Thursday, June 19, 2008
A North American's Guide to the Rest of the Euro Championships
I'm not sure if any of you in North America have noticed or not, but there is a sport that is NOT basketball, hockey, baseball or football, and it is being played right now. I know, this may be shocking and all, but the European Football (and by that I mean soccer) championships are going on right now, and I'll be damned if they haven't been awesome so far.
These championships have had some of the more entertaining matches in recent memory, that are sure to make a soccer fan out of any North American! Now that the fat has been trimmed (i.e. the host nations, Greece, and somehow France), it is time for the real intriguing games, as the round of 8 is set to begin this afternoon.
So if you are some clueless North American and are stuck watching these games, follow this simply game by game breakdown, with helpful buzzwords, to fit in with any European pub crowd.
Portugal vs. Germany
What you Need to Know: These two teams were the pre-tournament favourites, so it is a bit of a shock to see them play in the first stage of the knock-out round. Portugal won its first two games against Turkey and the Czech Republic, so they phoned it in against the Swiss and lost a meaningless game. The Germans on the other hand, looked dominant against Poland in the first game, before suffering a shocking loss to Croatia in their second game. They then won a surprisingly difficult game against Austria. So momentum seems to be on the side of the Portuguese. However, in the last high-profile meeting between these two teams, Germany pulled out a victory and secured third place in the 2006 World Cup, so maybe they have Portugal's number.
Helpful Phrases to Sound Knowledgeable: "Damn Ronaldo! Take another dive why don't you???", "Germany is in trouble having to play without their coach", or "Fucking Germans! Half their team should be playing for Poland anyway, this shouldn't be allowed"
What do I Think is Going to Happen: If Germany had have kept playing like they did against Poland, then I would be convinced that the Father Land would be taking this one. However, after stumbling against Croatia and looking very beatable against Austria, I think that the Germans may be caving to the pressure. Also, they have to play one of the best teams in the world without their coach (who is suspended for this game), so it doesn't bode well for them. That being said, I just don't buy all of the hype surrounding the Portuguese. This tournament has been theirs to lose from the get go, and I think that they will lose it. However, that day won't be today.
Prediction of Final Score: Portugal: 2 Germany: 1
Croatia vs. Turkey
What you Need to Know: By all accounts, neither of these teams should be in this situation. The Croatians defeated the Austrians, stunned the Germans, and blanked the Poles to finish perfect in the standings, a situation that everyone expected the Germans to be in. The Turks on the other hand pulled off a miracle in their final game, as they scored 3 goals in 15 minutes on arguably the best goalkeeper in the world to defeat the Czech Republic 3-2 and advance to the knockout round. Both of these teams have a Cinderella aspect to their tournament and carry a lot of momentum heading into this game.
Helpful Phrases to Sound Knowledgeable: "Don't count the Turks out yet, remember what they did last game?", "Either of these teams could be this years Greece"
What do I Think is Going to Happen: The clock has to strike midnight and one of these teams is going to turn into a pumpkin. As exciting as the Turks have been, I just don't think that they can pull this one off. The Croatians really have everything going for them right now and should win this one. I expect it to come down to the wire though.
Prediction of Final Score: Croatia: 1 Turkey: 0
The Netherlands vs. Russia
What you Need to Know: The Netherlands have been shockingly good this tournament, and I mean shockingly, shockingly good. Their group was easily the most difficult one, as it featured the two previous World Cup Finalists, France and Italy, and the up-start Romanian squad. Pretty much everyone expected the Dutch to be left out at this point, but they shocked everyone with a 3-0 win over Italy, followed by a 4-1 thrashing of France, and then finally a 2-0 defeat of Romania. They have scored a total of 9 goals from 7 different players, and I know that doesn't seem like a lot after watching the NBA Finals, but trust me, it's a lot, and is very impressive. The Russians on the other hand, survived what was arguably the weakest group in the tournament. They started out getting embarrassed by Spain, but rebounded with a victory over defending Champion Greece, and a surprise yesterday over Sweden.
Helpful Phrases to Sound Knowledgeable: "The Dutch defeated Romania with their second string, the Russians don't stand a chance".
What do I Think is Going to Happen: This game should not be close, I expect it to be nothing but a bloody, brutal, Slavic mess. The Russians should be proud of getting this far, as nobody expected them to make it out of the Group stage, and they should be proud of that. However, they really are going to be outmatched here by a far superior team.
Prediction of Final Score: Netherlands: 3 Russia: 1
Spain vs. Italy
What you Need to Know: The Italians are lucky, really, really lucky. After being utterly dismantled by the Dutch in the first game, the defending World Champions narrowly escaped wit ha draw against the Romanians, after they missed a penalty kick late in the game. Then, in their final game against France, a win did not even guarantee them advancing, as the Dutch could have thrown the game to Romania, which would have had the Dutch still finish first and the Romanians finish second. However, to the luck of the Italians, the Dutch were good sports about it and secured victory, even though they rested their stars. The Spanish on the other hand, had should have had a relaxing way to get here, as they opened the tournament up with a 4-1 victory over Russia, which included a David Villa hat trick. However, in their next two games they narrowly escaped with victories over Sweden and Greece respectively. The Spanish have a long history of underachieving, despite all of their talent.
Helpful Phrases to Sound Knowledgeable: "Typical Spanish, choking again", "I don't know why the Dutch didn't just through their last game", "Damn...Villa is great again"
What do I Think is Going to Happen: I am going to simply look to history here, the Spanish have a tendency to choke, and the Italians have a tendency to peak late in big tournaments. The Italians have much more recent experience in high pressure games, so I think that they edge is for the Azzuri.
Prediction of Final Score: Spain: 1 Italy: 2
Well that concludes the first round, my quick predictions for the rest of the tournament are as follows: Croatia stuns Portugal and The Netherlands defeat Italy again, however in the finals Croatia's clock ticks out as the Netherlands take home the championship.
Will I be right? Check back to find out! The first games starts in a little over 2 hours....enjoy!!!
Until next time,