The Year of the Underdog

Written by Arpit Sharma

The year 2021 has been a blessing for all football fans. Post the condensed Club football season, we welcomed the Euros, delayed by a year. Delayed it was, but disappointing, it definitely wasn’t. France, Portugal, England and Belgium were some of the favorite names to win the trophy, when it began. But as the tournament progressed, we knew we were in for an atypical ride, as one after the other, surprises were sprung.

One of the biggest upsets was Switzerland beating France, the World Champions. I would go out on a limb to say that nobody gave Switzerland a chance before that match, in spite of their decent ranking in World Football.

“France are just that good, that they can field two starting XI’s and both might contend for the title”, many said, including the author of this article. But Switzerland derailed that train of thought with a stubborn performance. In fact they held the upper hand in that game for the most part before a penalty miss caused a shift in momentum. They almost caused another major upset in the next round against Spain, in spite of ending the match with ten men, but the Spanish side scraped through. Belgium, who had made it through to the quarterfinals on the back of a moment of magic from Hazard (Thorgan, not Eden) against Portugal, were stifled by Italy, who went on to beat them and make it to the semis, and in due course went from “The Dark Horses” of the tournaments to one of the favorites. Hungary, Austria, North Macedonia, Scotland, all honorable mentions with remarkable performances.

The Euros have reminded us that in football, the team ethic and systems can triumph over individual brilliance, with some of the most exceptional talent of our generation, Ronaldo, Mbappe, Jao Felix, Kante, De Bruyne not in the teams that made it to the final four.

Teams that were deemed to be in transition have now arrived, and in some style. England, Spain and Italy have very young squads and coupled with some of the best experience, and guidance, they seem to be headed in the right direction. Spain’s most exciting midfielder is a teenager from Barcelona. The Italian side has made people familiar with the Club Sassuolo, which had three players who impressed in the group stages. Manchester United fans have gotten a glimpse of Jadon Sancho and are excited by the player that they will be getting. England’s key players are not just from conventionally bigger names like United, Liverpool or City but from lesser fancied clubs like West Ham (Declan Rice) and Leeds United (Kalvin Phillips) and Aston Villa (Jack Grealish) too.

Article Written by Actor & Sports Anchor Arpit Sharma

Italy, Spain, Denmark and England find themselves in the semi’s and with good reason, all these teams play as a unit, the coaches Roberto Mancini, Gareth Southgate, Luis Enrique and Kasper Hjulmand have drilled their sides into well oiled machines and that has paid off. If I had to pick a side, I would go with Italy (years of covering the Serie A probably add to that bias)
And it is not just the football where lessons were learnt. My best wishes go out to Christian Eriksen – We are so glad he is okay but it has shown us again that life is unpredictable, so live in the present, savour the time you get especially with your loved ones. And don’t put off for the distant future, what you want to do and can do today.


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