Archive for Gareth Southgate

The Morning After…

Posted in Biographical, Football with tags , , , , on July 12, 2021 by telescoper
Gareth Southgate consoles Bukayo Saka who missed the last penalty in the shootout against Italy

Well that’s that, last year’s European Championship is over. Italy beat England in the final last night on penalties. England lost in the semi-final of the, World Cup in 2018. Many people suggested they would go a step further this time, and they did: they lost in a final.

It wasn’t a great game. Finals seldom are – there’s too much at stake for the players to play with any freedom. But it was tense and dramatic and in the end, for England fans and players, heartbreaking. Italy have been the most consistently impressive team in the tournament, and had a far more difficult draw than England (who, in my opinion were very lucky to beat Denmark in the semi-final thanks to a very dodgy penalty) and didn’t have home advantage.

Overall I think Italy deserved to win the tournament and happy for them, though sad a bit for Gareth Southgate who has proved himself the most gentlemanly of managers. The manner of this loss – on penalties yet again – must hurt him, but he will be gracious in defeat. I wish the same could be said of some of the England supporters.

People have been critical of Southgate’s rather defensive tactics for last night’s match. For what it’s worth I think his cautious approach was dictated by his awareness of the weaknesses in his side. He had good attacking players but lacked strength in midfield. Italy were much more tenacious and comfortable in possession. For large parts of last night’s match England were just unable to get the ball; the official possession stats were 65:35 in Italy’s favour. A playmaker in the centre of the park would make a huge difference to England’s chances of landing a major trophy.

The great thing about this young England football team is how it has managed to provide so many positive role models, through its dignified response to racism and embrace of inclusivity, while at the same time respecting the time-honoured English tradition of losing on penalties. They will no doubt be feeling awful right now but they have a lot to build on for the World Cup next year if they can pick themselves up, though they might not get such a favourable draw.

I have enjoyed the tournament. I didn’t watch all the games because I was too busy, but I watched most of the 8pm matches and found them a welcome distraction. As an émigré I no longer feel any obligation to support England, but I don’t feel any need to despise them either so I was able just to enjoy the football. As I said above, I think Italy performed most consistently at a high level throughout the competition but I also enjoyed watching Spain (who would be world-beating if they had a decent striker) and Belgium, either of whom would have been worthy finalists had the draw. I feel a bit sorry for Denmark given what happened in their first match. They can be very proud of the way they rallied to reach the semi-finals without their star player Christian Eriksen.

Anyway, well played Italy! I have quite a few Italian friends and colleagues and I know they’re all delighted. Il Calcio sta tornando a casa…

After Extra Time

Posted in Biographical, Football with tags , , , , , , on July 12, 2018 by telescoper

My blogging activities have been a little thin over the last few days as I’ve been in a race against time to submit a grant application. The deadline for that was 4pm today. I was advised to submit it `in good time’, however, and managed to do that. The electronic submission receipt is time-stamped 3:59:47. I guess that’s what they call `Just-in-time Delivery’!

It’s my first attempt at a grant application in the Irish system and I had very little notice of the funding call. It took me quite a while to figure out how to construct a budget using rules that are different from the UK, and that left me relatively little time to write the science case. I cobbled something together but don’t expect it is coherent enough to get funded. On the other hand, I might get some useful feedback on what to do better next time. This approach doesn’t work in the UK system, because for many schemes there you can only apply once every three years.

Anyway, to get a break from grant-writing yesterday evening, I strolled around my local in Maynooth for a pint and to watch a bit of the World Cup Semi-Final between England and Croatia. I got there just in time to see Croatia’s equalizer, which drew huge cheers from the (predominantly Irish) crowd, and decided to stay until the end. Croatia’s second goal got an even bigger cheer, though it wasn’t exactly a surprise even if it did take them until extra time to score it. From what I saw, Croatia thoroughly deserved to win. Congratulations to them.

(In case you’re wondering, yes I did bet on Croatia to go through. But only €50, at 5/2….)

It has been a strange World Cup for England. With Germany, Argentina, Spain, Portugal and Brazil (and Italy not even qualifying) it seemed that the fates had paved a relatively easy route to the final. I do think, however, that people overestimated the quality of the England team: they lost to Belgium’s B-team in their last group game and only just scraped past Colombia in the following round. It’s true that they beat Sweden comfortably in the Quarter Final, but I thought that was more because Sweden were poor than because England were good.

In the end I think Croatia won because England displayed a longstanding weakness of English teams – an inability to maintain possession of the ball in midfield.  Against teams with good attacking players you just can’t afford to keep giving the ball away!  They also seemed to get very rattled when Croatia equalized. On the other hand, this is a very young England side which promises much in the future.  There’s plenty of time before the next World Cup for them to grow proper beards, for example. And one person who definitely deserves praise is manager Gareth Southgate, who has not only shown that he’s a pretty good tactician but also that he’s a very nice bloke, with a fine sense of sportsmanship.

So football’s not coming home after all. But where will it go? I do fancy France to win it, but I hope it’s a good final. I have a feeling that the 3rd/4th playoff between England and Belgium might be a good game too!