Something For The Weekend (194)
Having spent too many nights sitting in pubs listening to a friend of mine, who has had a life-long fascination with industrial coatings, I thought I knew everything that is worth knowing about the wonders of watching paint dry, until I saw Italy play Spain last Sunday. And, it is all down to my mate, that whenever I see a bottle of ketchup being shaken, that I am inevitably going to end up using the word thixotropic, at some point, which tends to annoy people. So I had plenty of reasons for being a little impatient with Italy and Spain - the game was dire.
After spending just over thirty minutes admiring the technical finesse of the two opponents, I drifted into the sort of trance, hermits spend decades, living in holes in the ground, trying to achieve. In fact, if I
hadn't been awakened by the penalty shoot-out, I would probably know the meaning of everything by now and be putting myself forward as a candidate for the Natural Law Party.
Football, as we all know, can be a beautiful game, but as Jacob found out (he of biblical fame), you sometimes have to do an awful lot of begetting with the ugly sisters before you get to have a go at the real beauty. Which is roughly how my week of Euro 2008 football turned out.
At least by Wednesday, as I sat down to watch Germany take on Turkey, I knew it couldn't be any worse, and I could at least take consolation in the conclusion, that given even luck, England were quite capable of beating our Anglo-Saxon cousins. In the event I was glad I hadn't given up on the tournament and for reasons entirely to do with Tommy 'the Brummy' Hitzlsperger and a recent bump on the head, I found myself once again supporting Germany. It really was an amazing experience, because until you have tried being German for a bit, you don't realise the extent of the prejudice against them, as everyone kept saying nice things about Turkey and slagging off the square-heads (sorry, old habits die hard).
The only thing which spoilt the game, was that the broadcast was interrupted by Donner and Blitzen, and I, like the rest of the watching public, were left wondering what the f**k Santa's reindeer, were doing in the stadium, in the first place.
But there was lots for a Villa fan to take from the game, as Der Hammer didn't have a horror and actually made a huge contribution to two of the German goals - providing a couple of wondrously good passes - the first a Beckhamesque long-range effort over Podolski's shoulder and then the perfectly weighted killer-ball that put Lahm in for the winner. He was indeed the singular Villan of the piece.
But the best was yet to come.
Russia against Spain was obviously the pick of the semi-finals, after some stunning displays by both teams leading up to the tie, and both seemingly capable of firing blanks when confronted with Velcro-like marking. During the big build-up to the game, the press, as always, were desperate to promote a candidate to the pantheon of tournament Greats, and went totally nuts over Russia's Andrei Arshavin, a great little player of considerable ability and flare but foisting greatness upon him was always going to be premature, which it inevitably proved to be. But I am sure he'll still get his dream move to Barcelona, sooner or later, and carrier-bags full of roubles, will be crossing Europe as I write.
Once the Spanish had made the breakthrough, it turned into the sort of football exhibition even Americans might appreciate, with Cesc Fabrigas doing things with a football, most professionals can only dream of, let alone the rest of us mortals and I just kept muttering 'wonderful' every time he provided the perfect pass, or he and his fellow compatriots, indulged in tightly triangulated bouts of one-touch, around the Ruskies. It was all pretty marvellous from someone who makes the game look so easy and his chip which put in Guiza for the clincher, was totally out of this world. The fact that the lad is still only twenty-one, is as amazing as it is sickening, to all those like me, who's relationship with a football always looked and felt like estrangement.
But thinking, possibly more in terms of Villa's probable immediate needs and having a taste for no-nonsense holding midfield players, with an eye for a pass, my greatest affections go to Marco Senna, who is my new favourite in that position, and he is a Villa player already - pity it is Villareal and not Aston Villa though. He reminds me of Claude Makelele but without that shocking streak of GBH, which the Chelsea player exhibits too often for my unequivocal worship. At thirty-one, Senna is perhaps a bit too old for Villa's purposes but he's undoubtedly a class act. Maybe, when it comes to holding midfielders, they just get better with age and perhaps having a rusty pair of legs, gives you no choice but to keep your position. Dieter Hamann, had his finest hour when he was over thirty and players like Makelele and Frings do seem to benefit from their accumulated years. But whether old, young, or not even conceived yet, Villa definitely need players.
Like all finals you find your team not participating in, Sunday's meeting between Spain and Germany, has to be regarded as what they call a MacGuffin, in the movies, something that drives the plot but is not
essential of itself. The tournament has already reached its climax, the final is just about handing out the prizes and the heartbreak.
Having enjoyed both teams for totally different reasons, its hard to really care who actually wins it, although Spain's long wait certainly earns them the sympathy vote. It would be great to see our Tommy get a medal but it would also be great to see Spain get rewarded for their football - its not an easy call. As with every final it will be a tense affair, and the quality of the football will almost certainly suffer, so I won't be surprised if it turns into two hours-plus of arse-aching tedium, which we will all be rather glad to see end but it really has been marvellous and I'd like to thank Steve McClaren for not spoiling it for me.
And now that Martin O'Neill has come to the end of his holidays, lets hope he brings us back some nice souvenirs - and I don't mean a fondue set.
Here's that song you kept hearing: