if you’re looking for me you can find me at disconsolate.com
a win would’ve done it.
with romania on 2 points and us on 1, we needed holland to beat romania for us to have any chance of going through. they did just that and so all we would’ve needed was to win to go through to the quarter finals of euro 2008.
how else in a tournament where it seems that we simply were not meant to progress? cruelly. and sadly.
we started well, but after 7 minutes our best player and our talisman, franck ribery, pulled up with what looked like an achilles tendon injury. he was off. and what was worse, he was off for the rest of the tournament – however long or short it would be for france.
a little over ten minutes later one of our defenders conceded a penalty (which was converted) and got sent off. to add salt to the wound, the player who conceded the penalty was unused to the centre-back position (the player he’d replaced had bowed out because of intense criticism of his performance in the holland game). replacing our most experienced player was extreme and replacing him with a full-back turned out to be folly we would pay dearly for.
one man down, a goal down, without our talisman, needing to win, against italy our big foe – it was a horror scenario. it was a dark and sick joke then that we played well after those setbacks. it was like watching a 3 legged, limping animal bravely hop through a maze which you knew it wouldn’t find its way out of.
but i couldn’t be objective. there was a chance. and i hoped against hope that we could turn it around.
they battled manfully, but at half-time the score was still 1 – 0. at the start of the second half france continued where they left off – pushing and pushing and causing italy lots of problems. italy were struggling to get a grip on the game and you felt that they really needed another goal to close france out. if, against the odds, france scored then they would almost surely go on to score the second that would see them through. but what with how the game had gone up to that point (how france’s tournament had gone) that outcome just didn’t seem likely.
it needed one more punch to the gut to finally knock france out, and it came on the hour mark. italy had a free-kick, took a shot at goal and the ball deflected off one of our players, completely wrong-footing our goalkeeper, and struck the back of the net. 2 – 0.
true to the script france continued to battle on after that but, with the knowledge that they now needed 3 goals, as the minutes passed and that first of three goals didn’t come you could see the belief slowly sap out of our players. not that they stopped trying – but it was clear that they were beaten. and, if you ask me, there’s only so much that a team can take. i still willed them on but a part of me just wished for it to be over for their sakes.
and when the whistle there was an odd kind of relief – with me and the players. where normally you would see sadness, dismay, disbelief or anger, at that moment relief was the dominant emotion on their faces.
it was nice to see how the italian and french players hugged afterwards, and exchanged congratulations and commiserations. ours has been an extremely bitter rivalry but to see genuine sportsmanship at the end there lifted my heart.
france are out of euro 2008. i’m sorry boys.
next time… next time.