Heckling at Euro 2012 | Elimination

In the week of the Titans’ clash, Bendtner’s sponsored underwear will (not) be missed.

A crafty publicity stunt by betting company Paddy Power  capitalised on a “misfortune” Bendtner had over a year ago in London, ensuring a return in publicity and an even larger fine.
A crafty publicity stunt by betting company Paddy Power capitalised on a “misfortune” Bendtner had over a year ago in London, ensuring a return in publicity and an even larger fine.

I'm sick.

No, nothing to do with the PBS commentary, I've railed enough about that for the time being and sadly my phone didn't ring, no offers to commentate Greece vs Russia, or throw myself off a cliff, or to... wait how did he word it exactly?

In any case, I've been caught out by an evil a/c induced cold which forced me to sit out (or sit in) the third match-day of Euro 2012. Which is just as bad, because England won thanks to hapless goalie Pyatov even though they were almost dominated by Ukraine (oh, is that another cry for goal-line technology I see there?) and so did Italy, winning against lowly Ireland but not without sweating harder than a mule in a sauna.

Cue gigantic celebrations in the streets of everywhere, Union Jacks brandished around as if it were the Jubilee, more Italianised bullshit and a general reminder that our small island state is still a slave to the emotions of former colonisers (I know we weren't colonised by Italy, but some still wish we were).

More of that on Sunday, as the gods obliged to my dishonest prayers for Italy and England to meet in the quarter-finals. The two haven't faced each other since that spectacular third place playoff in the 1990 World Cup, and a lot has changed since even if both teams are far less entertaining these days.

But that's not the main reason why I prayed and prayed (!): it's after all another opportunity for my fellow countrymen to erect a dividing wall and take sides, allowing themselves to behave stupidly and irresponsibly as they scramble to show their loyalty to... something that is quintessentially not theirs, not ours. The tricolore, or the flag of England, mean very little to Malta. I would have rather seen carcades when Malta beat Luxembourg 2-0, but that very Maltese of joys was confined to the expats and a handful of diehard fans who bothered to travel.

While anticipation and bouts of diarrhoea mount across Malta for Sunday's epic encounter (note: England and Italy's rivalry is actually as intense as that between Turkey and Mozambique) it is also worth casting a look at the teams who were bowled out of the competition.

For some reason I was expecting to write about Greece and their hapless goalie Chalkias. 2-0 down to the Czech Republic after just ten minutes, and with two howlers on his conscience, the goalkeeper did the honourable thing and signalled an injury to the bench (later confirmed as Terminal Embarrassment). His replacement, Sifakis, did not concede in over 90 minutes of football. While everyone would have bet a bollock on Russia making it through... well, surprise. Snatching defeat from the hands of victory?

I had also predicted Poland's passage to the quarter-finals, being the home side and all that, but they had other ideas.

In Group B the competition loses two of its biggest dunces.

One is Nicklas Bendtner, who scored a double against Portugal and was quick enough to do something stupid by revealing his sponsored underwear. A crafty publicity stunt by betting company Paddy Power who capitalised on a "misfortune" Bendtner had over a year ago in London, ensuring a return in publicity and an even larger fine.

Denmark bow out of the group of fire on a high, given that their tetchy football tactics brought them three points against Holland and strong if unlucky performances against Portugal and Germany.

The next dunce of note is Bert van Marwijk, Mark van Bommel's father in-law and coincidentally Dutch national coach. To err is human - and there were plenty of errors in the game against Denmark when his side's overly narcissistic approach cost the match, with nobody able to finish it properly. But to persevere is a disgrace.

I expected the Dutch to implode (a hot buzzword these days) as soon as I read their starting line-up against Germany which, like the game against Denmark a couple of days earlier featured a slow holding midfield, a defence straight out of the Rocky Horror show and no Huntelaar.

Gomez had no trouble slotting in a double and neither did Ronaldo in the following match. The biggest surprise is how the Dutch didn't actually concede more goals, seeing their penchant for self-destruction (especially against Portugal) coinciding with the lowest ebb of Arjen Robben's career. Then, you'd wonder if van Marwijk is Jetro Willems', erm, godfather, seeing this lad was thrown in the lot without a clear purpose and behaved like a true liability.

I'm sure we won't miss Ireland (except for the fans), Croatia (except for the flares) and Sweden (except for their training routines) too much.

Meanwhile, I wish to thank all those who showed support for my recent commentary "challenge".

In particular, I think I ought to highlight an initiative by the young Keith Attard which caught my eye. Keith has recently presented Il-Ballun Pinġut, a collection of Maltese sayings from the beautiful game that will hopefully set a guideline to the sports commentators. It's heartening to see that someone somewhere is actually doing something to improve the quality of broadcasting, and you'd wonder if those in the top floor are taking notice (I'm told some journalists did contribute) or whether their heads are too far up their arse worrying about Eurovision.

It's as good an initiative as a Xutt fis-Seven.

Wayne Flask blogs on www.wayneflask.com