Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Arshavin: like a new signing

Patrice Evra reckons England have morphed into Chelsea. This is profoundly wrong. England are the new Ireland: disciplined, hard to beat, lacking flair. Meanwhile Ireland appear to have turned into Celtic, struggling in the Europa League on a Thursday night.

Now that the first round of games has finished, the smart money is moving towards Russia. Apart from being a good team, they have the advantage of being in an otherwise weak group. Assuming they go through as winners of Group A, they'll probably face either Holland or Portugal as the runners-up to Germany in Group B. Victory would set them up for a likely semi-final against Spain in Donetsk, which is practically home territory for the Russians.

Italy look good enough to join Spain in escaping Group C, so long as they don't lose to Croatia on Thursday. Group D looks the most unpredictable. A win for any team on Friday is likely to be crucial. In other words, if one of England or France fail to win, then they may well be facing an early return home.

For an Arsenal fan, the performances have been mixed. Szczesny and RvP won't he happy so far, and the young Pole may worry he'll not get another chance this tournament. Arshavin has predictably found his mojo once more while Rosicky has looked dangerous in flashes. The Ox has looked capable of making a difference, while still being callow and positionally suspect at times. Bendtner looks like a Sunderland player.

The predicted racism has been muted so far. Tournament crowds tend to be better-behaved than hardcore fans (i.e. more middle class), so extrapolating from ultras at a league match was always questionable. It should also be borne in mind that the tournament serves up plenty of nation-defining rivalries (I'm watching Poland vs Russia as I write this), so chucking bananas is likely to be seen as a bit infra dig. Let's hope it stays that way. The acid test will come if a black English player scores the goal that puts Ukraine out.

Tomorrow's Holland-Germany game looks like it could be a cracker.

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