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Euro 2004: Round 3: Hung, drawn and quarter-finaled

PD contemplates ending life:

Sometimes, there is a very thin line between laughing and crying. We have travelled it.

If there were ever a competition for taking a good thing and totally wrecking it, ESPN-STAR TV in India would win hands down. We had been looking forward to the Euro for ages. We put aside time from our more-generous-with-paying-for-our-services acquaintances to do the Goal Post because we thought a thing of joy should be shared. Well, then, obviously, we had no idea that Hindi commentary would be thrust upon us and what a torture it would be.

What's wrong with Hindi commentary, you ask? Everything. To begin with, in spite of the big names they have lined up for the commentary team, the quality is so poor that we shall: (a) have to come up with new words to describe it; or (b) use some already existing ones that would surely lose us our small but valued under-18 subscribership.

They don't know the names of players; they seem unable to analyse the play; they love David "Bake Ham"; they think Michael "Oven" is past it; they praise a player called 'Gronekar'; they speak about "Sweden's coach of England" (well, you need to know the language to appreciate this one: "Sweden ke coach England ke, Sven Goran Eriksson"!); they have come up with a new position in football called "left out" and, no, it does not refer to the bench!

Whenever England plays, Bake Ham always makes "great crosses", which includes booting the ball straight down the middle of the field. One favourite comment about him is, "What a terrific pass, but no one was there to receive it!" And Michael Oven can do no right!

ND and I are having this unique experience of agreeing with our cable operator! Even he admits that the commentary is cr*p, but apparently cannot help us. That our TV is in one piece is surely a miracle.

The other night, when Group C was decided, the Italians were crying on the pitch. Everyone in the stadium and the TV audience could see that, but those two clots went on and on and on and on about waiting to see what the result of the other game was to see if Italy had gone through.

And get this: Not one of them can speak correct Hindi! They translated the Stadium of Light as the Stadium of Ink ("roshni"=light; but they called it "roshnai"=ink!). They even greet their listeners with "namashkar" when the correct term in "namaskar". Gender, tense and pronunciation have all been red-carded away. Those of you who do not know Hindi, but speak French, may appreciate how ludicrous the gender confusion might be. For instance, in Hindi the ball is feminine - no snide giggles - and referring to it otherwise would be like saying, "Referee Collina looks at her watch and blows her whistle." Yes you can laugh now.

A good thing that has come out of it is that we have had to hear the geographical area and the population of each country participating in the competition so many times, that we could write an encyclopaedia on it!

What makes the state of affairs quite pathetic is that we are talking about some well-known Indian footballers here. And one of the commentators is a well-known sports journalist (he is excellent on football but only in English as far as we know).

For now, we have set phasers on "grin and bear it".

Go Denmark and Tomasson! (Oh, don't mind me. You cannot be forced to listen to this and retain your sanity.)

[...Meanwhile, ND surreptitiously adds Jon Dahl's name to his hit list.]

As fans gets puzzled by group qualifying laws, ND suggests alternative legislation:

Blame it all on UEFA! As the group stage of Euro 2004 entered its final round of matches, thousands of fans were seen scratching their heads as they tried to figure out what their teams needed to do to qualify. Well, the reason for this confusion was the new legislation which replaced the good old 'goal difference' rule. In the past, if two or more teams ended with the same number of points, the team with the highest goal difference (goals scored minus goals conceded) would go through. Pretty simple, aye? Well, such simplicity in this complex world cleared jarred UEFA and so out they came with a whole new set of qualifying criteria. Now, if two or more teams finish on the same number of points, the result of the match between the teams would be given precedence. And if things were still tied, the team that scored more goals would go through. If that is simpler and fairer than goal difference, then I need to see a shrink!

In my ["fantasy" adds PD] position as football pundit (a position that is increasingly under threat as England ensure that all my predictions go wrong), I thought that it was only fair that I come up with alternative ways of deciding which teams go through in case they end up with the same number of points. If UEFA does implement any of these, you will know who gave them the idea.

1. Football is the people's game. Therefore, the team with the greater population should be given preference.
2. Football is, first and foremost, all about the fans. The team with the greatest contingent of fans should go through. Of course, the hosts automatically go through!!
3. Winning is not everything in football. To stress this point, the team that has won more matches should be booted out.
4. Football should promote equality. The team with the most drawn matches, therefore, goes through to the next round - a just reward for its refusal to belittle the opposition by defeating it.
5. One of the aims of football is to bring people closer to each other and build long-lasting relationships. So the team with the most yellow and red cards should be given passage to the next round. After all, one cannot commit a foul unless one is really close to the victim and as for the relationship part, surely one can never forget a person who has inflicted so much physical pain on one's person.
6. Most of the money in football is generated by television. Hence, the team with the better television network should go through.
7. As television is so essential, we should ensure that all visuals are of the highest quality. So, if teams are tied on the same number of points, they should walk up and down on a ramp, sporting their kits. The team with the most visually appealing kit goes through! A beauty contest of the players is also an option, especially as it will give PD an opportunity to leer at the players' limbs!! [PD is outraged; ND gets the couch tonight.]
8. Media support is another pillar on which football rests. The team that gives the best press conferences should be allowed to go to the next round (Tip: hire Claudio Ranieri as your coach and you can forget about results).
9. Advertising is essential for the game to survive. The team that endorses more products should go through.
10. Finances are essential for the development of football. Accordingly, teams should be allowed to bid for places in the next round. The team with the highest bid goes through. The money bid by the team is to be used to promote football in developing countries!

Final Whistle: Scores and scorers

Group A
[Refer to previous issue... we are too distressed with the commentary situation to do any extra work.]

Group B
England 4(Pel... oops, Rooney 2, Scholes, Lampard) - Croatia 2 (N Kovac, Tudor)
France 3(Zidane, Henry 2) - Switzeland 1(Vonlathen)

Group C
Denmark 2(Tomasson 2) - Sweden 2(Jonson, Larsson)
Italy 2(Cassano, Perrotta) - Bulgaria 1(Petrov)

Group D
Czech Republic 2 (Heinz, Barros) - Germany 1 (Ballack)
Holland 3 (van Nistelrooy 2, Makay) - Latvia 0

Offside: Trivia

In the midst of all the hype surrounding Wayne Rooney, people forgot to pay attention to Switzerland's Johann Vonlathen. The Swiss forward broke Rooney's record of being the youngest player to score a goal in the European championships when he slotted his team's only goal against France. Of course, no one is calling him the new Pele and he is not even on Uncle Roman's shopping list at Chelsea. Talk about biased media.

Net Crackers: Best of the Web

As Roonymania grips England, the BBC has come out with a diary monitoring the media circus surrounding the teen sensation. To flick through it, go to
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/euro_2004/england/3830437.stm

Thought we had forgotten the Premiership in all the hoo-ha surrounding Euro 2004? How wrong you were! The Premiership schedule for the 2004-05 season has been announced - it kicks off with no less than Fergie versus Mourinho... oops, Man Utd versus Chelsea. Get it at http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_prem/fixtures/default.stm

Azzuri goalkeeper Buffo(o)n might think that there was a conspiracy to knock the Italians out of Euro 2004, but the Guradian's James Richardson is not buying that! Read more at http://football.guardian.co.uk/euro2004/comment/story/0,14584,1246502,00.html

He is among the few people to have played in World Cup finals as a player and as a coach. But it all went badly wrong for Rudi Voeller as his team stumbled against the inspired Czechs. Read Phil McNulty's post-mortem of the Voeller era at http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/euro_2004/3834847.stm

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