England 1 Ukraine 0
France 0 Sweden 2
As Jamie Carragher said on the ITV pre-match panel, football is all lies. More accurately, he said Rafael Benitez used to tell us, football is all lies. Apparently it's something Rafa would say in team talks when he was the Liverpool manager.
He was talking about the way football people talk to the media, and he's quite right. No player would ever say I was the best player out there today in an interview, even if he was. I'm moving to another club for more money in the summer is a phrase that we hear rather less often than Arsene Wenger must do.
You know when they inadvertently tell the truth, because there's always such a fuss. I've got a five-month baby boy now, and if he can't be northern then I'd rather he grows up with a cockney accent than a Bristolian one. Nicky Maynard may have regretted saying that after he left Bristol City for West Ham, especially the day West Ham played us and he had to come back. It's no use saying you were joking in these situations. Some fans aren't as lighthearted as you might think.
No, you should never use your interviews to inform or entertain. Take a leaf out of Alan Shearer's book. I remember his interviews when he was an England player. I've never seen anyone try so hard not to say anything interesting. He answered questions like Alex Stewart batting for a draw. This isn't a situation you can win. Stalemate is your only goal, and flamboyance isn't called for. Straight bat, forward defensive, wait for the next one.
So yes, Carragher was right in the context in which he made the remark, but I think he was right in the wider sense as well. Football is full of lies. It's not just players and managers that lie, it's pundits, journalists, bloggers, everyone. Even the Carragher quote is a paraphrase. When I said more accurately, I didn't actually mean accurately. It's a comparative, not an absolute measure. The devil is in the detail. With football it's rarely the truth, never the whole truth and always something but the truth.
For instance, it seems to have been agreed that the lack of goal line technology deprived Ukraine of a goal against England. The evidence seems clear enough. The replay from above the goal clearly shows the ball over the line before John Terry clears it.
But what you don't see is the offside about five seconds before. It doesn't show up on any of the replays on the BBC website, for instance. But it happened. I saw it at the time. I nearly spilt my Hobgobin shouting offside from my sofa.
It wasn't Devic, the 'scorer', it was Malevskiy. As the ball came out to him from the defence, he was onside by the time you see him on the video clip, but at the moment the pass was made he was off. As good strikers will in that situation, he cut back inside the defender to make himself look onside, successfully fooling the linesman, the referee and the people cutting the BBC highlights reel.
It was ITV that showed the game, and you can see the disallowed goal here on the ITV Player (Euro replay). It happens in the 62nd minute of the game, and the discussion of it happens about 70 minutes in. The commentators talk about the offside as something their backroom boys have picked up on. They talk about showing the proof after the end of the game, which they did. I saw it, and it was conclusive. Just as many of us knew it was during the game.
But the program as uploaded on the Player cuts off at full time, without going to the studio chat afterwards, and just like that the smoking gun is erased from history. We get up this morning, everyone's talking about the disallowed Ukrainian goal and no-one is mentioning the offside. Collina gets interviewed about goal line technology, the Ukrainian media is doing its nut, the English media is pretending it's 2010 all over again and the ball that was over the line was actually Lampard's, and the most important fact isn't coming up.
I'll tell you what it all reminds me of. It reminds me of Trotsky's hat. There's an old story about a picture of Lenin and the other Bolshevik leaders taken during the Russian Revolution. They're celebrating something, and Trotsky has just thrown his hat in the air. Years later, when Stalin declared Trotsky an enemy of the revolution, he had Trotsky airbrushed out of the picture. Unfortunately the propaganda people forgot to airbrush the hat, leaving it floating above the Heroes of Socialist Struggle for no apparent reason.
Appropriately, perhaps, I can find no reference to this online. Which makes it sound like I've searched exhaustively, but really just means that Wikipedia's article on Trotsky doesn't contain the word hat (although the word that appears a tedious number of times). It may be a garbled version of a similar story from postwar Czechoslovakia, as reported by Milan Kundera in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. It may have been garbled by me. Who knows?
The point I've been lumbering towards is that Malevskiy's offside seems to have been airbrushed out of history. It's as if every trace has been removed by some footballing dictator, except for the commentator's reference, left hanging in the air like an upthrown hat.
Except that it hasn't, because we live in the age of the Internet, so it's all over the place. Brooks Peck, for instance, blogging on Yahoo's sports pages (The Ukraine goal against England), has provided a still photo of the crucial moment. Every article on the subject in the mainsteam newspaper websites has several people commenting on the offside underneath. It's all over Facebook and Twitter (god those adverts creep into your vocabulary).
Which raises the question: would Stalin have found it harder to airbrush history if the Internet had been around back then? No, sorry, that's the question for grownups. My question is: what about that John Terry?
For it was Terry that cleared the ball off the line - except he didn't, it was clearly over the line. But in creating a conyincing enough illusion of a clearance to satisfy the goalline official, he stopped the other officials from allowing a goal they should have chalked off for offside.
So John Terry is the minister for justice. Because of him, the right thing happened. My world is shattered.
In other news, England top the group. Sweden beat France two nil, so we end with 7 points and they end with 4. We play Italy, they play Spain. Result.