Euro 2000

It's getting better all the time, but too many England fans till carry unnecessary baggage. Tom Davies saw mixed messages on display at Euro 2000

Anyone stumbling unawares into the neutral section behind one of the goals at the Czech Republic v France game in Bruges might have been forgiven for wondering who was playing. For there, amid the smattering of French blue and Czech red, were five Leyton Orient shirts. Admittedly I was wearing one of them, but this is no parochial club boast – there were also shirts and flags from Wycombe and Colchester and Cambridge and Burnley. Together, they represent English football’s forgotten travelling contingent – the dedicated neutrals – and they were out in force in the Low Countries.

Once the real tournament started, luck played a bigger part than the so-called great players. That's how Cris Freddi saw it anyway

The main theme of Euro 2000, if there was one, changed from round to round. Early on we were talking about the northern European countries going home. The straight lines they played in, how static they were when they received the ball. Meanwhile, the sophisticated southerners controlled the ball in an instant and could play in any position.

In four years the previous european champions have turned into a laughing stock. Peter Schimkat investigates the German malaise

Germany were neither the worst team at Euro 2000 (Denmark) nor the most boring one (Norway), though it has to be admitted that we ran both of them pretty close. What’s more, it was clear to everyone that this was not an isolated failure. Following the defeat by England, nobody gave a damn about that match. Everyone was far more interested in discussing what had gone so horribly wrong in the last couple of years.

Criticism of Italy's tactics is not likely to change the way they play, says Roberto Gotta

Car horns stayed silent on Sunday night, July 2. How ironic it has been to see one of the dullest, most defensive national teams of all time come within a minute of winning a tournament they had entered without much hope. Whenever Italy enter a tournament with low expectations, they fare much better than when they are expected to do well. It happened in Argentina 78 and, memorably, in Spain 82, when the Italy camp was torn by controversies and the team was barely seen as capable of progressing to the second round (which they did, just), then went on to win it.

The 'Battle of Britain' had all the papers talking, but as Archie MacGregor discovers, the tabloids can take things a little to far

So that was the Battle of Britain. To paraphrase an apposite remark, surely never in the history of Scottish journalism has so much hype and mindless pos­turing been so relentlessly sus­tain­ed by so few. In Scotland, the sight of the national team once again performing its party piece of glorious fail­ure has been greeted with something approaching fat­alistic acceptance. Yet mix­ed in with the anguish, ennui and glee (at the Wembley result) there is also a tangible sense of relief that the goddam war is over. All that remains in the run-up to the season of goodwill is a deep-seated wish that the tabloids abide by the terms of the ceasefire. Some hope. 

Two top-ten teams in their group and trips to war-torn countries and earthquake-affected Turkey made the Republic of Ireland's qualifying campaign tricky, but Piers Edwards tells us how they came so close to success

“For us it is a football match, for them it is a matter of life and death.” Ireland’s manager Mick McCarthy was actually talking about the earthquake in Turkey, but he may as well have been discussing the football. For the Irish, it was another unbelievable episode in a campaign full of them. For Turkey, the earthquake meant the nation desperately craved the opportunity for celebration that the play-off promised.

Despite interference from NATO among others, Yugoslavia made it to Euro 2000. Dragomir Pop-Mitic looks back at an extraordinary campaign

“All games for the coming weekend are postponed.”

Belgium have everything in place to host next year’s European Championship, except a reasonable football team.  Jan Antonissen reports on the co-hosts’ disarray

What the hell is wrong with Belgian football? At the 1998 World Cup Belgium were clearly the most cowardly team. The team didn’t lose in France, not even to the Dutch, yet they were sent home after the first round. Since last summer, the inappropriately named Red Devils have even lost the ability to draw. They lost five games in a row, and on March 30th were humiliated by Egypt in front of an outraged crowd in Liège. Belgium has become a Third World football nation.

Gennady Fyodorov explains how Russia's Euro 2000 campaign stalled at the starting gate

The 1998 season can hardly be called a memorable one for Russian football. It was a season of dashed hopes, broken promises, failures on and off the pitch and the worst financial crisis in recent memory.

Sign up to the WSC Weekly Howl - a small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday