4 min “The beauty of football is that, because it’s a low-scoring game, the best team doesn’t always win,” emails Matt Dony. “A sustained league largely evens out fairly, but a knock-out tournament offers hope to underdogs. Say Germany are twice as likely to score as Slovakia; should the game end 1-0 (a common score line), there’s a 1 in 3 chance Slovakia scored the goal, and would win the match, sending out an objectively better team. Greece were not the ‘best’ team in 2004, but they were champions. And that’s fantastic. Wales are not the ‘best’ team this year, but…”
Yes, of course – I’m just wondering if we’re playing to discover the best.
3 min Draxler beats Kucka and finds Hector, but he can’t use the space.
2 min The pitch has been relaid since Ireland beat Italy, and doesn’t not look in the greatest nick. I’d expect plenty of divots – and lots of chunks of grass being hoofed out of it.
You’re not going to believe this, but Martin Skrtel has a singing voice like a lump of meat.
Here are the goals from the friendly between the sides four weeks ago.
The players are in the tunnel. There are many – bare – haircuts.
“Plenty of Welsh people are nostalgic about their 70s rugby, though it may be before their time,” tweets Gary Naylor. “But rightly so!”
Gareth Edwards was a very cool man.
Returning to the best in Europe point, if the team who wins the competition isn’t the continent’s best, are we playing purely for entertainment?
Can you be nostalgic about something you don’t remember?
Favourite German footballers and a European Championship hero: Gunther Netzer.
“Irrelevant,” tweets Mark Lovell. “Germany remain World Champions till 2018.”
Yes, but means they were the best side in the world in 2014, not that it sustains until the next tournament.
A significant joy of this tournament – save the enterprising football, of course – is that it’s impossible to even know who’s going to contest the last four, never mind win the thing. So, a question: is the winner the best side in Europe by definition, or simply the side that plays best for a couple of weeks?
If you can even contemplate Julian Draxler without hankering after this, you’re less of a nerd than me.
Man’s search for meaning:
Kimmich, who was excellent, looks excellent and is excellent keeps his place; Gotze, finally, is relieved of his, and we get more time to watch the divinely mercurial Julian Draxler.
Slovakia, who rested players against the mighty England, restore Gyomber, Krosovsky and Skriniar, omiting Hubocan, Mak and Pecovsky.
Germany (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Kimmich, Hummels, Boateng, Hector; Khedira, Kroos; Müller, Özil, Draxler; Gomez.
Slovakia (4-3-3): Kozacik; Pekarik, Skrtel, Durica, Gyomber; Hrosovsky, Skriniar, Hamsik; Kucka, Duris, Weiss.
There’s not much we can rely on these days – the world is in flux. Leicester won the Premier League, England have a good cricket team, and a Freddo costs 25p. It’s a mess.
Still, at least we’ve got the German football team … except we don’t. Obviously they’re still pretty handy, but beyond that, it’s never certain quite what they’ll do. They might play a striker, they might not, they might be intense, they might not, they might look scary, they might not.
And they’ve not looked up to much this tournament, struggling to put away Ukraine and close to defeat against Poland, before rustling up a 1-0 win over a Northern Ireland side desperate to lose 1-0. That would be one way of looking at it.
Presumably, the truth is in between, because that’s where the truth always resides – just ask Carl Williams or Brandon Vera. But at the same time, there’s no especial reason to think that they might win this competition, just as there’s no especial reason to think that they won’t. There is nothing about them that is ominous.
Yet, we fully expect them to beat Slovakia this afternoon, who felt themselves unable to cope even with England’s ponderous attack. It seems inconceivable that a similar strategy will deny Germany, or that they’ll try it. They beat them earlier four weeks ago, will restore a few players who were rested last week, and in Marek Hamsik, they at least have a player capable of gumptious transcendence. If he has a good day, then this will be an interesting afternoon; if not, then we’re right there for more eye-soiling attrition. Either way it’s going to be comforting.
Kick-off: 5pm BST