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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Up the Euros!

As I was thinking about what to blog on this morning - after all, it's been several weeks since my last missive - I considered several topics. Nothing really reached out and grabbed my interest; then I remembered that there are major events happening in Europe.

Naturally, the majority of you reading this will immediately believe that this blog is about the ongoing financial crises that are wracking the economies of several members of the European Union. That is of tremendous concern, not just to the citizens of those countries, but to citizens all over the world - especially in the US where our own financial fragility could be further weakened by the collapse of Greek or Spanish economies.

However, as we are wont (to do), many of us have put aside worries over confusing and contradictory reports on the weakness of the European monetary system and focused on another major event in Europe: The 2012 European Football Championships!

Yes, it's time for football (soccer, to my heathen brothers and sisters in North America) to once again save us from the ravages of worry, taking our minds off pressing economic concerns and allowing us - at least for a few weeks - to forget our troubles and enjoy some world-class sport.

                  Spain bid Adios to the Soviets in the 1964 final

These are not your dad's Euros; this is 2012, and professional football is a global game now. In fact, this year's tournament is being co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland - very much out from under Soviet influence these days.

This year's Euros are chock full of global talent as sixteen countries vie for the coveted Henri Delaunay Cup and the right to call themselves, 'Kings of Europe'. Reigning champions Spain are in and considered by many pundits as the favorites once again. In 2008, Fernando Torres, now with Chelsea FC, scored the winning goal for the Spaniards. Torres is back on the pitch for Vicente del Bosque's stacked side.

But Spain won't walk away as re-crowned kings without a battle. Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, and even somewhat home favorites Russia are all looking very strong. And of course, as we learned in 2004, even the longest shot can win; and the Greeks are in the mix again this year, salvaging a hard-fought draw against the Biale Orly (white eagles) of co-hosts Poland in the opening match yesterday.

In football, we don't get a Super Bowl every year, unless you count the UEFA Champion's League or one of the major European league championships. The World Cup happens every four years and will played next in 2014, hosted by perennial world powers Brasil. So hats off to UEFA for giving us the Euros in between - I, for one, will enjoy this year's tournament since it is being broadcast on ESPN - finally!

Today - the second day of the tournament - features two unbelievable match-ups from what is known as this year's Group of Death. Germany plays Portugal, who feature one of the two best players on the planet: Cristiano Ronaldo, aka CR7.

It's tough finding a good, short video that clearly shows this man's skill on the ball. Hopefully you get some sense of what a special player CR7 is from this one.

Still - it takes eleven players to make a team, and even Ronaldo won't win the Euros all by himself.

The other GoD (Group of Death) game today features Denmark against the Netherlands. Only the top two teams from each group advance to the quarterfinals. The Netherlands are just as stacked as Spain, Germany and others, their roster full of players who are at the top of their games in all the top leagues around Europe. On paper they should spank Denmark but on any given day...

About an hour from now, you'll find me in front of the television thanks to ESPN warming up with the Danes against the Oranje. That tasty appetizer is followed by today's main course: Germany vs. Portugal.

I'll try and get some laundry done today in between games and at halftime...maybe.

It's a great day for football!


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