As those annoying Internet clocks countdown to opening day of the 2012 European Championships, we can’t seem to resist a slow, nostalgic stroll down memory lane. We indulge ourselves in Panenka penalties, Van Basten volleys and Schmeichel saves. We lament Southgate’s miss in 1996 and glory in the wonders of Turkey’s 2008 run.
The resonance of the European Championships is astounding. They have provided a canvas for some of the most entertaining international football of the last 20 years and, more recently, they have inaugurated massive tactical and stylistic changes. Short-termism is, perhaps, the defining characteristic of modern football. In the past, tactical trends lasted for decades. These days, they exist in four-year cycles. And, increasingly, those periods are bookended by the European Championships.