Kevin McCarra’s articles in The Guardian are normally good solid pieces of analysis, but he’s let himself down two paragraphs into this report where he says that Euro 2004 ‘is a tournament offering surprise and drama to compensate for the absence of a single great team.’

What does he mean by this? When was the last tournament illuminated by a great team performing at their best? Most teams who win tournaments play well, but that’s very different from having what I think McCarra’s getting at here – the look of a team who are playing like the eventual champions.

Which is odd, because as I write, the Czech Republic have won four out of four and are getting better each time. They stuttered against Latvia, but raised their game against the Dutch and saw off Germany with their reserves and were clinical in their finsihing against the Danes. They’ve done everything they have been asked to do thus far and still aren’t seen as the potential winners.

Why is it? They have pedigree as World Cup runners-up, European champions and runners-up. They’ve got good players who are playing well. But they’re just not Italy, England, France or Germany or Spain, and no matter how well they do – even if they win it – it will be written of afterwards as a good team prospering in a tournament in which the overall quality was poor. For which read ‘where one of the big teams just didn’t produce what we wanted’.

It was the same in the last World Cup, where the overall quality was deemed to be poor, even though it was exciting. Why? Well, the Koreans got to the semi-final, so it must have been a bit rubbish really, mustn’t it? It’s a form of big-clubbism – tournaments are really the province of the big-5 who, if they play to their strengths, should win it. But that’s football – whoever plays to their strengths and does well does win it. That’s something the big-five have no monopoly on, and aside from Germany and France, don’t actually do very well at all.

The moral – you can only beat the team you’re playing. History and snobbery are much more difficult to overcome.