Adam Hurrey, aka Football Cliches, takes a look back at the greatest moments of Euro 2016 from the perspective of an armchair fan.
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10 – Some top, top stereotyping
Finding an angle to explore for a football game can be difficult for a commentator. When it’s Switzerland vs Romania, one has to dig even deeper for a relevant theme.
Fortunately, ITV’s Sam Matterface had an ace up his sleeve to explain Switzerland’s apparent lack of fighting spirit in the group stages:
When you’re brought up in a neutral country, maybe you do lack a bit of aggression…
9 – The concept of being “taken for a pie”
The new generation of pundits – taking over from the Hansens and Lawrensons of this world – are now the mainstream influencers of football language. One curious metaphor that enjoyed the limelight during Euro 2016 was the act of taking an opposition player for some light refreshments. Its origins perhaps lie in an early 21st-century Ibrahimovician quote about hoodwinking Stephane Henchoz to the extent that “he went to buy a hot dog”.
This summer, though, we had Rio Ferdinand describing Slovakia’s Vladimir Weiss’s torment of the Russian defence as having “taken two or three of them for a pie there”. Not one to miss out on the cultural zeitgeist, Robbie Savage went on to diversify the menu after Hal Robson-Kanu had parted the Belgian backline in one twist of his free-agent hips:
“He’s sent three Belgian players… one went for a cup of tea, one went for a coffee and one went for a pie.”
Where next for convenience food analogies? This perhaps demonstrates once again the disconnect between professional footballers and the fans. Does Rio Ferdinand grasp how much “two or three” pies cost in a football stadium in 2016?
8 – Gudmundur Benediktsson
Football has the ability to go from novel to irritating in 60 seconds. Euro 2016, though, boasted some quaint elements that managed to resist that phenomenon for as long as possible: “Will Grigg’s on Fire”, that huge collective thunder-clap…and Icelandic commentator Gudmundur Benediktsoon, known as Gummi Ben.
He warmed himself up with some high-frequency celebrations after Birkir (Birkir! Birkir!) Bjarnason had dragged Iceland level against Portugal in their opening game…
….before emulating Uri Geller’s Euro ‘96 heroics by willing the ball into the net against Austria to set up a last-sixteen clash with England….
…where he was handed an opportunity to write himself into football commentary folklore.
This is done! This is done! We are never going home! Did you see that? Amazing! I can’t believe it! This is a dream. Never wake me from this amazing dream! Live the way you want, England! Iceland is going to play France on Sunday. France Iceland! You can go home. You can go out of Europe. You can go wherever the hell you want. England 1 Iceland 2 is the closing score here in Nice. And the fairytale continues.
7 – The BBC briefly throwing impartiality to the wind
There’s a preoccupation with media bias when it comes to football, as if it somehow will affect the result of the game they are covering. The BBC’s commitment to taking an impartial stance doesn’t really suit football, and certainly not at a major tournament.
However, even if Gary and the boys did occasionally let their anti-partisan guard down, at least they were balance about it. For every celebration of a late English winner…
….there was a pre-highlights show tableau of despair before everyone had to sit through the eleven-car motorway pile-up that was England 1 Iceland 2 all over again.
If this all sounds a bit Anglocentric, let’s also enjoy ITV’s Iain Dowie – who spent most of his 59 caps for Northern Ireland with only a dream of making it to a tournament – thoroughly getting stuck into his country’s first win on the big stage for 34 years.
6 – The 298 Icelandic TV viewers who found something more interesting to watch than beating England
UEFA’s post-tournament debrief included the quaint statistic that Iceland’s famous win over England amassed a 99.8% audience share back home, leaving just 298 viewers who couldn’t bring themselves to switch over from… whatever it is they were watching instead.
Of course, anyone familiar with the widely-accepted margin for error involved in the methodology of the TV audience measurement industry will be able to expl….hello? Ah, forget it.
5 – Benni McCarthy’s punditry
Here’s former Porto striker – and apparent Portuphile – Benni McCarthy offering some sage analysis of Eder’s late, late winner against France in the final. It includes – among all the breathless dancing – the rather brilliantly old-school playground taunt of “ner ner ner-ner ner”, which added just the right amount of salt to French wounds.
4 – Radio outrage giving TV dejection a run for its money
In the aftermath of England’s dismal exit, there was only so much you could take of Gary Lineker’s grave expression, Alan Shearer’s passive-aggression and Rio Ferdinand’s frown.
Over on BBC Radio 5 Live, though, one could only imagine the look on Chris Waddle’s face as he offered his breakdown of everything that’s wrong with English football.
Any official FA root-and-branch review out to result in the immortal line of “THEY’RE ALL JUST HEADPHONES” being embossed on the walls of the corridors at St George’s Park, to inspire the players as they prepare for the World Cup “in Timbuktu”.
3 – The enduring art of the closing montage
Post-tournament summaries and reviews (like this one!) can be a tired, uninspiring affair, as they force you on a trawl back over the last few weeks – a period of time not distant enough for nostalgia and yet still feeling rather stale. One notable exception to this rule seems to be the broadcasters’ closing montages. The BBC – accepted grandmasters of the post-tournament VT – did not disappoint in 2016:
Special commendation, though, to Sweden’s TV4 for a quite stunning effort:
2 – Slaven Bilic
Much like his beloved Croatia, Slaven Bilic was packing his bags from Euro 2016 all too soon. ITV secured the signing of the summer in the West Ham manager, who hit the ground running immediately as his very own Dimitri Payet made a decisive contribution on opening night.
When not clambering on ITV’s overengineered studio furniture (what happens to that, by the way? Is it auctioned off? Will someone have a mini Eiffel Tower coffee table in their London flat next month?) “Slav” was busy terrorising Lee Dixon with advanced flirting techniques…
…or simply being a brilliant d*ckhead to the great Lothar Matthaus, a man not accustomed to being taken down a peg or two in his lifetime:
Despite having to dash off to his day job of preparing West Ham for another Premier League season, Bilic’s displays on ITV this summer were so impressive that they might even land him the England job.
Yep, that’s all it takes now.
1 – “How have England reacted to that equaliser, Steve?”
I tried not to make this no.1. This shouldn’t be the televisual highlight of Euro 2016.
Former England manager Steve McClaren – whose previously most notable moment was an umbrella – sitting in on Sky Sports News, describing a footballing catastrophe that we were all watching live on ITV anyway, does not in theory sound like an iconic moment for the ages.
We should probably watch it again, though, just to make sure.
It’s hard to pinpoint the very best moment of this. Was it the lengthy opening description of how England were going to be absolutely fine, despite having thrown away their early lead? Was it the smug dismissal of Iceland as only having “the big boy up front” to worry Roy Hodgson’s boys?
Perhaps, though, it was the “….ohhhhhh” as Iceland score, a sound you’d normally associate with opening a very old bottle of milk. What better encapsulates the experience of watching England wrap up their business at a major tournament? Sky Sports, despite being shut out of the Euro 2016 party, still managed to come out on top anyway.