Why Euro 2012 Is Worth Your Timeby Manon von Kaenel on Jun, 14 2012
The UEFA Euro is one of the biggest international sports tournaments in Europe and everywhere where soccer is appreciated (meaning the whole world). Unfortunately, it often takes second place on the TV set to other current sports happenings in many American households. That’s quite a shame, and here’s why that should change.
But first, a quick run-through of how the tournament is structured. This year, it is hosted by Poland and Ukraine, and pits 16 national teams from all over Europe against each other for that valued title of European Champions (which Spain currently holds since the Euro 2008). The group stage was kicked off on June 8 and, according to the scores from these round-robin matches, 2 teams from each group will continue to quarter-finals, and so on. The big final is scheduled on July 1 – remember that date! You can view a schedule of games below. But enough about that – why should you start watching the Euro 2012 NOW?
The teams: These teams had to go through months of qualifying games, and they really do represent Europe’s – and the world’s – finest. To look out for are:
1) The reigning European champions and my pick for the tournament: Spain. They’ve got the 2010 World Cup under their belt as well, and are now going for the holy trifecta. They’ve got the Barcelona midfield magicians Xavi and Andres Iniesta, the ever-so-calm manager Vincente del Bosque, the crafty spot-on passes, and perhaps the best starting 11 line-up ever in soccer history. But with their usual captain Carles Puyol and main striker David Villa out with injuries, some doubt how well this squad can live up to the sky-high expectations.
2) The most successful team in the history of the Euro (having raised the cup 3 times): Germany. They are in the “Group of Death”, vying for a place in the quarterfinals with Netherlands, Denmark, and Portugal. Their players have plenty of experience and lust for a win after losing the 2008 Euro Cup final to Spain and reaching an almost-there-but-not-quite 3rd place in the most recent World Cup. Notables are winger Mesut Ozil, veteran striker/winger Lukas Podolski and his fellow Bayern Munich stars (midfield Bastian Schweinsteiger, striker and heading genius Mario Gomez, captain and defender Phillip Lahm, and others). Joachim Low’s squad is perseverant, young, united, and strong; they have flair and are the favorite to dethrone Spain in this tournament.
3) Other notable teams: Netherlands, with their “orange army” of fans and lots of striking superpower in Arsenal star Robert Van Persie and Bayern Munich forward Arjen Robben; Portugal, with international superstar Cristiano Ronaldo; the ever-so-scandalous and defense-heavy Italy; France, starring the attacking trio of Nasri, Franck Ribéry and Karim Benzema, and looking fresh and reunited after the disaster that was World Cup 2010; and Russia, led on by their captain and attacking midfielder “Little Tsar” Andrei Arshavin.
The national pride: This tournament, unlike other tournaments during the year, is played by the national team of each country. This translates in the stadium to thousands of crazy-devoted, colorfully-painted soccer fans and strongly emotionally-invested players, and makes for very exciting matches, especially between legendary rivals like Netherlands and Germany or France and England.
The players: These are some of the best athletes in the world. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Iker Casillas (Spain), Miroslav Klose (Germany), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands), Cesc Fabregas (Spain)… they make the beautiful game beautiful (very literally). The tournament showcases plenty of individual talent, but it’s just as much about team spirit and communication/strategy. Getting on that 23-person roster is a huge honor for any soccer player, and the teamwork and passing at that level of play is incredible. Be inspired.
The upsets: Everyone loves a good underdog triumph (besides their opponent, I suppose). Already, Denmark has stunned one of the tournament favorites, Netherlands, in a 1-0 win, and the story’s not over yet. Famously, Greece won the 2004 Euro Cup on an unbelievably lucky run – in a tournament with only 16 teams, the tables can easily turn. Anything can happen!
The 90th minute: The end of the match is full of desperate runs and incredibly tense moments, and if those tense and desperate attempts translate into a goal… the excitement is indescribable. With the knockout phase soon coming up, it’s either win or go home, so those nail-biting overtime minutes and even-more-nail-biting penalty shoot-outs are serious possibilities in every match. The pressure is on!
So, check out this schedule of the upcoming games, sit back and get excited, because it’s time for Euro Cup 2012! Let us know in the comment section which team is your pick for the tournament.