England Euro 2012 Bingo – Italy

Introduction

England Euro 2012 Bingo – France

England Euro 2012 Bingo – Sweden

England Euro 2012 Bingo – Ukraine

England have left the party as they so often have in the past, arriving with favour-currying bottles of Grey Goose, only for revellers to gradually discover that they’ve merely decanted Glen’s Vodka into some brand-name empties before leaving, shamefaced and friendless. And so, too, draws to a close England Euro 2012 Bingo. What began as a flippant attempt at cataloguing clichés eventually incorporated a growing sense of subversion, as certain tropes were put to rest by a savvy manager who leaves with his reputation bolstered amongst fans, media and possibly even players who were slow to accept him. Some hardy perennials – the self-destruct button, the futile defiance against the odds, simply not being good enough – can always be relied on to thrive, but the sense of entitlement, of clinging to a fading past, means that the ubiquitous, smothering presence of 1966 and arrogant claims to the game’s heritage have been waylaid. Perhaps not forever, but for the time being at least, they promise hope of something less worthy of jaded cynicism in future times.

False hope was tantalisingly proffered by Riccardo Montolivo’s penalty miss, but it didn’t matter, because once again England were simply not good enough: There were plenty of examples of this, but none more damning than Ashley Cole’s penalty miss. No-one has ever, or will ever, say of a penalty: “He’s caught it well, but the run-up just wasn’t right.” His stuttering run-up was a dismal exercise in studied nonchalance, and it sapped his shot of power and accuracy. Trying to psyche out Gigi Buffon with a tricksy run-up to the ball was simply never, ever going to work given the goalkeeper’s experience. This is something Cole can match him for, and yet the arrogant preamble to his tame kick was something you might expect from someone much younger and greener than a man who, while much-maligned, has quite possibly been England’s most consistent top-level performer since Gary Lineker.

Futile defiance against the odds: Defeat in these circumstances was a lot easier to take than failures of yore given the simple fact that Italy deserved it. England fans and players have bemoaned the lottery of the shoot-out, and the fickle nature of fate, but these traits would never have been more apparent than if Italy had lost on this occasion. There are some positives to take from the tournament though, chiefly the fact that Roy Hodgson has taught his team how to defend again. This was the faint tactical promise that shone not so much like a beacon, but like the functional high-vis coat of a paramedic: serviceable, reliable, dependable, utilitarian. For all the talk of Andrea Pirlo running the show, he still couldn’t quite engineer a goal for his team, which speaks of something positive for England’s obduracy. The odds were already stacked against England before the tournament began, due to a litany of injuries, Wayne Rooney’s suspension, John Terry’s court case, the Rio Ferdinand fiasco, and the overarching fact that Roy Hodgson had to juggle them all in a matter of weeks. The fact that England took Italy as far as they could’ve in spite of the obstacles heralds a restoration of a fighting spirit that had been lamely submissive in South Africa two years ago.

Bad luck! – If it could be said that footballers are responsible for making their own luck, then Ashley Young paid a fair price for a poor tournament by hitting his penalty against the bar. The fact is, pre-tournament brouhaha’s aside, nothing had gone against England on the pitch. There can be no recriminations, no vengeful, skyward fists – England got what they deserved and can blame no-one or nothing for their elimination. Indeed, there is some slither of good fortune to be found in the fact that it was Young that missed a penalty, rather than someone who had acquitted themselves fairly well, such as Andy Carroll. The man whose headed goal against Sweden marks a subtle reinvention from joke-butt to burgeoning Crouch-like cult figure could well have been destroyed by such a high-profile failure. Young, whose four-game disappearance was a source of huge frustration, is more worthy of some guilty introspection, as he seeks to right wrongs in the future.

Grown men crying – Well, obviously. ’Twas ever thus. ‘Twas ever fat men smearing face paint with their own salty emotions. ‘Twas ever retired stalwarts choking back the tears of vicarious adrenaline. ‘Twas ever England, England, England…

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England Euro 2012 Bingo – Ukraine

Introduction

England Euro 2012 Bingo –  France

England Euro 2012 Bingo – Sweden

“My beaming smile penetrates even the twattiest of image manipulation nonsense.”

Rejoice, for England have triumphed and progressed beyond the group stages, prolonging this farcical nonsense for at least one more game. Is Roy Hodgson pleased? You bet your sweet bippy!

Surely by now you would expect to have at least seen the coquettish, sashaying ankle of bad luck. Quite the opposite in fact. It seems that, for the time being at least, Lady Luck is wearing one of those rubbish we-won-the-World-Cup-once-Ingerlund t-shirts found every other summer in Burton. Against France there was no late goal to break hearts, against Sweden there was no doleful introspection after going behind, and against Ukraine, a perfectly good goal was disallowed. We’ll ignore the fact that Marko Devic was offside anyway, since that seems to be what everyone else (Hello, Oleg Blokhin!) is doing. The point is, some stereotypes are being subverted. And who doesn’t love a bit of stereotype subversion, eh lads?

Stephen Fry’s pompous physiognomy can be stamped all over the square marked with England’s next destination – the quarter finals. This stage represented more a quiet hope rather than the cynicism thickly spread elsewhere on the bingo card, but the fact is that elimination at the hands of Italy would still represent a fine effort. The majority of (sane) England fans would’ve accepted going out at this stage before the tournament, and the fact that this glass ceiling is now considered an achievement illustrates the re-evaluation of expectations that have been a hallmark of this campaign. You’ll note that the semi-finals are not represented on the image above, but, stripping away all the psychological accoutrements of a frenetic campaign, England are one game away from reaching only the third semi-final in their history. Just imagine the size of Roy’s celebratory Waterstone’s bill should we get there! He’d probably buy, like, eight books. Brother be crazy, yo.

False hope has aggressively asserted its presence on the national psyche, like an overly made-up, scantily-clad girl, convinced of her own attractiveness, even though men only stare at her through a sense of curious pity. But stare we do, trapped as we are in a perpetual simulacrum that distorts lowered expectations into something resembling the quiet defiance of naive optimism. This was always bound to happen, but this is a triumph in and of itself; that any England fan has legitimate cause to hope for anything at this stage in the tournament excels even the crazed pre-tournament thoughts a sane man dare not think with another man’s head.

A lack of creativity was evident when news of Wayne Rooney’s terrible pre-match playlist smeared across the internet like a thick turd thrown at a solid surface. Any collection of music that contains the work of James Morrison is barely worth the effort of the big headphones that signify the self-importance of the man wearing them. Terry Butcher used to rouse his team-mates into a state of frenzy by repeating the demented mantra: “Caged tigers! CAGED TIGERS!” The ostentatious expense of the modern footballer’s cans is instantly ridiculed when you find that they are being used to whip him into a pre-match state of mania via the medium of Eric Clapton’s Tears In Heaven.

A final nod, too, for gallows humour. How Wayne Rooney laughed at his hair transplant after scoring, in staunch defiance of the fact that he is dying, the reaper’s hand firmly ensconced on his bonce in solemn reminder of his inevitable fate. No amount of one-yard wondergoals can change that, Wayne. Laugh while you can, for there will be no banter in the grave.

England Euro 2012 Bingo – Sweden

Introduction

England Euro 2012 Bingo – France

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.