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Routine and respect
Day 13 and I’m settled into a predictable routine. Get in, get some grub on, flick on Hollyoaks, switch to E4 for more Hollyoaks – there’s nothing wrong with a dashing of trashy TV – then it’s match time.
The girlfriend has rejoined me on the sofa and the cat strolls in to sit with its back to the screen, watching us watch the action. I’m going to be lost for all of 48 days between the end of the tournament and the new football season.
Last night I took in the Germans' demolition of Portugal in the first of the quarter-finals and found myself cheering each Germany goal. How things have changed.
The memory of England’s semi-final defeat at Euro 96 has faded and the Germans have since been reborn, mixing attacking ambition with their usual steel, and their victory didn’t surprise me, even if Cristiano Ronaldo’s no-show performance did; cue further twists to this summer’s most boring transfer saga.
Captain Michael Ballack is one of the reason’s for my newfound respect. Imperious in the middle, he looks colossal with his broad frame and acts like a true captain, not shying away from vocal pepping of his teammates. It’s also testament to his ability that he transfers his form to the big stage, unlike that pouting Portuguese fella. Ballack has also been notable for his presence off the pitch, always agreeing to be interviewed by ITV at the end of the game. What a gent.
The tournament has plenty of other stand-out characters, not least Gianluigi Buffon. What is that ruddy necktie all about? His heroics between the sticks for Italy have been vital and I did enjoy his crazy pirate impression, like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean, when he saved Adrian Mutu’s penalty in the group stages.
Austria coach Josef Hickersberger has proved to be one of the tournament’s oddballs. I’m thinking of his senile-like wandering, as though he was pottering around in his garden, into the German technical area, where he stood calmly enough, hands behind his back, chatting to German coach Joachim Low as if he was his next door neighbour and they had nothing better to do but pass the time of day discussing the weather over the garden fence. Low seemed less impressed, like a teenager approached by his grandad in front of his mates, and simply stood staring straight ahead.
Commentator David Pleat is of similar ilk. I’m sure he thinks he’s absently talking on his lonesome while doing the washing up at home, marigolds and all. I’ve got an image of co-commentator Clive Tyldesley wheeling him into the commentary box in a straight jacket as he rambles incoherently.
Croatia versus Turkey tonight ensures the semi-finals will include one dark horse and a repeat of Croatia-Germany would be an interesting game. With France out, I feel inclined to pick another winner – thus setting myself up for a double fall – and I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and say Germany.