A View From the Chez Lounge: A Win, A Wobble, and a Lot of Whacks!

Posted on June 17, 2024

Well, folks, here we are, another tournament, another opening day win for England. Any victory on day one is a godsend in tournament football—lose or draw and the pressure mounts faster than a summer storm in Blighty. With every armchair pundit and their dog dissecting every move on social media, you can almost hear the nation’s collective anxiety levels rise. Remarkably, this is only England’s second ever opening win at the Euros, so let’s chalk this one up as a positive start.

An Encouraging Start

Now, about the game itself—England looked like their usual selves under Southgate. They began with all the zest and guile you could ask for, got the lead, missed a few sitters, and then slowly faded as the opposition found their rhythm. With England, It’s the kind of déjà vu that makes you wonder if you’re stuck in a football-themed “Groundhog Day.”

Momentum Swing

As the game wore on, England lost momentum towards the end of the first half and never really regained it. From my comfy perch on the chez lounge (yes, that’s a fancy term for “couch” if you’re wondering), it seemed like they desperately needed that second goal to seal the deal early. When Kyle Walker found himself in the clear and somehow managed to neither shoot nor cross, you could almost hear the collective groan echoing across the nation. If that goal had come, we’d have been popping champagne corks by half-time. But this is England.

So, it was Jude Bellingham’s thunderous header that stood as England’s sole reward after 30 minutes of dominance. Serbia, who looked like they might have been out for the count, suddenly remembered they were six-foot-two giants and started throwing their weight around. It was surprising they didn’t start this earlier, but hey, better late than never for their army of fans stirred from their slumber.

Roughed up but Unscathed

Despite the roughing up, England made it to halftime without conceding. Physically, though, it was a different story. Bellingham, busy being the world’s best player, seemed to be a magnet for Serbian boots. He was fantastic at times, but dare I say, he occasionally tried to do too much? Or is saying that about our golden boy, blasphemy?

The second half was more of the same. Saka stopped tying the Serbian defense in knots, and Kane started playing so deep he might as well have been a midfielder, leaving no outlet for the defence. My chez lounge was getting less comfortable by the minute—soon, I found myself peeking out from behind it.

Nervous Nausea and a New Hero

That old, nauseating feeling when England lose the initiative hasn’t changed in decades. It’s the same in 2024 as it was in 1986. The only difference now is that beer and ciggies have been replaced by a calming cup of lemon and ginger tea, courtesy of Jennifer.

Amid the chaos, Marc Guehi emerged as a new hero. The Crystal Palace center-back, apparently a hidden gem coveted by big-money clubs, stood firm. Alongside Declan Rice’s tidy clean-up act, it was an encouraging performance from a defence that many (including me) had questioned pre-tournament. Guehi’s post-match interview showed a calm, controlled young man—not a “caged tiger” accident waiting to happen.

Rearguard Holds Firm

England’s rearguard held firm, just about. There was a heart-stopping moment when a whipped Serbian effort was brilliantly saved, and Kane, channeling his inner defender, headed away a bouncing effort that might have troubled Pickford in the same way a harmless wide half-tracker fools a confused batsman. My heart rate would have thanked Kane more had he nodded in a goal at the other end, but alas, it wasn’t to be, with the Serbian keeper flicking it onto the bar.

Substitutes Bowen and Gallagher added some much-needed energy. They aren’t world-class, but in a tournament featuring Europe’s best, having players who can disrupt the opposition’s flow is invaluable. This is the Euros, folks—there are no easy games, except maybe against Scotland or Albania.

A Word for Serbia

Serbia? They’re no world-beaters, but they’re nobody’s pushovers either. If Denmark slip up against England, they’ll face a tough challenge in Serbia, who won’t go down without a fight. I reckon they will go through and potentially upset one of the big boys.

As a chez lounge supporter, I’m content. Social media, however, is full of clowns expecting 4-0 wins. Disrespectful exceptionalism is alive and well, but let’s face it—peaking in game one doesn’t win tournaments. England will grow into this tournament and likely end up in the latter stages, where one moment of brilliance or a critical error will seal the deal.

The Pundits

A shoutout to the BBC pundits—Rio Ferdinand was excellent, oozing confidence and dry wit. Micah Richards was his usual excitable self, and Cesc Fabregas, though pleasant, could tone down the sycophancy a notch. Pitch-side, Kelly Somers did well, but Joe Hart? A bit wooden, I thought. Here’s hoping he warms up as the tournament progresses.

So, onwards England march. Gone are the days when the third group game had fans dusting off calculators. This tournament looks like one where, barring a calamitous defeat against Denmark, England should top the group.

It’s never easy, and it’s about time we stopped expecting England’s opposition to roll over like pampered pets. Especially not tough Serbian lads with a point to prove.

Verdict: Need to be more ruthless when on top

MOM: Marc Guehi – Excellent debut in a physical battle

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