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Friday, 17 June 2016

Not one for the nines, is it?

'Help me Dave'

Dave from accounts is looking like me like I’ve just chucked his chicken triple in the bin, poured his bottle of Coke down the sink and hidden his Mars bar. And Dave from accounts is well within his rights to look at me like this, as that’s exactly what I’ve done, plonking down a salad and a Lucozade in front of him and telling him to ‘pull his finger out’. You see, I’ve just got Dave from accounts to win the Euros in our office sweepstake, and I’m going to be a hell of a lot nearer the £40 first prize if he gets off his backside and goes for a run before his game against Portugal at the weekend.

To be fair to him, it’s not Dave’s fault that no one checked the bag had been emptied after Secret Santa (does this mean the poor bugger didn’t get a Christmas present and now I’ve chucked his sandwich in the bin? Jesus, sorry Dave). But I’m stuck with him now and I can’t buy back in to the sweepstake. Dave could go reasonably far in this tournament though; he always bags a few at five-a-side, NEVER overcommits and judging by his speed out the door at 4.15 on a Friday he’s fairly fleet of foot and all. GO ON DAVE. TAKE HIM ON! SKIN HIM DAVE! DAVE FOR TOP GOALSCORER.

However, the idea of the albeit fictional Dave successfully taking on all comers has struck something of a chord since the tournament began though - it’s not been a tournament, so far, that’s been high on supposed goalscorers scoring actual goals. Until Graziano Pelle lashed one in for Italy the other night, in fact, barely a number 9 had got remotely close, as evidenced more instructively by Romelu Lukaku’s travails against an unforgiving Italy. And his first touch like a trampoline.

Strikers have been suffering alright. Even Olivier Giroud, who actually scored, did so having warmed up by missing a hatful. The Welsh and Polish performed to type(ish) and even then it’s not really Hal Robson-Kanu’s style to shin in the winner with a few minutes to go - though Poland’s Arkadiusz Milik, almost an exception, is a striker and did bang in 21 goals in Holland, finishing third in the overall charts. Alvaro Morata struggled for Spain, Croatia got by courtesy of Luka Modric, the great Zlatan created a(n own) goal but was constantly dispossessed by a centre-back pairing of Ciaran Clark and John O’Shea. There have been no goals for Lewandowski or Muller in two games thus far. Harry Kane was on corners and then off the pitch (and off corners, incidentally).

Obviously the tournament’s barely got started a week in and it’s quite early to be sounding off on this becoming a full-blown trend. And it’d probably still be slightly foolish to write off this being a striker’s tournament before Cristiano Ronaldo finally gets going against Austria tomorrow night, but that is after being comprehensively nullified by Iceland. But so far, of the 35 goals, only nine (IRONY) have been scored by self-confessed strikers (Giroud, Stancu, Milik, Robson-Kanu, Pelle, Szalai, Griezemann and Eder… ten if you include Bale. Which we don’t).

But games have generally been tight and the tournament generally quite defensive – the ‘below 2.5 goals in the game’ option has kept one Sponger in Strongbows and pork scratchings so far. Only 10 goals have been scored in the first halves of the matches played so far, with 25 arriving in the second half (and interestingly six in stoppage time when games are stretched) and the competition countering along quite conservatively at under two goals a game.

As Italy memorably showed us against Belgium on Monday, this is a reliable and fairly effective means of tournament football success. Expansive? Nah, give us some gnarled old defensive shithousery and a stoppage-time goal to make everything seem worthwhile.

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