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    How'd you split it in Europe?

    Proper giants: Italy, Spain, France, Germany

    Intermediate giants, who have sometimes done well but rarely win stuff: England, Netherlands

    Biggish guys, teams who you expect to do well, and who sometimes go deep in major tournaments, and you certainly wouldn't be surprised to find them in a Euro semi-final: Sweden, Belgium, Portugal, Croatia, Czechia, Ukraine (Switzerland?)

    Mid table mediocrities, who sometimes show up at big tournaments, but rarely do much: Serbia, Scotland, Ireland, Austria, Poland, Russia

    Teams who've had the one off occasional bit of success and occasionally qualify (but often living on former glories): Romania, Wales, Norway, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey (Slovakia? Slovenia?)

    Proper minnows: Everyone else


      Originally posted by Satchmo Distel View Post
      Were West Germany perhaps a minnow in 1954? Or was the concept of minnow not applicable back then because the era was pre-modern?
      I'd say that Germany were greater outsiders in 1954 than Croatia in 2018. Their results in the build-up had been unspectacular, and West-Germany was still a country in ruins that hasd returned yo international football only a couple of years earlier. They had no unified first division and their plasyers were semi-professionals. They had no stars, except maybe Fritz Walter.

      But, of course, back then the squads weren't as well-known and forensically analysed as they are now. But with no European competition and no international football on TV (if any at all), stars, as we know them now, were rather few on the ground. With no international profile, nobody really had West-Germany on the radar; certainly Germans had few expectations. They were an unknown quantity. Germany had a great footballing pedigree before the war, so when they did well, it probably wasn't a huge shock. Though one would think that after West-Germany beat a decent Austria side 6-1 in the semi-final, and seen Herberger's clever tactics (which in the position-switching attack play borrowed from the Hungarians; and from Schalke and Austria in the 1930s), some people might have thought that a victory over Hungary might be a possibility.

      If people in 1954 knew what we know about players today, Germany would have been traded as a dark-horse, perhaps a bit like Croatia this year. By today's standards, Fritz Walter and Helmut Rahn would be international superstars; players like Schäfer, Morlock and Ottmar Walter would fetch transfer fees in the 50 million euros category. Goalkeeper Turek would perennially linked with Real Madrid and PSG.


        Originally posted by matt j View Post
        My preference is for any result that pisses off Putin. So, the multicultural mix of France or the pro-Ukraine group of Croatia. or enlighten me on another option.
        Another option- are Blair and Macron putting The Third Way back together?


          Originally posted by San Bernardhinault View Post
          How'd you split it in Europe?
          Since the Euros expanded after the 1992 tournament, there have been at least 13 European qualifying places available in each . Here's how they have been filled in the 13 subsequent finals:


          13: Germany, Spain
          12: France, Italy
          11: England, Portugal
          10: Croatia, Netherlands


          9: Russia, Switzerland, Sweden
          8: Denmark, Czechia
          7: Belgium

          Solid Senders

          6: Poland, Greece, Romania
          5: Serbia, Turkey
          4: Austria, Bulgaria, R Ireland
          3: Norway, Slovenia, Ukraine

          Drunken Benders

          2: Iceland, Scotland, Slovakia
          1: Albania, Hungary, Ultonia, Wales, Bosnia, Latvia

          No Surrenders

          0: Finland, Israel, Cyprus, Macedonia, Montenegro, Faroes, Luxembourg, Andorra, Gibraltar, San Marino, Malta, Liechtenstein, Estonia, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo


            It's generational to a degree. France only became a giant in 1982-86 and then from 1996. Netherlands had wilderness periods such as 1981-1986. England had been below Portugal since 2002 before this tournament. Belgium are up with Italy, Spain, France, Germany in this generation. Italy sometimes have two or three tournament failures in a row.

            Germany must also be considered clear #1 since 1970, way above Italy, Spain or France on consistency until this year.

            My modification of SB's categories:

            Super giant: Germany

            Expected giants but sometimes flop twice in succession: Italy, Spain, France, Netherlands, Portugal (starting in 1996). Belgium possibly climbing into this category but jury is still out.

            Biggish guys, teams who you expect to do well, and who sometimes go deep in major tournaments, and you certainly wouldn't be surprised to find them in a Euro semi-final or World Cup quarter final: England, Sweden, Belgium, Croatia, Czechia, Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark

            Eastern European former greats who are now Plodders but regularly qualify, usually eliminated at group stage: Poland, Russia, Ukraine

            Teams who've had the one off occasional bit of success and occasionally qualify (but often living on former glories): Scotland, Ireland, N. Ireland, Austria, Romania, Wales, Norway, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Slovakia, Slovenia, Greece

            Proper minnows: Everyone else
            Last edited by Satchmo Distel; 13-07-2018, 09:11.


              Agree, Croatia cannot be considered 'minnows', not in footballing terms.

              But I really don't see how Iceland qualify for that third category. I mean, they're impressive given their resources, but beating an awful England side two years ago proves very little.


                Surely Iceland are still in the "one off" group. They've reached one Euro qf. Turkey, actually I'd put in the higher "not a surprise" group - They've been to semis at both World Cup and Euros this millenium.


                  Agree - I was hasty with Iceland. Turkey, yeah, but not done much since 2008.


                    "Luka Modric will not win Ballon d'or, just like Andrés Iniesta didn't before him. But that's not Modric responsibility, it's every one else's, all of us who have transformed football to a world where perception is more important than substance."

                    Guess who said that. Sam might know.
                    Last edited by Pietro Paolo Virdis; 13-07-2018, 12:48.


                      Come Sunday Croatia play for Croatia


                        Come Sunday Croatia play for Bosnia


                          Come Sunday Croatia play for Serbia


                            Come Sunday Croatia play for Montenegro


                              Come Sunday Croatia play for Macedonia


                                Originally posted by Bruno
                                I imagine he's just as big a fan of 'Luke' Modric and 'Andrew' Iniesta as he insisted he was of 'Christian' Ronaldo to the Portuguese premier the other week...


                                  Originally posted by Bruno
                                  Jorge Valdano.


                                    Cannavaro won it in 2006 but I don't think a defender could win it now. What's changed?


                                      Only Balkan music for me right now.

                                      I wish I'd been to something like this.

                                      Two great bands from Bosnia, one side of the room each, duel. The first band starts and then wait, wait, wait, and listen how it explodes.


                                        Satchmo, lots has changed.

                                        Most importantly, the old France Football “jury” comprised of 50 or so journalists from each country affiliated with UEFA has been replaced by a group of 150+ voters from all over the world, many of whom only see European football or the Champions League on television (and are therefore more susceptible to expensive publicity campaigns).

                                        Add to that the fact that in 2006, one still had to play for a European club to be eligible.

                                        And that having a defender be the captain of both a dominant club team and his national team is much rarer than it was in the days of Cannavaro (not to mention Beckenbauer, Fachetti or Moore). Cannavaro has an excellent tournament in 2006, but would have been less likely to win if he hadn’t lifted the trophy.


                                          Come Sunday Croatia play for .....
                                          No Slovenia?




                                              There you have it.


                                                Boris Starling

                                                The old man took his cattle up the hill that morning in December 1991, because that’s what he did every day, rain or shine, winter or summer. He took his cattle up the hill that morning, and he never came back.

                                                A handful of men in police uniforms arrested him. Whether or not they were legally police officers was moot, and it was also irrelevant: round these parts, power came from the barrel of a gun, not from a piece of paper.

                                                The man’s crime was the same crime it always is in places riven by sectarianism: not being one of them. Being the other. Being the enemy. His crime was nothing he’d done: it was who he was. He was Croatian, they were Serbian. That was all there was to it.

                                                The men took him and a few others to the nearby village of Jesenice, and there they were executed. The old man left behind a family whom he loved and who loved him: none more so than his six-year-old grandson with whom he shared a name and from whom he had been practically inseparable, the old man doting on the boy, the boy hero-worshipping his grandfather.

                                                The name they shared was Luka Modric, and this Sunday that small boy, now 32, will lead his country out in the World Cup Final.

                                                Football uses the language of war: strikes, shots, volleys, attacks, defence, bombardment. Modric, like all his countrymen, knows the difference between the real thing and the game: knows too that in Croatia one is always bound up with the other, because between them they are the history of that small, proud nation writ large.

                                                After his grandfather was murdered, Luka’s family’s house was burned down, and they had to live in a hotel for years: not an expensive comfortable one, but a basic, crumbling one in their hometown of Zadar. When the mortars fell, as they often did, young Luka would sit inside and wait them out: but when the all clear was given, he’d be off playing football in the hotel car park, sometimes with other kids, sometimes on his own. Anything to escape the grim, numbing reality of living in a perpetual state of conflict.

                                                He was a small kid: too small, as it turned out, to be taken on by the local bigwigs Hadjuk Split. He ended up playing aged 18 in the Bosnian-Hercegovinan league for Zrinjski Mostar, which was where both team-mates and opponents discovered two things about this kid: that he had all the skills you could want, and that he could look after himself too.

                                                Fast forward 15 years, through a journey that has taken him from Dinamo Zagreb via Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid. Even though he still looks like, in the unimprovable words of the Guardian’s Barney Ronay, ‘a little boy dressed as a witch’, he is now one of the best players in the world: a midfielder of fabulous talents, one of the very few who can bend time and space to his will.

                                                And of all those talents, perhaps the greatest is this: that he makes others play better. When the simple pass is the best option, that’s what he plays. When he needs to hold the ball for a few moments so his team-mates can get into better positions, that’s what he does. When he has to cover back after someone else’s mistake, that’s what he does.

                                                He’s not one of those superstars whose megawattage draws the eye and the play too, whose own presence inhibits the other ten men wearing the same shirt as him. He’s the ultimate leader precisely because he doesn’t make it all about himself. You won’t find him rolling around as though he’s just stepped on a landmine, or ripping his shirt off when he scores, or standing there looking haunted when things aren’t going his way. He leaves that kind of stuff to Neymar, to Ronaldo, to Messi. They’re all home already. He’s still there, and so are his team.

                                                And his team love him. When he missed a penalty late in the match against Denmark, his team-mate Ivan Rakitic gathered the others round. 'Listen,' he said. 'Lukita's got us out of more messes than we can count. It's our turn to repay him.' The Croatians put the miss behind them and won the subsequent shoot-out, with Rakitic slotting the winning kick.

                                                But if you want to know what Modric is made of, here it is: only a few minutes after missing that penalty, he'd taken another one in the shoot-out, with the Danish keeper Kaspar Schmiechel in his face trying to put him off. Did he score second time round? Of course he did.

                                                It’s hard to understand – no, it’s easy to understand, but hard to properly FEEL – what this Croatian side mean to their country. The most famous image in English football history is that of Bobby Moore lifting the World Cup. The most famous image in Croatian football history, by contrast, is that of Zvonimir Boban taking a flying kick at a riot policeman.

                                                It was during a match between Dinamo Zagreb and Red Star Belgrade in 1990, not long after Croatia had effectively voted for secession from Yugoslavia by electing a majority of pro-independence parties to their parliament. Boban saw the policeman mistreating Dinamo supporters during a riot and launched himself head high at the man. ‘Here I was,’ Boban said later, ‘a public face prepared to risk his life, career, and everything that fame could have brought, all because of one ideal, one cause; the Croatian cause.’

                                                Boban was sacked from the Yugoslavia team who went to the World Cup that year. He didn’t care. In his own mind he was Croatian, not Yugoslavian, and eight years later he captained Croatia to third place in their very first World Cup. He was leader of a generation of fabulous players - Slaven Bilic, Robert Prosinecki, Davor Suker - who to this day are revered in their country.

                                                In reaching the final, Modric’s men have already gone one better than their predecessors. It’s fitting that they’re playing France: both sides have played three group matches and three knockouts, with Croatia the stars of the group stage and France the best team in the knockouts.

                                                The smart money has to be on France. They are a better team overall, and they have won all their knockout matches in normal time where Croatia have been taken to three consecutive extra times: an additional 90 minutes of football, the equivalent of an entire match more.

                                                My head says a French victory, perhaps even an easy one. But my heart says a Croatian win, for the fairytale of the underdogs, for a proud people forged in war, and most of all for their remarkable captain and the old man after whom he was named.
                                                Last edited by Pietro Paolo Virdis; 14-07-2018, 13:41.


                                                  Why won't it be posted if I use QUOTE around the text?


                                                    You need another character outside the QUOTE. A full stop/period works.