England left to applaud great Euro event - thankfully without England
Given the quality of play at Euro 2008 which ended on Sunday, the British media expressed relief that England hadn't qualified to play at the event, the dpa reported.
"I reckon England would have qualified for the quarter-finals only if placed in a group with Austria, Switzerland and Greece the group of living death, and even then I suspect we would not have come top," was the scathing assessment of the Sunday Times. England was famously relegated to the sidelines 3-2 at Wembley by Croatia in the final qualifier last November and the papers throughout the tournament said that England would have faced a tough time.
Most fans threw their weight behind the bunch of internationals from the Premier League sides they support, be it Chelsea's Germany captain Michael Ballack, Liverpool's Spain striker Fernando Torres, Manchester United's Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo, or Arsenal's Spain star Cesc Fabregas and Dutchman Robin van Persie.
English (and other) fans were treated to dazzling football from the like of Spain, Portugal, Russia and the Netherlands, Turkish fighting spirit and a strange German mixture of efficiency, skill, poor play and luck at the tournament in Austria and Switzerland.
"Euro 2008 has given international football the kiss of life it so desperately needed," said the BBC website.
The Observer said: "It's been a proper, textbook feast of football - an enjoyable contrast of styles, which is exactly as it should be."
The Sunday Times spoke of a "paradoxically surprising tournament" which would have brought no luck to England in a fictitious group with Spain, Sweden and Greece in the place of Russia, who also finished ahead of England in qualifying.
But not only would have England been eliminated, its weaknesses would have been brutally exposed, according to the paper.
"Thinking about that fictitious match, Sweden versus England probably the decider for second place you can feel death flapping around your head, like a bat. In a tournament characterised in the main by skill and verve, that would have been a match to suffocate even the most ardent lover of football," the Sunday Times said.
English fans rubbed their eyes pretty soon once the Dutch blew away Italy 3-0 and Spain clobbered Russia 4-1 the next day with displays of attacking football rarely seen by England teams.
Two days later concern was added when Croatia - England's opponents in World Cup qualifying again - beat Germany 2-1.
"Oh hell to think we have to face Croatia again in the World Cup qualifiers," lamented The Sun the next day, June 13.
But in the end it was once again the inevitable Germans - and neither the Croatians, Dutch or Russians - who made it into the final.
All the British papers could do was applaud from the stands an arch-rival who appeared to have all the quality England has lacked since winning the World Cup in 1966.
"How typically, horribly, wonderfully German," said The Sun, after the last-minute 3-2 over Turkey lifted Germany to a 13th major final.
"Far from their best - in fact, a pale shadow of the side that brushed aside Portugal - they gave us a lesson in the most important quality. Winning when you are playing badly."