’s decision of May 13, 2009 expelled Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk from the list of Euro 2012 host cities. Similarly Krakow and Chorzow were dropped from the Polish side to leave a total of eight stadiums to do the honours. In September 2009, Platini announced that “Ukraine has made sudden progress in their efforts to stage the tournament”, but even then doubts persisted on if Ukrainian facilities would match the standards required by the guidelines of UEFA.

Figure 3: The 8 cities to host matches



The Stadia

Figure 4: Olympic Stadium, Kiev

Interesting Fact: A hanging canopy made of a translucent synthetic membrane covers 100% of spectators seating.

Capacity: 60,000

Matches:  June 11 – Ukraine v Sweden; June 15 – Sweden v England; June 19 – Sweden v France

June 24 – Quarter-Final; July 1 – Final

Figure 5: Arena Lviv Stadium, Lviv

Interesting Fact: Built for Euro 2012, a promenade separates streams of visitors between first and second tiers

Capacity: 30,000

Matches:  June 9 – Germany v Portugal; June 13 – Denmark v Portugal; June 17 – Denmark v Germany

Figure 6: Metalist Stadium, Kharkiv

Interesting Fact: 24 towers support the arena’s roof, which is not attached to the stadium’s main body

Capacity: 30,000

Matches:  June 9 – Holland v Denmark; June 13 – Holland v Germany; June 17 – Portugal v Holland

Figure 7: Donbass Arena, Donetsk

Interesting Fact: Approximately 3,800 tonnes of steel were used for the roof structure

Capacity: 50,000

Matches:  June 11 – France v England; June 15 – Ukraine v France; June 19 – England v Ukraine

June 23 – Quarter-Final; June 27 – Semi-Final

Figure 8: National Stadium, Warsaw

Interesting Fact: A retractable roof can cover the roof’s uncovered space.

Capacity: 50,000

Matches:  June 8 – Poland v Greece; June 12 – Poland v Russia; June 16 – Greece v Russia; June 21 – Quarter-Final; June 28 – Semi-Final

Figure 9: PGE Arena, Gdansk

Interesting Fact: 18,000 tiles are used on the exterior, resembling the colour of amber, which has long been extracted along the Baltic Sea coast

Capacity: 40,000

Matches:  June 10 – Spain v Italy; June 14 – Spain v Republic of Ireland; June 18 – Croatia v Spain; June 22 – Quarter-Final

Figure 10: Municipal Stadium, Poznan

Interesting Fact: After the modernization, the stadium features a roof made of natural silk

Capacity: 40,000

Matches:  June 10 – Republic of Ireland v Croatia; June 14 – Italy v Croatia; June 18 – Italy v Republic of Ireland

Figure 11: Municipal Stadium, Wroclaw

Interesting Fact: Built in the shape of a lantern, the stadium is screened with a mesh of glass fibre covered with Teflon

Capacity: 40,000

Matches:  June 8 – Russia v Czech Republic; June 12 – Greece v Czech Republic; June 16 – Czech Republic v Poland

The Other Issues

There still exist issues which are being tackled by the hosts. A huge infrastructural change is required in the transport system to cater to the number of visitors expected. New routes and destinations were created as well as metro and trains installed bilingual announcements in English language.

The other issues are the hotel prices when it was reported in German weekly Der Spiegel, that hotel prices in Ukraine’s four host cities had rocketed. Even the UEFA President had to raise his voice. Platini lamented, “It’s annoying to have made a lot of investment and then say to people that they can’t come because there are bandits and crooks who want to make a lot of money during this Euro.” Borys Kolesnikov, the Ukrainian deputy prime minister, said he would do his best. But the damage had been done. Markian Lubkivsky, head of the Euro 2012 organizing committee in Ukraine, pacified by saying hotel and hostel prices are no longer “critically” inflated. “Our strongest point was that if prices are sky high, then fans simply won’t come here,” Lubkivsky said. “And I think this point has worked.”

Security is another issue and Bomb blasts on April 27, 2012 in Dnipropetrovsk, the city which lost its hosting rights, has sparked fresh fears that Ukraine is not ready for the games. UEFA put its weight behind Ukraine but the speculation is that if the political situation worsens, UEFA might consider moving the games to 2013.

Finally there was this tongue-firmly-out-of-cheek commercial by a Dutch energy company NLE which sparked a furore, for a change by Ukraine. The television commercial urges Dutch women not to let their husbands loose during Euro 2012, because of the beautiful women awaiting them in Ukraine. Ukrainian ambassador to the Netherlands, Olexander Horin was critical, “I’m anxious and dismayed that it could send the wrong image.” But NEC obviously taking the spoof one step further opened a site which further accentuates the ‘dangers’ of Ukrainian women.

Some Ukrainian women’s activists actually took it a step further and staged a toplessprotest in Kiev against UEFA’s plans to turn their country into a destination for sex tourists from around the world.

Co-hosts Poland face a different but far more troubling issue – racism and anti-semitism. Patrons can buy scarves or stickers with the motto “Jews forbidden” and T-shirts that read “Burn the Czechs” and “Beat the Greeks” at one of the country’s biggest club Widzew Łódź. When Polish team Legia Warsaw played Hapoel Tel Aviv in a European match, the locals held aloft a giant banner with JihadLegia written in Arabic lettering.

The concerns regarding security have been strong and Polish deputy Interior Minister Michal Deskur said that “Complete readiness should be confirmed in mid-May, about three weeks before the first match.” Whether that would be enough, is still a valid question.


The tournament has not had the best of preparations. Controversies have still not died down and there are concerns that it may even be moved, however latent, those concerns are. The effort has been there to upgrade and renew, but more needs to be done. Ukraine, has bore the brunt of the issues and the games may not turn out to be as much an economic success as anticipated if visitors don’t arrive. This may become more a reputational than an economic issue. Over 12 million ticket applications were received by UEFA, which is a 17% increase on 2008 championship and an all-time record for European Championships. The hosts have to ensure that these millions have a safe and enjoyable tournament experience.