Nothing unites Europeans like football, and this year’s Euro 2008 tournament is turning out to be one of the best in a long time, maybe ever. What else could have us feeling sorry for Switzerland and cheering for Austria? Isn’t Europe a more harmonious entity without the English? Would Brussels be paralysed by protests today if Belgium had qualified? And would Ireland have voted No if they were in the tournament?
This is one European project that will go ahead without France, and, quite possibly, Germany. France are decidedly Out, having been too loyal to ageing stars, a policy that nearly also cost Italy a place in the next round.
In the quarter-finals Germany may not be able to cope with the vibrant Cristiano Ronaldo, still only 23, while Spain can count on 22-year-old attacking midfielder David Silva and the creative skills of the even younger Cesc Fabregas. Whoever wins out of Russia and Sweden will struggle to cope with Holland’s youthful exuberance. In this European project at least, if not the now stalling wider one, it’s youth and new ideas that bring success.