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Saturday, June 14, 2008

We think it's all over

The football has been fantastic at Euro 2008. Last night's game between Holland and France was the most fun I've had watching an international match since that game between Argentina and Holland in the 98 World Cup. There's ten minutes of highlights here if you're interested.

But every time the BBC go back to the studio my ardour is dimmed by the dullness and complacency of the punditry the Corporation has seen fit to put there. The energy drops immediately Lineker fills the screen with "What a thoroughly entertaining forty-five minutes", uttered like a man called upon to enthuse about attending speech day when none of his children have won anything. He tosses up a soft ball to Alan Hansen who then makes an observation of such plinking obviousness that your attention immediately wanders to the subject of how they arrive at a dress code for these occasions. What does this particular encounter call for, boys? Smart suits or light-coloured shirts with huge collars? But even Hansen's insight is piercing compared to the one which inevitably comes next. Alan Shearer has apparently passed up the manager's job at Blackburn because he feels duty-bound to treat the nation to his views about international football. Maybe we should get up a petition assuring him that we'll muddle through somehow. Martin O'Neill is obviously worlds better but he's shrewd enough to have read the situation and realised that trying to raise the game of this particular bunch of log-rollers would be like trying to bring up the subject of the crisis in Zimbabwe in the golf club bar.

And thus it continues, nudged along by some leaden banter, until it's time to go back to the live commentary. The nation long ago Dolbied out the actual words employed by John Motson, reserving its amusement for the nervous laughs that follow his attempts at a joke and the involuntary barks of excitement which accompany anything that occurs in the goalmouth, but occasionally he makes a pronouncement of such monumental, transcendental fatuity that you can distinctly hear the shades of John Arlott and Peter Jones muttering darkly into their ambrosia from the depth of their leather chairs in the commentators' Valhalla.

He'd already shown himself equal to the lyricism that the occasion called for by making the observation "good skill" when Thierry Henry twisted the Dutch full-back's blood but he saved his best for last when Sneijder made it four with a looping shot from outside the area. "The Dutch have gone goal crazy!"

Dear God.