As the world plods midway into the year, international football of the highest quality has served as a respite from the anxieties and uncertainties of this pandemic.
Two continents right now—Europe and South America—are inching their way to normalcy as they hold their respective quadrennial men’s championships without a hitch.
The ongoing UEFA Euro 2020, postponed last year due to the Covid-19 lockdowns, has now reached the semifinals stage.
The first semifinal between Italy and Spain will kick off tomorrow, July 7, at 3 a.m. Philippine time, followed by England vs. Denmark on Thursday, July 8, also at 3 a.m.
In South America, the first semifinal of the 2021 Copa America between Brazil and Peru was slated today, July 6, at 7 a.m., while the semis between Argentina and Colombia will commence on July 8 at 9 a.m.
Now after a dearth of football in the last one and a half years, the average fan is in for an abundant treat of top-class matches.
Watching the Euro 2020 from the Philippines, which has a different time zone from Europe, can be a struggle.
But since it’s the semis, any fan worth his salt should wake up in the wee hours to witness penultimate matches held only once in four years.
So yes, Italy vs. Spain and England vs. Denmark should not be missed.
On the other hand, Brazil vs. Peru and Argentina vs. Colombia are held during much saner waking hours, so there’s no excuse to miss any of these huge matches.
As a fan of the beautiful game, however, I enjoyed the Copa America games much more than those of their European counterparts.
Case in point: the England vs. Ukraine quarterfinal may have produced four goals, but the game seemed restrained all throughout and had a mechanical feel to it.
And of the four semifinalists, only Italy seems the most enterprising team, one that would be willing to offer out-of-the-box football.
It’s not that bad but as the stakes become higher in the European competition, I’m afraid that England, Spain and Denmark will resort to a more conservative by-the-book, if not robotic, kind of football.
In contrast, every second of Argentina vs. Ecuador quarterfinal was a joy to watch, the three goals just being the icing on the cake.
Both sides showed flair, technique and creativity without sacrificing physicality and tactics—what beauty amid controlled brutishness.
Because this is what football is supposed to be, and fortunately for us fans, regardless of who lifts the trophy, the best is yet to come in the Copa America.
But I also hope Italy continues to prove us wrong and win the Euro 2020 in style.