As you might have noticed, England haven’t made it to the big dance. Despite the added pain, I’d almost rather that they’d fail to qualify for a World Cup rather than a European Championship: firstly, because the former is always fascinating even without a home team to support. Secondly, there are interesting non-European teams one can get behind. The last time England failed to qualify for the World Cup, 1994, I suddenly became a Nigerian Super Eagle for a couple of weeks. Then Baggio ripped my heart out in the second round.
EURO 2008, though, threatens to be a bore unless I can bring myself to support someone. Blood-wise, I’ve no connection to any of the qualified nations. So who should it be?
- Austria? Umm, even their own fans aren’t getting behind them.
- Switzerland? Well, it’d be nice to see a home team do well. But I can’t say my pulse has raised a jot thinking about them.
- Poland? Never show up once qualified for a tournament.
- Portugal? My grandma was mugged there when she was on holiday in Lisbon. Can’t cheer for them as a result.
- Italy? I’ve always had a sneaking respect for them. But such is the mess the game’s in over there, this wouldn’t be the best time for them to win another tournament.
- France? Maybe if they still had Zidane. But they don’t.
- Greece? Lord, not again.
- Turkey? Ah — anyone know if Colin Kazim-Richards will be in the final squad? OK, he was crap for Brighton and a bit of an arsehole, but it’s not often one of our former players strides the big stage and he won his first cap this year.
- Czech Republic? Used to like Nedved. Can’t think of much else to say about them, frankly.
- Germany? You’re joking, right? Nothing against them politically or culturally, but the pain of 1990 still lingers to this day.
- Croatia? I’ve long enjoyed their football. They have a zany kit. But they also have fans who form human swastikas. I’m sure it’s a tiny minority, and an England fan is in no position to sneer, but it’s stuck in my mind.
- Russia? Almost dreadful enough to let England sneak in? No thanks.
- Spain? Come on, as if supporting England isn’t frustrating enough.
- Sweden? My (different) grandma had a nice holiday there once. I used to think Thomas Ravelli was cool. Ibrahimović can be pretty good from time to time. But. . .Where’s the thrill?
- Romania? Only if they still have Hagi and Dumitrescu. Or if they all dye their hair pink.
- Netherlands? The obvious choice. Produced my favourite player ever. Love their footballing philosophy, their colours, their insane tendency to self-destruct at the worst possible moment. But not wildly excited by their current team, would perhaps be the wrong tournament to get behind them.