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Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Football at its very best
Pele
The 1970 World Cup: The last great tournament
The BBC's Mark Lawrenson has seen a fair few major tournaments - but he tells Sport Online that Euro 2000 has been the best in 30 years.

With two semi-finals and the final still to come it would be a bit premature to say Euro 2000 was the best tournament ever staged.

The 1970 World Cup in Mexico, widely seen as the greatest festival of football, just got better and better as it went on.

But undoubtedly Euro 2000 has seen the best football and finest skills since the Brazil of Pele graced the world stage thirty years ago.

The great thing about the tournament is all the teams that got through to the quarter-finals were footballing teams.

The teams that went out like Norway, England, Sweden and Denmark played the stereotypical game that was around five to ten yeas ago.


Zidane
Zidane: "Best in the world"
Times have changed - and boy, how they've changed for the better.

Fruits

What we have seen in Holland and Belgium are the fruits of various rule changes introduced over the last few years that have given so much more protection to forwards.

I remember Pele getting kicked off the park at the 1966 World Cup and Maradona coming in for the sort of treatment in the 1980s which defenders and midfielders can not get way with anymore.



Times have changed - and boy, how they've changed for the better

Mark Lawrenson
The skill and pace of the game has risen sharply and the successful nations are the ones that have realised that you have to have a team of footballers who can control and pass a ball if you have any chance of surviving at the highest level.

Furthermore the attitude seems to have changed. For a long time teams were overtaken by a fear of failure while this time they have looked around and thought that, apart from France and Holland, everyone was beatable.

Precedent

The first couple of games can often set a precedent for the rest of the tournament and the opening games were open and played at high pace.

Another reason, I feel, for the free-spirited play is the familiarity between players. The slogan "football without frontiers" is spot on.

With players from each country plying their trade all over Europe they all know what they are up against - many are facing club team-mates - and there is no need for undue caution.

Some of the games have been breathtaking. One can be cynical when you have been in the game all your life but the Spain and Yugoslavia match left me on a high for at least an hour afterwards and in Zidendine Zidane we are seeing the best player in the world.

The four teams left have been an inspiration. Let us hope the next three games live up to what has gone before.

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See also:

22 Jun 00 | The BBC Team
Lawrenson hails his favourite game
26 Jun 00 | The BBC Team
A tournament to remember
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