Written by 12:36 World

At Euro 2024, a Very England Fight Misses the Point

The problem, really, boils down to a single word. Unfortunately, that word — the key word in all of this — is not one that can be used here. But you know it. It is an adjective, a noun, a verb and most often an exclamation. You might say it when you stub your toe, or spill a cup of coffee, or realize that you have accidentally hit reply all.

Or, if you are Gary Lineker, you might use the word on a podcast to describe an England performance at the European Championship. In this case, the one the team delivered in its soporific draw with Denmark, but it might also have applied to much of the win against Serbia and the stalemate with Slovenia, too.

Reduced to its core elements, then, it might be hard — particularly to outsiders — to understand why the word has caused such consternation.

Lineker, a respected former player and a judicious pundit, suggested that England had played poorly. This is ostensibly true. Gareth Southgate, the England coach, spoke after the very same game of needing to “hit the reset button.” The players have admitted that they have not performed well thus far.

England’s contribution to Euro 2024 currently stands at two goals and one victory in three games, and a place in the knockout rounds despite mustering fewer shots than all but a couple of other teams in the tournament. Nobody has disputed the accuracy of Lineker’s one-word analysis. Had he used slightly more P.G.-friendly vocabulary, the chances are nobody would have batted an eye.

The word, though, seems to have cut deep. In part, that is likely because the language of punditry still avoids the scatological, as vaguely old-fashioned as that sometimes feels. And it is, in part, because of the outsize — and somewhat contradictory — role Lineker plays in the British soccer-industrial complex.


Last modified: 29 June 2024