*Germany 5-1 Scotland*
Finally, after all the hype, the hysteria and the hullabaloo, the Euros get underway. There is a sea of primary colours, stripes and flags. Teletubbies meets The Avengers (1960s version, watch it on Gold, or whatever) with some contagious measles virus inflicting the participants. Every other person on the pitch appears to be covered in spots. Large, white ones. At that.
Maybe that’s why the players wait in the tunnel while the hoohah is going on. It must have been irritating to be kept trapped inside, all tensed up, the Scots wearing their fearsome Bannockburn faces, the Germans concentrating on the task ahead.
Probably that is good (that they wait in the tunnel, not that the German team seem to have finally found their focus again in a major tournament) because it means they don’t have to endure the annoying meaningless techno beat accompanying the wild dancing – the whole thing’s probably a lot better if you are there. And they miss having to see those coloured blocks held up by fans blocking the stadium into panels of colour. They never look quite as good as the designer imagines. Getting 60000 people to do as they are told, coordinating themselves like the extras in a Cecil B DeMille classic, sounds straightforward in the planning room, when green smoothies and gluten free, sugar free, jam free, non fried doughnuts have clouded their minds under a haze of health-enhancing nausea. But in reality, the kid in block 27 row 14 seat 9 is two small to reach the level of his dad next door. And the guys opposite mean well, but it’s hard enough to lift your hands above your head after fourteen pints let alone keep them there. Multiply that a thousand times and you see the problem. But not the intended effect.
It’s also good that the players miss the slightly awkward, ‘three people carrying the cup event’. There they are, standing awkwardly, Covid-distanced, while the ball boys kneel – a Von Trapp family in shocking pink – to form a coordinated tableau weighting down the corners of the contesting teams’ flags. Maybe it is windy. Still, all very well intentioned.
I’m watching this on TV. There was a time (those of you who follow my career will know this) when a pundit like me would be overwhelmed with invitiations to attend a major tournament and bring a fan’s eye view to proceedings. A well informed, expert and experienced fan, admittedly. Not some terrace turner three sheets to the wind, or a Mercedes driving City fan buying a ticket on StubHub in the mistaken belief they can get close to Sir Jim Ratcliffe if they play their cards right. No, the sort of fan your dad was. Or, if you are very young (ie under 25), your grandad. But there’s no place for aging experts, bar Graeme Souness, these days. Not in this stream filled, multi channelled world. Ask the great Sir Clive. What’s he thinking replaced by the young whippersnapper, Matty Natterjack, or whatever the toad’s name is?
Anyway. Enough. I’m watching it all get underway on the box. ITV. (I know, but what can you do?) ‘Opening act at this festival of football’ – says the apprentice, giving a Tyldsley like fact. The lad’s learning. Maybe Mr Clive, OBE, lives on in the young pretender.
There’s a bit of a problem in that the pitch is still decked out like a Mediterranean beach during an international festival, full of flags and carousels. Mind you, the Flower of Scotland managed to drown out any Germanic shouts of anticipation. After the national anthems, it is a definite 1-0 to Scotland.
What follows is lots of waving and looking around from the mascots, bedecked in swirling combinations of blue and yellow. Although, the youngster attached to Andy Robertson looks worried. The diminutive Scot has his ‘angry’ face on. I’m sure he’s a lovely fellow, but you wouldn’t want to meet him down some dark alley, and nor should any wise winger drift too far tp the right if they are playing Scotland over the coming weeks.
Anyway, the game eventually kicks off. So let’s take a look at key events, chosen with all the wisdom and experience your personal pundit can offer.
*One minute*: First semi automated offside. I’m no dinosaur (although Mrs R says I can be a bit of a T Rex in the bedroom) but I reflect back to those pre-var days of long ago. You know, days when footballers wore long shorts, the grass was mud and commentators expressed outrage everytime a foreigner was awarded a penalty. Then the linesman would just have raised his flag. Still, must be progress, I suppose, to have a decision made by a machine. Plus we saw Angus Gunn (wasn’t he a character in Treasure Island?) bonked on the bonce by the ball. Wouldn’t have enjoyed that if the ref had pulled up play quicker.
*Three minutes:* Keiran Tierney wins his first tackle, and frankly, one look at his face and you knew he would.
*Five minutes:* My first thoughts: Sweet German movement against Scottish grit, with the rocky stuff on top.
*Ten minutes:* A crisp switch, square pass across the edge of the box and Wirtz strikes it firmly into the corner. Class versus energy and in a flash, class stands tall. The Scots supporters look devastated. This is not supposed to happen.
*Fifteen minutes*: A sixth of the game gone, minus injury time, and the big question is – how will Scotland score? A sixth of the game gone, and have they had a touch in the German box? Have they hell. (I was going to say ‘Fuck’, but there maybe youngsters reading. ‘Maybe’? Definitely.)
*Twenty Minutes:* Havertz lays it back for Musiala, and it’s 2-0, with a firm drive into the top of the net. Game over? Looks like it. The 4% of the entire Scottish population in Germany look even more crestfallen, wondering why they gave up bagpipes and bags of cheese and onion for sauerkraut, Steiners and an absolute smashing.
*Twenty four minutes:* Oh dear. Christie bundles into Musiala. Is it inside or outside the box? The officials have no doubts, and the spot kick is given. Referee ‘Dick’ Turpin waits for the VAR to come in, and the ref is wrong. The foul is outside the area. Scotland celebrates. Is a free kick to Germany as good as a penalty? Our commentator suspects it is. The rest of us are more considered. Then we are not dealing with an ITV audience. Havertz is on target, Gunn makes the save thus providing further evidence that a free kick is not as handy as a pen. Three nil after twenty five minutes, and the cup might as well have been handed straight to the Germans, but as it is, a further month of football thrills still beckon.
*Thirty minutes:* Andrich earns the first yellow of the tournament. A lunge from distance on Scott McTominay. Is the tide turning? Could be. A minute later Havertz scores neatly, but the goal is disallowed for handball. All Scotland have to do is score (three times) and the game is theirs for the taking.
*Thirty five minutes*: Chey Adams almost gets a touch in the German area. Scotland’s first one. Yes. The flow of the game is definitely changing. The moon has risen and the tide has turned. But will the Aurora Borealis, in a dark shade of blue, provide the fitting end to a half which Scotland has begun to dominate?
*Forty minutes*: As the final five minutes of the half approach a hopeful effort by Rudiger lands like a teddy bear in an arcade grabber in Gunn’s arms, (unlike the arcade game Gunn doesn’t drop the shot).
But a second penalty appeal arises soon after as Porteous dives into Gundogan. Turpin is called to the screen, and instantly awards the penalty. And Porteous is handed a red. It is a two footed lunge and the correct card has been waved. The question for half time, will Lawrence Shanklin come on to breach the Isle of White (Isle of Wight) which is Germany
Havertz places the ball, steps up, blows out, pauses and puts it away. Half of the Scots in Germany overwhelm the Ryanair website seeking the next flight home to Glasgow. Mind you, Mr Matterface clearly rates the aforementioned Lawrence Shanklin. He scored 31 for his team (Shanklin, not Matterface, although the commentator may turn out for a Sunday team, play up front and, you know). Shanklin’s a whole Hearted (Hearts – note to self – not sure that one works – check with young Ade) player. Implying that were Scotland, three goals behind and down to ten men, to put him into the fray, the game could once more be in the balance (as it was for almost, but not quite, the first ten minutes.)
*Half time – 3-0. *
Whizzed through half time – it’s mostly ads and Roy Keane anyway. I was watching on record because Young Ade (my youngest, and quite a player in his younger days – fine enough in fact for us to believe this might have been his maiden international tournament) was supposed to be coming over to watch the game with me. He must have rung his mum to say he couldn’t make it, because Jules told me that wouldn’t be over. After kick off, of course! Grabbed another can for the next forty five. I’m quite into Thatcher’s Gold at the moment. Not sure how long it will last. (This love of cider, not the can. That’ll soon be gone.)
*Second half: *Pretty mediocre start. Scotland demonstrate their ambition by taking off their one and only striker and replacing him with their fourth centre half of the day. The tactic works, Scotland get a free kick to the side of the box. McTominay unleashes his magical right boot, aiming for a deflection into the net.
Dalston gets a yellow for not very much. The organisers like to pick their favoured ref to set the tone for the tournament from the opening game. Looks like there could well be a few reds floating around over the coming weeks.
*Fifty minutes*: I’m thinking hard. The Thatchers’ sharpens the mind, I find. If Germany lift the trophy, and from the evidence so far, it seems as likely as a Labour win in the General Election, then they will do so with Kai Havertz as their number nine. Unless they change him. Which beggars the question as to why Arsenal are going to break the bank on a centre forward, when they already have the best one in Europe. Just saying. Have that one on me, Senors Edu and Arteta.
A few minutes later and Havertz is off, replaced by Fullkrug. Put your money on the Tories on July 4th.
*Sixty eight minutes:* The game dies for a bit, until Fullkrug strikes with full power into the top corner. Number four. It seems unlikely now Scotland will get more than a draw from the game. And, to be fair, even that looks less likely than it did at kick off. (I’m joking by the way. You can be confident this one is going to be three points for the Germans, and nothing bar demoralisation and a red card on the plus side of the equation for Scotland. Although, the ever positive Matty Face reminds the watching world that Portugal won the title after squeezing through the group stage with just three points. Something well within Scotland’s grasp in the long run. So, actually, maybe history dictates that a first game defeat is actually a good thing. Time will tell. This is a point to which I may return.
*Seventy four minutes: *Musiala, man of the match, goes off. A minute later, and if the above paragraph is an example of the old Rutherford foresight, things look up even more for Scotland, as Fullkrug buries his second. But, seconds later, semi-automated offside earns its oats, correctly ruling the scorer offside. That would have taken eight minutes on a cold Wednesday night at Goodison. Technology. It’s the future.
*Eighty minutes:* Scotland put together their best move of the match. At least five passes, neat and accurate, stretch the German press. If only the passes had taken place in the German penalty area, rather than the Scottish one, maybe the gap between the teams would close a bit.
*Eighty six minutes:* Scotland make their move. A deep free kick, launched by Robertson, bounces around and Scott McKenna heads goalwards, deflects off Rudiger and it’s game on.
Mr Turpin stands, sad eyed (he is a fine ref, if a tad panda like in appearance), while the goal check takes place. Scotland’s joy is shortlived…but the goal stands. How, I hear you whisper. Read on. Top quality journalism to come. Again.
*Ninety two minutes:* Emre Can places the ball precisely in the bottom corner. That’s how.
So what do we draw from the opening game of the tournament?
Germany look good. Historically, Scotland match so many eventual winners by starting badly. Semi-automated offside is not the threat to humanity many of us feared. The primary colours of the opening ceremony are repeated on the pitch with yellows and even a red flashing with reasonable regularity.
Back to the headline. I’ll explain. This is not me being clever, perish the thought. As Mr Matterface says, Portugal were on three points after three games in 2016. So in that respect Scotland are already ahead of these past winners, as they could be on three points after two games. In 2012 Spain fail to win their first game. Eventual winners frequently fail to win their opener, and Scotland have already got that out the way. Take note, big Gareth.
So, overall it’s win, win, win. For the fans. And Germany. And, who knows, Scotland too. However, what is definite is that it is still too early to predict the eventual winners of this most major of major world tournaments in Europe. My money, though, is still on France, England, Germany, Spain or, as an outside bet, Switzerland or Belgium, whose golden generation must surely come good one time at least. And, maybe, a little each way money on the boys from north of the border.
All the best,
AJ Rutherford