Everything was going nicely at Euro 2024. Then the grown men arrived

<span>At least the stadium was nice. </span><span>Photograph: Andreas Rentz/Uefa/Getty Images</span>
At least the stadium was nice. Photograph: Andreas Rentz/Uefa/Getty Images


There’s something about the human brain that means it enjoys both stories and repeating patterns. So when we put those two things together we create magic that sustains our species and our planet. Consider – to pluck an example out of the air – the Euros. Roundabout tea-time on Sunday, everything was going nicely. Germany had got the good vibes and host nation going, thrashing the zany Tartan Army; Spain played beautifully in ravaging Croatia; Burnley goal-machine Wout Weghorst reprised his World Cup heroics against Poland; and Slovenia forced our first surprise-point, battling to a draw with Denmark for whom Christian Eriksen scored an affirming opener; lovely stuff.

Enter England.

Enter conflict. Whether historically scuffling in bars and squares, romanticising a devastating war that all involved in it strive to forget, or booing the opposition national anthem, England can be relied upon to lower any tone with their pure, uncut grown men action – and that’s before they’ve even played any football. Gareth Southgate has, we’ve learnt, established a new leadership team for these Euros, but for as long he remains part of it, the unmistakeable stench of 90s and noughties Palace, Villa and Boro will remain. The consequence of which is shrill columns such as this one b!tching their way through a facetious postmortem after just one game of a month-long tournament. The Daily hopes he’s proud of himself.

England actually played fairly well until Serbia decided they may as well compete, the feat of having one of the most talented squads ever assembled play like that, again, almost impressive. It was just a shame Andy Thorn, Phil King and Stuart Parnaby weren’t available to give it that hyper-real feel, but you do the best you can with the materials you have. So it was that we had Jordan Pickford thrashing balls at Harry Kane, Phil Foden wandering about like a monk at a rave and Declan Rice shouting as the game took place around him. Meantime, Trent Alexander-Arnold was asked to learn a central position that isn’t his on the job at a major tournament, because every now and again he might hit a nice pass or shot. Southgate’s failure to grasp that the best midfielders are the best short passers, not the best long passers, is no surprise given his background and, shrewd operator that he is, he watched his players toil and shrink, second-best to the team ranked 33 in the world, for a mere 40 minutes before making a change.

Then, instead of accentuating the chasmic talent imbalance between the squads, he delved deep into his experience of managerial legends such as Alan Smith, Howard Wilkinson and Steve McClaren, eventually removing the Liverpudlian to allow his least talented midfielder to spoil – as Kevin Keegan once did with him, to such overwhelming success. The result was a mess so complete that even Erik ten Hag felt empowered to laugh at it on television. But England hung on for the win so – once the 36 group matches, played in order to eliminate a whole eight of 24 teams, are over – their story will probably continue into the knockout stages. And maybe, just maybe, this repeating pattern will stop and we can finally move through the conflict stage to find some resolution.


Join Daniel Harris from 2pm (all times BST) for hot MBM coverage of Romania 1-1 Ukraine, followed at 5pm by Belgium 2-0 Slovakia with Rob Smyth, while Michael Butler will then be on deck for Austria 1-3 France at 8pm.


“I do think this time at the Euros my story is very different compared to last time which is obviously a big thing for me personally. I was very pleased. I did have in mind that I hadn’t scored at the Euros. Luckily there’s been a lot of games since that happened [cardiac arrest]. I didn’t think about anything else other than football” – Christian Eriksen reflects on his full-circle moment after scoring for Denmark in his first European Championship game since his on-field collapse in the 2021 tournament in which, in his own words, he “died for five minutes”.


As uninspiring as our record in major tournament finals is, it feels quite harsh of Friday’s Euro 2024 Daily to completely erase our 3-0 victory over the very of-the-time CIS in 1992 and the 1-0 victory over the ever-neutral Swiss courtesy of the UK’s favourite co-commentator Ally McCoist at Euro 96. Given the all-too-infrequent nature of our tournament wins, to delete 40% of them from history feels like a cheap gut-punch. Of course, this email was written before our infamous [Snip – Euro 2024 Daily letters Ed]” – David Weaver (and 1,056 others).

May I also remind you of the glorious but ultimately futile 3-2 win against the Netherlands in 1978? Now there’s a country some people who saw the World Cup final that year might have heard of. Unfortunately, we’re good at futile. I’d get out more, but there’s Euro 2024 on, you know” – Gyan David Sharan.

Friday’s Euro 2024 Daily mentioned AC/DC and their song Rock & Roll Train. Reviewing the album containing that track, Black Ice, for Big Website, Alexis Petridis described AC/DC’s sound as ‘like Noel Edmonds’ hairstyle: it was hoisted into place at some point in 1974 and has remained almost entirely unaltered since”. Most people in football admire that sort of consistency with envy; in recent times, only the underperformance of expensive signings at Manchester United or high-profile managers at Chelsea even look like coming close” – Ed Taylor.

Send letters to Today’s letter o’ the day winner is … Ed Taylor, who wins a copy of Euro 84: The Greatest Tournament You Never Saw, by Pitch Publishing. Visit their bookshop here. Terms and conditions for our competitions can be viewed here.

• This is an extract from our daily Euros football email … Euro 2024 Daily. To get the full version, just visit this page and follow the instructions.