Just a few thoughts on the Euro 2012 quarterfinals, which I was admittedly not as eyes-on as I had during the group stages. It just so happened that I had a major work project nipping at my heels for most of Thursday, though I was able to keep an eye on Portugal and the Czech Republic (which was essentially keeping an eye on Portugal, thrilling to every C-Ron almost-goal and exhortations, but knowing in my bones it’d only be a matter of time before he found the net). Then, on Friday, hideous traffic to New Orleans — because, you know, eating and drinking vacation in New Orleans — kept me refreshing the Guardian live-blog on my iPhone rather than watching the game from some Magazine Street bar.
To which I must publicly complain to I-10 Eastbound. Really, I-1o? A work crew in Lake Charles? (That’s work crew in name only.) Then God knows what in Lafayette? And again in Baton Rouge? (But it was Germany-Greece, which is about as foregone conclusion as a quarterfinals get, though it was 1-1 at one point.)
Then, on Saturday, it was France and Spain, and my ladyfriend and I were in the midst of a bike tour through the non-touristy sectors of New Orleans to various restaurants while the match was going, though it was on in the restaurants we visited, so I got to temper my disappointment over France’s inability to penetrate the latticework that is the Spanish midfield and defense with gumbo and Abita. And then, on Sunday, with England and Italy clearly on the way to a hopeless deadlock and my ladyfriend and I finding ourselves unable to eat anything else that New Orleans had to offer, I got to my brother’s house on the way out of town, to share the wonder and amusement of penalty kicks with him. (He proclaims it his favorite part of soccer.)
(Though first, we watched extra time, and his American football fan perceptions of soccer = scoreless = boring played out in real time — though there were a few engaging chances and my reactions to those, which are generally of the scream or gasp variety.) (I get a little caught up in all the excitement, especially when it’s an international tournament.)
But then the penalty phase happened, and it was delicious high drama — with the pivot point, of course, coming on the third Italian kick, when Pirlo had to be absolutely clutch, and did so with a ridiculous dink that looped over to where Joe Hart’s chest had been seconds before, just prior to guessing Pirlo would be going to the left corner of the goal. Hart dove to his right, and then watched the shot come in at a ridiculously lazy arc … it was both a spectacular move from a prototypical wily veteran, and a heartbreaking, game-changing moment that all the English fans seemed to palpably register.
And then, two Ashleys in a row missed for England (Young, hitting the bar, and then Cole, shooting too weakly to beat a diving Buffon), which might lead to a new maxim about Ashleys and penalty kicks, and that gave Italy the chance to win outright with its fifth kick. Which happened.
My brother, who plays softball and loves throwball (American football) above everything else, still didn’t see enough from the game to move him. And he did ask if the United States was in the tournament — I know he’s not the only person who’s asked such a question, and I’d love to see how the Yanks stack up against the current group of Euroteams — but, you know, Euro 2012. (I was stumped when he asked how many European teams there were. I guessed 50. It’s actually 53 — remember, in UEFA, Turkey and Israel are part of Europe. And the Faroe Islands, wherever those might be.)
Nothing that happened in the quarterfinals is particularly shocking, though I thought either France or England would make it through — and England so very nearly did. We’ve got a Group B vs. a Group C matchup in each semifinal, meaning that even though the most likely finals outcome is a Group B vs. Group C matchup as well — Spain vs. Germany, obviously, two of the four possible outcomes involve group play rematches. After a quarterfinals that didn’t go so well in the watching department, I’m back on board for tomorrow.