Tuesday 10 June ~
Let's hope we have already seen the worst match of Euro 2008, in France's goalless draw with Romania, which was at least followed by a proper game in Holland v Italy. No one seems quite sure whether Holland's first goal in their 3-0 win should have been ruled out for offside against scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy. UEFA are supporting their Swedish officials' decision on the basis of a regulation change made in 2003 that means that a player no longer has to be on the pitch to be active. But no one can recall other instances of this being applied until last night so it remains to be seen whether Peter Frojdfeldt of Sweden will still be officiating in the latter stages of the tournament.
Had Holland v Italy been broadcast on the BBC it might have stirred the pundits from the collective slump they have sunk into, like a trio of sales executives waiting for the boss's Powerpoint presentation to end. Still, the viewers may not have to endure Alan Shearer's surly diffidence next season if some persistent rumours are to be believed. Blackburn have apparently had 40 applications for the vacant manager's job but they want to talk to Shearer, or as a report in the Express put it, “the board yesterday rubber-stamped plans to investigate the Shearer option further”. He has declined to apply for the job directly but sources close to the former England spearhead are doing a fairly thorough job of telling reporters that he wants to be pursued.
Chelsea, meanwhile, are still set on appointing someone whose name ends in “i”. Roma coach Luciano Spalletti was all the rage for about 48 hours at the end of last week but attention has now turned back to Big Phil Scolari and Carlo Ancelotti. The latter is the preferred option of Andriy Shevchenko who is said to be advising Roman Abramovich. Chelsea's owner will take a break from his yacht-based deliberations tonight to watch Russia play Spain in their opening match of Euro 2008. Spain seem to have been propelled into the knockout stage already by some pundits who argue that they best strength in depth of any squad in the finals. Despite their history of choking on the big occasion, there seems little likelihood of their failing to qualify from their group.
In the other match tonight, a Greece side largely unchanged from their Euro triumph of four years ago play Sweden who have the oldest squad at the finals. This includes the 36-year-old Henrik Larsson and Freddie Ljungberg, who has suffered the ultimate indignity of the modern footballer in having just been released by West Ham. UEFA-sponsored street parties are being organised to mark the first game in which both teams score – we expect to see the trestle tables being laid out by mid evening.