The warm glow of pre-Euro 2024 optimism before assorted factors kick in

<span>Berlin’s fan mile gears up.</span><span>Photograph: Christophe Gateau/AP</span>
Berlin’s fan mile gears up.Photograph: Christophe Gateau/AP


There was excellent news for England at their serene and tranquil Spa & Golf Resort Weimarer Land HQ on Thursday, when all 26 of Gareth Southgate’s players reported to the training pitch for squad manoeuvres. With John Stones having been released from the confines of his five-star quarters following a brief period in quarantine with some unspecified lurgy, the squad gathered for a pre-session huddle in which it was revealed that not a single one of Big Website’s hacks in Germany had predicted they’d win the tournament. Given the famous lack of prescience of these famously know-nothing reverse-Mystic Megs, it was arguably the clearest indication yet that, finally, It’s Coming Home.

Of course England are just one of 24 different camps currently basking in a warm glow of optimism before technology, knack, biased referees, the agenda-driven media, Uefa, the vagaries of the German transport network, this year’s designated scapegoats, their own fans, some “woke snowflakes”, other teams’ fans, that bloke with a lit firecracker up his backside and assorted other factors begin actively conspiring against them. For now, before a ball has been kicked in Friday’s tournament opener between Germany and Scotland, all is well in the world and across the continent, Henri Delauney is still gleaming. “This summer’s tournament celebrates not just the skill and virtue of the protagonists on the pitch but also life, inclusion and diversity,” happy-clapped Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin in a pre-tournament address, before quickly moving on to the far more important stuff. “I want to thank everyone involved, from our sponsors and partners to suppliers, for your incredible support and unwavering dedication to our mission.”

Like most major international football tournaments, Euro 2024 is almost certain to be a roaring success in spite of, rather than because of, money-grubbing and sponsor-obsessed organisers, who have announced a couple of new wheezes which ought to enhance the experience for both those in the stadiums and the folks back home. Refereeing decisions that are arrived at with the VAR’s help will be clearly explained through the medium of the stadium big screens, while only team captains will be allowed to speak to referees during games, with any other players who do so running the risk of being booked. A new innovation that could utterly revolutionise the sport of football, it is expected to last until Anthony Ralston avoids a yellow card in the third minute on Friday night despite angrily getting up in the referee’s grille to protest that a throw-in he knows shouldn’t have gone to his side should have gone to his side.

“Football is about friendship, it’s about good values, different cultures uniting,” cooed Ceferin rather pompously at the launch of the Euro 2024 logo in Berlin three years ago. And while football might be about all those things, it is also about lots of other stuff, specifically the acquisition of money, official Uefa-designated fun areas, internet abuse, blinkered tribalism, hypocritical governance, unhinged paranoia, the half-hearted chucking of plastic street furniture in foreign squares, the smell of tear gas in the evening and so much more. For now the canvas is blank before the first brushstrokes are applied – here’s hoping the first paint applied comes in tartan.


“In Paris, the neighbours were tough; they would ring the doorbell to ask us to keep the noise down. It was 9 or 10 at night” – Lionel Messi reveals the biggest negative of his time at PSG: noise complaints. It’s a far cry from his quiet nights in Barcelona, where – according to former teammate Ivan Rakitic – he once bought a neighbouring house to get rid of its rabble-rousing tenants. And as for the Argentinian’s future? “Inter Miami will be my last club.”


On behalf of all statistically challenged Welshpersons, I’d like to thank you for the prediction that nobody is going to win the Euros (yesterday’s Football Daily). If only we’d known earlier we could have saved ourselves a lot of heartache and deep despair when our team failed to qualify. Not going to be so troubled with the inevitably disappointing World Cup qualification elimination now either” – Steve Malone.

Poor John O’Shea. After having his blood twisted by Cristiano Ronaldo in a friendly with Sporting in 2003, convincing Manchester United to sign the winger, who repeated the experience on a regular basis in training, he then had his fledgling managerial career as the Republic of Ireland’s temporary manager severely jeopardised by the same man 21 years later with two goals in a 3-0 loss to Portugal. The sad state of affairs for Irish football is not O’Shea’s making, who can look in the direction of his fellow Waterford man, John Delaney, the exiled former FAI chief suit, for an explanation of that” – John Weldon.

Imagine telling Alex Ferguson back in the treble-winning 1998-99 season that, one day, Manchester United would end up finishing eighth in the league and bottom of their Champions League group, but that it will solely be up to the same manager that put them there and that bloke currently on the wing for Blackburn who isn’t Stuart Ripley to sort it all out” – Noble Francis.

Send letters to Today’s letter o’ the day winner is … Noble Francis, who wins a copy of Euro 88: The Football Purists’ European Championship, by Pitch Publishing. Visit their bookshop here. Terms and conditions for our competitions can be viewed here.