Our resident expert for this summer's football, comedian Paul Sinha has been providing us with some enlightened insights over the past few weeks as the action has unfolded. Here, Paul looks back on the tournament and gives us his opinion on how it all panned out...
I’ve been watching and following a variety of sports now for so many years now that I consider myself something of an expert on sport’s capacity to both surprise and also conform to expectation. So I find myself at the end of Euro 2012 wondering how I managed to get virtually no predictions right. I say virtually, because I had always suspected that Italy would beat England on penalties after a 0-0 draw. But from the moment I confidently tipped the Netherlands at the start of the tournament to my belief that Russia were dark horses, Germany would have too much for Italy, that Balotelli and Ronaldo would flatter to deceive, or that Andy Carroll would sport a new more aerodynamic short back and sides, I pretty much got nothing right. And I, like much of the public, held out little hope that the Spain v Italy final would be entertaining. Spain had fired only sporadically, their easy to admire but hard to love brand of uber-skilful possession football had propelled them to a major final yet again, but they had ridden their luck a little against Croatia and Portugal. They seemed to be “very good” rather than “great”. And Italy had been Italy. Defensively robust, well organised, composed under pressure, and just like 2006, saving their best performance for Germany. Surely, I thought, this would be a low tempo, cautious end to the tournament, with Spain doing whatever it would take to win and nothing more. Over the course of ninety minutes however, Spain won over even the most begrudging viewers with a truly breathtaking display. Not since the 1970 World Cup final, when watching at the age of one month, I put down my crossword and said “That, Carlos Alberto, was a goal”, has an international team been that good in a major final. Immortality has been deservingly earnt. I would have preferred that they had saved this performance for the 2010 World Cup Final, because it would have been exactly what the Dutch thuggery had deserved. But this will do, a memorable end to a tournament which will thankfully be remembered for the quality of the football. Iniesta may have won player of the tournament, but tellingly any number of the Spaniards could have won. And so we look to the future, an uncertain one for England as Hodgson will balance his willingness to blood new players with his unwillingness to dream that Englishmen can play with the same verve on the ball and tactical flexibility as their continental counterparts. I fear that England may never truly be a force at international tournaments again. But I am also aware that I am really, really bad at making predictions and that, in this respect, I would be absolutely delighted to be wrong again.
Thanks to Paul for his contributions over the last few weeks, and we're pretty sure his predictions were no better or worse than many professional pundits! To find out more about his stand-up dates and much more, head over to Paul Sinha's official site.