Scouting England U19 (England 1-2 Greece)

I spent my afternoon watching the young England boys play in a tough encounter against Greece in the European U19 semi final. We started brightly, but cooled somewhat and conceded a headed goal from Diamantakos from a corner that we really should have defended better. However, we were not ones to give up, we came back more lively than before and just before half time the Greek defence was split in two, only for the goalkeeper Kapino to make an excellent tackle. The referee adjudged it to be a foul though, and subsequently sent the poor guy off the pitch. We missed the penalty, and Greece went into half time in positive spirits.

A little way into the second half, we were able to nick an equaliser through another header, this time from Afobe up front. We pressed and pressed, dominating the match, but were unable to find the winner we wanted.

So to extra time we went, and England continued in a dominant manner, only to be undone by poor defending and a deft lob over keeper Sam Johnstone by Lykogiannis. The game was up; we tried to press, but no further clear cut chances were created. A wasted chance at beating a very good side who were not on their best of form, but we couldn’t take it.

A few players stood out from this match for me, most notably of which was Everton youngster John Lundstram (http://twitter.com/jlundstram), the playmaker. However, Manchester United centre back Michael Keane left sided midfielder Ross Barkley (another Toffee) (https://twitter.com/RBarkley20) shone in patches through the match. I thought England played well today, despite a shocking injustice with the sending off, they deserved to get through to the final. Alas, it was not to be, and I expect the Greeks will feel that justice has in fact been done. A 2-1 defeat but I expect they will have their heads held high after that performance. There’s always next time…

Another Year, Another Failed Eurovision Effort

It’s something we Brits have become well too accustomed to over our many years of participating in the annual Eurovision Song Contest, but it does seem to be getting steadily worse and worse every year.

Tonight, we managed to come an unimpressive 25th (or 26) thanks to Engelbert Humperdinck’s well sung and performed effort, gaining a dreadful 12 points. Putting things in perspective, Jedward got four times that – and people expected them to get more. So it was not a good year. A few years ago, new rules were put in place that were supposed to make the scoring system more representative of which act had the best song/performance, but it seems it has yet again failed to make the correct choice, picking an urban Swedish song as the winner, despite valiant efforts from many other countries. Truth be told, it wasn’t one of the best years in terms of talent (or song writing!), but there certainly were better songs than Sweden’s, and there certainly were worse ones than Engelbert’s.

I thought we’d picked a song that much of Europe would be able to relate to, and added to this, our singer had a German/Austrian sounding name, I thought we were sure fire at least a few points. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and ended up picking up points from only 4 countries.

In my memory, the only ‘success’ from a British Eurovision entry was Jade Ewen back in 2009, who managed to come 5th I believe, and I thought this symbolised a change in Britain’s fortunes. However, as above, it was not to be, and we then slumped to last place with Josh Dubovie. 2011 marked a better than average result, but this was perhaps because we employed the boyband ‘Blue’ as our artists – a good way of getting a few more votes. We came 11th with 100 points. But, as I’ve said, it’s back to winning ways for the UK and we landed a solid 25th spot without even votes from regulars Malta and San Marino.

In recent years, I have rarely disputed the victor, even though many of the higher ranked entries were unjust in my opinion. Notable winners include Germany’s Lena, Norway’s Aleksander Rybak and of course Finland’s Lordi. Last year’s winner, Azerbaijan, wasn’t undeserved either, but I wouldn’t have been happy to see them win again this year, nor would I have been happy to see six seventysomethings win purely because people thought they ‘were cute’. Despite this criticism, I did have a certain affection for Ireland (and ex X-Factor!)’s Jedward, who got their highest tally of points (10) from the UK and ended up comfortably beating us, even though our song was clearly a better song, thus proving the ridiculousness of the name ‘Eurovision Song Contest’. It’s not about the song any more, it’s more about the entertainment, but even that can be questioned in some of the performances. It doesn’t hurt to be close with your neighbours, either.