England Euro 2012 Bingo continued yesterday, with Sweden the latest team to face the increasingly obdurate yet limited resistance of Roy Hodgson’s men. Would they be able to do so without falling asleep? Would we be able to take notice of them trying not to fall asleep without falling asleep ourselves? The answer to both questions was no, as a fairly sedate game veered wildly into a screwball clusterfuck that unexpectedly gave cause for some optimism, which many English fans had previously thought was the name of some sort of dietary supplement.
Find out how this affected the latest round of the nation’s new favourite game, as I continue to monitor the England experience with the Englishest thing in all of Christendom – a bingo pen in the image of Stephen Fry wearing a bowler hat and making the sort of expression that signifies the late delivery of a bad crumpet. Also, it’s raining outside and Heartbeat is on telly.
The Gerrard/Lampard axis has been given a merciful reprieve this summer, due to the latter’s withdrawal due to injury. This old chestnut remains clogging up unwanted space on the bingo card in totemistic remembrance of two dovetailing international careers that kept cancelling each other out. Like a Tron race in perpetual re-start, Stevie and Frankie were like two jostling Light Cycles, dangerously accelerating in ignorance of their inevitably doomed plight. But in 2012, finally, Frankie say relax, as now we need only fret about one box-to-box midfield general failing to cut the mustard, as opposed to two. As it is, Gerrard is thriving, providing two assists in as many games. Lampard’s absence could prove to be to Gerrard – and England’s – benefit, so now seems as good a time as any to finally banish this most tedious of conundra.
Something else to be offered a reprieve is the creatively bereft brass band, or, to give corporate credit where it’s due, the Pukka Pies England Band. After facing UEFA censure prior to the England/France game, the band failed to make their first England game at a major tournament for 16 years, only to find out (and subsequently ignore) that England fans are apathetic to their plight at best. At worst, YouTube comments have made it perfectly clear what instruments can be shoved in which orifice, rousing a perversely vitriolic sense of unity amongst supporters, who have grown tired of their somnambulant soundtrack to so many feats of sporting misadventure. They returned against Sweden, their sense of self-reverence still intact despite this drubbing of their spirits, and it was fitting to see that they didn’t use the week off to learn any new songs, or to develop their dubious musical talents beyond the level of drugged apes.
The self-destruct button was tentatively fingered, if not smashed repeatedly with sweaty palms of ham as is usually England’s way. A one goal half-time lead was turned inside out before there was time for the neon blue spittle of the English Powerade drinkers to return to a normal colour. Glen Johnson favoured his right foot in an awkward attempt at a clearance, when getting the full weight of his weaker left behind the ball could’ve proven more worthwhile. Olof Mellberg nodded in Sweden’s second goal as he was completely unmarked, and it seemed as if capitulation was on the cards. The introduction of Theo Walcott changed the game, but only because Mellberg’s second wordlessly ushered in a frantic period of shapeless buffoonery, with a lack of tactical structure and discipline opening gaps in both defences, which were spread thinner than wartime margarine.