Netherlands-Russia quarter final: best game of Euro 2008 so far. Really tremendous: action packed rather than “incident”-packed (although when the ref gave Kolodin his second yellow card and then reversed the decision before sending him off seemed – to me, anyway – pretty unique), and neither side was relentlessly dominant throughout, leaving the final score up in the air, and with plenty of attacking and defending from both ends. When Van Nistelrooy equalised in the 86th minute (and by the way, does any team have a more ungainly, unromantic set of surnames than the Dutch?), it could have gone either way, with both teams missing often spectacular goals throughout. Russia had the edge and the reckless sense of adventure and despite a diet of potatoes kept the energy levels up throughout extra time. Thank God it didn’t go to penalties, which reduces 120 minutes of human endeavour to a foot lottery. Arshavin (which is funny if you read it as “Arse-shaving”) roundly deserved to be the player who drew a line under his team’s victory in the 116th minute. How old is he? About 12? I can’t believe he’s shavin’ yet. Now we’re supposedly all getting bored with Ronaldo’s petulance (on which a really interesting column by Daniel Taylor here), perhaps this young Russian will be the next international mascot. I’m not informed enough to know if he plays for the Premiership yet or not, as the Guardian racistly* decided not to publish their usual Guide to proceedings this year, with all the info on all the players for part-timers like me, and which I always keep by my side throughout World Cups and Euros. I expect he will be snapped up by Chelsea or Manchester United soon, and the time I next see him play, in two years’ time, he’ll be an insufferable brat too.
So, my big worry: the pitch at St Jakob-Park in Basel. I know it was returfed because it got waterlogged, but it looks terrible. The usually graceful aerial shots in the TV coverage are rendered laughable with the different shades of green and brown patchworked together. It seems to play OK underfoot, but surely aesthetics are far more important in this media-saturated age! I can’t help but think of Hulk Tetris. Do they normally stick a pitch back together in this fashion, mid-championship?
*A joke. I am way too much of a liberal goody two-shoes to want to devalue a useful term like “racism”, I promise.