In his sports column in today’s Evening Standard, former Tory politician David Mellor reckons that “with Croatia and Turkey through to the quarter-finals, it is even more blindingly obvious what a great chance England would have had, if they had qualified. Frustrating, isn’t it?” I had to read this twice, just to make sure that I wasn’t missing some elegantly-disguised irony, but I’m pretty sure it’s not there. Perhaps he has forgotten that the main reason Croatia are playing in Euro 2008 at all is that they beat England twice, home and away, in the qualifying group.
Conversely, the main reason England are not playing at Euro 2008 is because they lost twice, home and away, to the team whose progression to the last eight apparently demonstrates why England might have won the competition.(One can only presume, on recent form, that Croatia would have been quite happy to play England for a third time, in the tournament proper.)
Croatia probably won’t win the tournament, but the “blindingly obvious” conclusion to be drawn from this is that England would have had no chance – not least because England’s qualification would have resulted in the hopeless Steve McLaren still being in charge. Perhaps what Mr Mellor means is that England would have had a much better chance of winning if all the teams superior to them had been banned from entering? This, of course, is a much more robust argument.