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England 1-1 Germany (2-1 aet)

Women’s European Football Championship 2022, Final, Wembley Stadium, 31/7/22.

So, England’s women footballers have done something the men have not. Won a Euros.

This was a tight, absorbing game, fiercely contested between two well organised, well drilled and skillful sides, who both had periods of dominance.

Not much by way of expansive football, though, the two midfields kind of cancelling each other out.

The first goal was a delight. Even though the keeper’s advancement in effect made up Ella Toone’s mind for her the chip still had to be executed perfectly. And it was.

Germany’s equaliser was beautifully worked and excellently taken by Lena Magull. At that point the momentum could have swung behind them, but England saw it out to extra time.

The winner was scrappy. But they all count.

Who knows the difference a fit Alexandra Popp might have made to Germany? England’s defence looked more uncomfortable in this game than in previous ones, even the quarter-final against Spain when they fell behind. But that is as it should be. This was a final. In any case those are the breaks.

England’s coach, Sarina Wiegman, has a reputation for being a tactical genius. She certainly knows how to deploy substitutes and apparently has her side primed for what to do in any eventuality. On the evidence of this tournament though (albeit only in the one game) her tactic for being one behind with ten minutes to go is to put the big lass up front and get it up to her or at least allow her to distract the defence. (Mind you, according to Gary Lineker, that was Johan Cryuff’s preferred option in similar circumstances.)

Finally, it is to be hoped that this will not be harped on forever in the way a certain event which occurred in 1966 has been.

Outbreak of Flags

Scots are not generally given to flag-waving from their properties.

Exceptions come when the national football team qualifies for a major tournament; as it did for Euro 2020 (due to Covid, played in the summer of 2021.)

Maybe there was an extra excuse this time because the previous occasion when Scotland graced a big tournament was in 1998!

Scotland Flags Again

More Scotland Flags

The flags have long gone now.

Croatia 3-1 Scotland

Euro 2020, Group D, Hampden Park, 22/6/21.

Well we know this is how it goes. A gallant effort but this was knowhow – and class – against inexperience. Their control, passing and movement made it look like men against boys.

At least we got a goal.

It’s hard to resist the thought that – notwithstanding they’d never beaten us before – the Croats targeted this game. They certainly played way better than in their previous two outings. They never looked at all bothered or likely to lose and in Luka Modrić they had an outstanding player who totally bossed the game and scored a superb goal. And Ivan Perisić wasn’t far behind.

Maybe Scotland’s players will have relished the experience and it motivates them to want to have it again – whether at Qatar next year or in the next Euros.

We can hope.

But it’s the hope that kills.

England 0-0 Scotland

Euro 2020, Group D, Wembley Stadium, 18/6/21.

Well. The first thing you have to say is that Scotland deserved at least a point. It was a great performance by the players – perhaps unlucky not to get the win. But for that you have to put the ball in the net. We were never convincing about the ability to do that.

A win against Croatia ought to see us through. But they’ve got quality in midfield and upfront and it will be a very difficult game. The other thing that worries me is that they’ve never beaten us. That run has to end sometime.

And we know how this goes. Scotland put in a gallant effort and somehow still contrive to muck it up.

On Tuesday evening Croatia will burst our bubble with about ten minutes to go. Watch through your fingers.

Scotland 0-2 Czech Republic

Euro 2020, Group D, Hampden Park, 14/6/21.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

This is how it goes with Scotland.

No luck, their keeper making at least three very good saves – the one where he prevented the sclaff from his own defender going in being superb – hitting the bar, losing goals at the wrong times – though there’s never really a good time to lose one – with one of them a brilliant piece of execution from the sort of forward player we lack.

I refused to express any hopes for a good outcome before the game but hope nevertheless stirred early on. Fatal, fatal.

Still, it would be just like us to get a result* against England on Friday now.

Then a plucky display against the Croats before going out on goal difference again.

*Not a win obviously.

Serbia 1-1 Scotland (aet 1-1; 4-5 pens)

Euro 2020, Path C, Final Play-off, Rajko Mitić Stadium, Belgrade, 12/11/20.

Well this was nail-biting stuff.

I hadn’t watched Scotland live for a very long time before this game. For one thing it wasn’t really worth it, for another the games were behind a pay wall and I’m not temperamentally happy with companies charging you for access and bombarding you with adverts for the privilege.

Anyway, Scotland were surprisingly on top in this game – not at all what you’d expect from an away tie. Serbia looked all-but toothless for most of the match. There was a mystifying graphic during the first half which stated that Serbia had had 55% of possession. It hadn’t looked like it. Scotland only really had one effort on goal for all the good play, John McGinn’s shot which the keeper parried to ground but at the other end David Marshall hadn’t much to do.

Second half we dominated Serbia for the first part. When Andy Robertson was set up by Lyndon Dykes it ought to have been 0-1 but Robertson somehow managed to balloon it well over. I thought then that it wouldn’t be our night. It wasn’t long though till Ryan Christie scored a magnificent individual goal, dragging the ball from behind him, side-stepping a defender then cutting it back through his legs in off the post.

Even though Serbia began to push (they had to) it wasn’t till very late they threatened our goal.

Then came the substitutions, taking off our two main attacking threats and midfield driving force. I couldn’t see us creating much from then on and it seemed as if coach Stevie Clarke had decided to hold out for the win.

Their goal was typical Scottish stuff, conceding late. The momentum swung then and there. As did the emotions.

Extra time we weren’t in it. Glorious failure once more beckoned. Still, David Marshall had a very good save indeed from a long range effort. But the boys dug in and took it to penalties.

And what a performance they were. Five banged in all but perfectly. And David Marshall’s apotheosis with the save of Serbia’s last. Cue bedlam.

History made. First qualification through a play-off. First major tournament in 22 years.

We can all relax now for the months until June. (Except there are two games to come in the Nations League on Sunday and Wednesday.)

Chile 0-1 Germany

Confederations Cup Final, Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, 2/7/17.

To slightly amend Gary Lineker. Football is a simple game. Twenty-two plus men chase a ball around a pitch for 95 minutes, and the Germans win. Even if it’s their B-team.

Well, they might not have got to the final of the last European Championship but after this tournament who can doubt the strength in depth the German national team now has?

It’s a frightening thought for the other possible contenders for the 2018 World Cup.

Mind you, had it not been for a dreadful mistake at the back by Marcelo Díaz the game might have ended 0-0.

Still, Germany took that golden opportunity and Chile, despite their domination of possession, failed to take any of their chances.

And Germany always looked capable of getting another goal whenever they forayed up the park.

Not bad for a country whose normal first choices had been given the close season off.

For Joachim Löw it’s a good selection headache to have.

Art Deco in Nottingham

We travelled up through Nottingham intending to stop at The Crown for dinner to see if it was as Deco inside as out. Unfortunately when we got out of the car in the car park the noise from inside was blaring and was therefore even worse when we opened the pub door. It also looked a bit rough. We decided to move on.

It wasn’t long till we came upon the Beechdale – another Art Deco pub, this time brick-built.

This is from the car park:-

Art Deco Pub, Nottingham, England

From south-east:-

The Beechdale from Road

From south-west:-

The Beechdale

From west-south-west:-

The Beechdale Pub, Nottingham

We went into this one only to discover it was festooned with Saint George’s Cross flags. (It was in the run-up to the European Championships.) It didn’t look like Scottish sounding people would be very welcome. We opted for discretion and moved to the city centre where every single eating place had a bouncer on the door. That spooked us a bit. Yes, it was a Friday night but is Nottingham really such a dangerous place to dine out?

There was this delightful little Art Deco pub there that I spotted only after we’d already eaten. It didn’t look open anyway:-

Art Deco in Nottingham

Great detailing, with fox statue. The numbers are stylish too:-

The Foxy, Nottingham, Detail

Summer Football

Way back in the dim mists of time the world was a simpler place and football did not dominate the calendar. World Cup finals were 16 teams large and the European Championship only had four qualifiers until it expanded to eight teams in 1980.

In Scotland the football season started on the second Saturday in August and finished on the last Saturday in April.

I thought it was pushing it when the season began edging into July to accommodate the Challenge Cup and altered League Cup format.

Today though is the 16th of July. The schools have barely broken up for the summer. Yet the Sons have a first game of the official season at Station Park, Forfar, in yet another alteration to the League Cup. It barely seemed the old season had ended when pre-season games began.

The squad manager Stevie Aitken has collected seems a little thin. The League Cup looks on paper to be not too daunting but I have no idea how we will fare against the three lower division sides in our group. (I expect to be beaten by Dundee.)

The league is a different matter. Already it looks tough. We’ll be relying on another full-time side to be rubbish (as Livingston were last season) to avoid the relegation play-offs and even then we’d have to finish above Ayr United, by no means a given.

How long we can continue to defy gravity I don’t know. This may be the season we don’t.

Germanic Hegemony Looms

Over the past eight years Spain dominated the international football tournaments in which they took part – though they had a premonitory blip in last year’s Confederations Cup (and what a misleading pointer that final turned out to be.)

After the win by Germany in Rio on Sunday we could be in for a longer period of domination than the Spanish enjoyed as the German players are quite young and will only have gained in confidence from their achievement. I don’t know if I can stand that thought, though.

Still, at least it gives Scotland an early opportunity to claim their scalp as the two countries meet on Sep 7th in the first qualifying game for the 2016 European Championships.

The late World Cup has unified the FIFA and Unofficial Football World Championships. Going into it Uruguay were the holders of the unofficial title but swiftly lost it to Costa Rica.

For historical reasons Scotland is actually at the top of the unofficial football championship rankings. The September game will give Scotland a chance to reclaim the actual title – if Argentina don’t beat the Germans in their friendly a few days before.

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