Euro 2008

Too many papers and websites were interested in everything but the teams actually playing at Euro 2008, Ian Plenderleith discovers

England may not have played any football at Euro 2008, but their representatives did them proud. The members of the media who travelled to Austria and Switzerland could not get England off their minds. The Independent’s Nick Townsend was so taken with the Germany v Portugal quarter-final that he wondered if there was “anyone sitting at home seriously bemoaning the fact that Becks and the boys were not there to enliven things”. Fuelled by the fresh Alpine air, he mused on how the atmosphere might have been sullied by England travelling “as always, not in hope but in a heady atmosphere of lager-fuelled, St George flag-strewn expectation”.

It hasn't been a great tournament for the host teams, writes Graham Dunbar

Switzerland travelled for six-and-a-half hope-filled years towards Euro 2008. Then it was gone in five days. The first country to play, the first to lose, the first to be knocked out. In a country whose real sporting passions are ice hockey, skiing and tennis, there were many face-painted converts to football left wondering if Switzerland was better off without the tournament.

It wasn't a great tournament for Austria, writes Paul Joyce

The author Thomas Bernhard once remarked that the typical Austrian always distances himself from his country. By the start of Euro 2008, however, this distance had given way to a morbidly self-ironic fatalism. As the national side plummeted to 101st in the FIFA rankings, thousands of fans signed an online petition demanding Austria’s withdrawal from the tournament for crimes against “aesthetic beauty”. Spoof Euro 2008 T-shirts and Y-fronts bearing the motto Zu Gast bei Verlierern (A Guest of the Losers) sold like hot cakes.

Greece did as badly at Euro 2008 as many had predicted they would four years earlier. But despite his champions' poor performance, the knives are not out for Otto Rehhagel, as Paul Pomonis explains

You can safely recognise a team in deep trouble, the moment their coach turns to the supernatural for assistance. “Boys, pray for us,” Otto Rehhagel asked the Greek press before the crucial match against Russia. Unfortunately, no amount of divine intervention could save the Greece team this summer. To the surprise of many, their defence of their 2004 European title ended in abject failure, one that brought back memories of the legendary fiasco at the USA 94 World Cup.

With no home nation to cheer on, we could have been spared the usual jingoism. But to Taylor Parkes's fury, the BBC and especially ITV missed no opportunity to scrape a reference to good old Blighty

As the most promising international tournament for years got under way, the pundits tried to look on the bright side. “When your own teams are in it,” suggested Andy Townsend, “you don’t really watch the other teams.” Well, anyone who remembers the TV coverage of the last World Cup can vouch for that. So did this mean England’s absence from Euro 2008 would spare us that obsessive Anglocentricism which makes international football on British TV so uniquely aggravating, such an insult to the intelligence (not to mention the Scots, Irish and Welsh)? Hardly. It just meant our patriotic pundits had to try a little harder.

Barney Ronay spent three weeks in foreign parts. Not Austria or Switzerland, but UEFA Town, a tightly policed, mascot-infested, first-class-all-the-way state dedicated not to football, but to money

According to a UEFA press release, the Euro 2008 mascots Trix and Flix embody competition, friendship, tolerance, teamwork, magic, style, ability and attitude. They also have distinct personalities. Flix is a cheeky scamp, but Trix “is more serious and self-controlled” – qualities not, it has to be said, usually associated with a jobbing actor in an eight-foot cartoon outfit doing the running man. At their unveiling, Swiss tournament director Christian Mutschler appeared completely serious when he said: “I am sure the mascots... will become a vital part of the understanding of the whole event.”

Apparently, Portugal's campaign suffered from the odd distraction. Andy Brassell looks at how the Portuguese, Spanish and English media covered the saga of Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid

As soon as Cristiano Ronaldo arrived in Viseu in northern Portugal on May 23 for his national team’s pre-Euro 2008 training camp, he must have known he was in for a long summer. He’d been granted permission to arrive four days later than the rest of the squad, along with Nani, Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira, after his participation in the Champions League final. His delayed entrance was only lacking him riding in on a white horse for the Portuguese media, although Real Madrid had already made very clear their intention to make him into the Bernabéu’s new superhero.

Despite ultimately finishing runners-up, in Germany Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger witnessed a new generation of young fans who are happy to fly the national flag

On the early evening of Thursday, June 12, I was comfortably sitting at home in front of the computer, getting everything up and running because there are a few business things I have to attend to when the national team is playing. As they were doing at this moment in Vienna, against Croatia.

In Spain Phil Ball saw a traditionally divided country come together at last, in football terms at least

The world turned upside down – Spain the favourites to beat Germany in the final. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the ever-superstitious and pessimistic population, represented by its ever-pessimistic and superstitious popular press, were convinced that the Germans would still win. It was nonsense, but Spain needed a get-out clause. It is written into the ­constitution.

Amazingly, despite England's failure to qualify, UEFA have decided to press ahead with Euro 2008. Ian Plenderleith has a listen to the songs battling it out for European glory

There seem to be a lot of “official” Euro 2008 songs about. Either some songs are claiming to be official when they aren’t or, like the scope of the competition itself, the genre of official tournament song is expanding. Just as some have proposed fleshing the finals out to 24 teams, the continent’s pop stars are demanding there be at least three UEFA-sanctioned tunes. That’s one for each host nation, then another for the tournament overall. We think. Head to YouTube for all the latest attempts to convey the spirit of football into three minutes of mindless music.

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