SPAIN v CROATIA TONIGHT 8.45pm
ENGLAND V UKRAINE TOMORROW NIGHT 8.45pm
For the last few days, the English living here in Spain have been in the unusual position of both “our” football teams being on a winning streak. And the next couple of evenings are going to provide some serious entertainment.
In the European Championship, known as Euro 2012, being held in Ukraine and Poland, both teams are doing well in their respective groups – Spain is top of Group C, with England in second place in Group D.
Spain trounced Ireland 4-0 last Thursday, while England beat Sweden on Friday, in an excellent game which saw them fall behind 2-1, but then climb back to win 3-2. Instead of freezing and falling apart, as they often do when they’re faced with losing, they fought back. It was surprising and very gratifying – as well as being the first time ever the English side has won against the Swedes in a competition match (as opposed to a friendly).
The Spanish team are playing like the World Champions they are, especially against the Irish last week – dominating and outclassing their opponents to the extent that they made 859 passes during the match, with Javi clocking up 136. This style of play, with lots of clever, intricate manoeuvres, is known as “tiki-taka”.
Tonight, Spain have their final Group match, against Croatia, who also drew 1-1 with Italy; tomorrow, England play the Ukraine. Both matches are at 8.45pm Spanish time. England needs to draw against co-host nation the Ukraine to go through, while Spain must achieve the same result; there are rumours Spain have made a deal with Croatia to stick at a level score, to ensure they both go through to the Quarter Finals, and thereby keep Italy from reaching the next round.
Quarter Finals of European Championship (England and Spain groups)
Saturday 23 June
Winner of Group C (Spain/Croatia/Italy) v second in Group D (England/France Ukraine)
Sunday 24 June
Winner of Group D (England/France Ukraine) v second in group C (Spain/Croatia/Italy)
There’s a possibility that England, if it keeps its second place in Group D, will play Spain (likely to qualify in top position in Group C – we’ll know tonight) this Saturday in the Quarter Finals – Group C winners against Group D runners-up. Now that will be one match not to be missed!
Less likely (call me a cynic) is that England win their group, and play Spain as the second team in theirs, which is the other Group C/D Quarter Final, scheduled for Sunday night.
Both matches, Spain v Croatia tonight and England v Ukraine tomorrow, are likely to be exciting, and with what’s riding on their results, will be even more nail-biting. One thing’s for sure: the English living in Spain will have someone to cheer for next weekend, and we can all – Spanish, English and everyone else who lives here – forget about our woes for a few hours. And the best thing is that, for the first time in a long while, the Spanish have a reason to be very happy, and very proud – their football team is still the best in the world.