Let’s remove the elephant in the room straight away – yes, I have used the Pulp based Euro 2000 intro before. It was in the very early days of the blog, in my defence, though I can’t guarantee I haven’t used it since. I bloody love Pulp by the way. Anyway, you’re probably wondering what we’re up to today. If you Remember the First Time, we asked if Northern Ireland could upset the odds and qualify for World Cup 98. We partied hard and not only qualified but ended up going pretty deep in the tournament.
Last week we had a gap in the schedule so I wanted to see if I could get those lads to Euro 2000. It turns out, I could. Which brings us to now. Can we find a way to get out of this group?
Another thing I wanted to touch on was the fleeting appearance of the Retirement Home last week. Fitzy was on loan there for a bit and a few of you wanted to know how they were getting on. The good news is, Neville Southall is their manager and they’re in Division 2. The bad news is Tomlinson has just been sold to Charlton.
If there’s ever a lull in the schedule in future, the World Cup 2002 qualifying group includes the Republic and Germany. Let’s hope there are no lulls.
Anyway, the real reason you’re here today is to see Northern Ireland at Euro 2000 and it’s time to name the squad!
And what a squad. Damien Johnson has broken his leg and will miss 8 months but otherwise it’s pretty much full strength. They’ve let us name 25, possibly out of pity.
I don’t really believe in friendlies as there’s nothing I can gain from them. So I’ve been on holiday since securing qualification and jetted in for squad naming day. We have two friendlies to play before the tournament and I’m not saying our FA are incompetent but they’ve chosen two games for us. The first is in South Korea.
Here’s how we lineup – our strongest 11, I think.
A very warm game finishes with a routine win, both strikers getting the goals is always good.
Our second friendly is against…the Republic of Ireland. Thanks lads.
Eire are in Group A (we’re in Group B) so we might even come up against them in the next round if we can somehow negotiate the group of mild peril. As a result, I have cancelled the friendly. No good can come of it. Off we go to Holland!
I feel bad for Belgium, missing out as co-hosts.
This result from the first game in our group is a real onion in the ointment
All we can do is beat what’s in front of us. Neil Lennon takes it all a little too literally but the strikers are on form and Rob Page helps us out along the way.
Taggart and Lennon are banned for the Denmark game. Losing our backbone is too big of a hurdle to get over and we’re lucky to get back to 4-2 and keep the goal difference respectable.
Italy beat Wales 2-0 to eliminate Octavio Machado’s side. We need to get at least a draw with Italy to make it through.
I put in an extra centre back seeing as Mulryne and Fitzy are banned. The old Retirement Home classic. We hold out for an hour but Iannuzzi breaks the deadlock. Uh oh. I throw on Jim Quinn who impressed me against Denmark and would you believe it, he finds a leveller with 6 minutes to go. Despite Del Piero’s best efforts, we hold on for the point that sees us through.
Through on goals scored, remarkable.
Unfortunately it’s the hosts in the quarters. That’s going to be difficult.
Lennon is still banned, he’s basically had a free holiday. Anyway, we stick with the three centre backs and just try and hold off the Dutch waves of attack. We actually create more than our fair share of chances but Bergkamp eventually breaks our resistance. Second half we try and find a way back in but over commit and Danny Griffin gets sent off and Cocu scores from the resulting set piece. Drama though, Taggart heads in a corner and the mystery is blown wide open. We finish with one at the back and a various assortment of attacking midfielders and forwards. Alas, it is no good and we’re out.
Van der Sar is ridiculous, well sort of. He made 5 saves but it felt like more.
I can take some solace in the fact that our wonderful hosts go and win the whole thing. So it’s like we won.
That ends our little trip to Euro 2000. Won’t it be great when we’re alll oh forget it I did the Pulp jokes in the opening paragraph. I have a lot of time for these idiots and can’t rule out having a tilt at 2002. Goodbye for now!