Posted: 6/24/2012


      Sad..yes, disappointed...yes... expected...yes...relieved...YES !

      Once again, 7th out of 8 occasions the England team has failed at the quarter-final stage of a major tournaments as they limped out 4-2 on penalties to a far superior Italian team. I can't remember seeing an England team so outplayed and outclassed since the 7-1 drubbing in Budapest against the Magic Magyars in 1954.

      It would have been a travesty if The Three Lions had advanced to the semi-final next Thursday in Warsaw with a below par display and some superb running, passing and attacking calcio from The Azzuri in the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. Andrea Pirio was the mastermind, and bad boy Mario Balotelli created havoc. I thought that Wayne Rooney was below par as was Ashley Young. John Terry had a terrific tournament and Steven Gerrard relished the captain's armband and responsibilty but not much was expected and they have a long way to go to challenge the world's finest.

      New coach Roy Hodgson has only had a few weeks with the squad and he did his best, bringing a unity and team spirit that had been lacking under previous regimes. The shoot out and the result looked promising when Italy put their second shot wide of the goal, but then it went pear shaped when both Ashley Young and Ashley Cole failed to score.

      Previous tournaments in Austria/Switzerland, Portugal, Belgium/Holland, England, Sweden,West Germany had been an easy and comparatively inexpensive jaunt for England fans, but this tournament had been expensive and gruelling. Poland is easy to reach by many low cost airlines and by train and road. Ukraine not so, with few inexpensive and quick options and in Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) a not very good airline with only one British destination.

      Prior to kick off I had tried to book a cheap flight on Wizz Air from Doncaster to Potznan, a 2 hour train journey away from Warsaw but the site was down and thankfully I saved about 35.00

      In the mixed zone after the match the England coach thought that one positive had been to superb and continued physical support of the fans. They outnumbered the Italians five to one in the stadium on the night. 

       Next up for England is a friendly in a couple of months against The Azzuri on 15th August in Berne,  Switzerland, followed by the start of the FIFA 2014 World Cup campaign in Chishinau against Moldova. Other two legged ties are with Ukraine, Poland, San Marino, Montenegro; one of  the easiest groups to qualify from.

      Earlier in the day I had watched the London Olympic torch relay at Headingley Carnegie stadium in Leeds. After a rugby League match in which the Leeds Rhinos thumped the Castleford Tigers 40-22, the action switched over the main stand to the dual stadium and the cricket ground.

     Six Under 12 boys and girls mixed teams played some mini games until the Olympic torch entered and the two torches 'kissed' in the middle before the relay left and continued its journey to Temple Newsome Park where the cauldron was lit for the night in front of 30,000 spectators who were treated to a free concert. 8,000 runners will have travelled 8,000 miles for 70 days through the kingdom on the way to the Opening Ceremony on July 27th..  Crowds up to 10 deep in places watched the progress through such places as Skipton, Ilkley, Brighouse, Halifax, Bradford.