Euro Update: Are We Supposed to be Excited about 1-1 Draws?

Editor’s Note: Sadly, we did have more than three views of Neil’s first soccer post, and I even got a “like” on Facebook when I linked to it last week, so I’ve given in and I’m allowing Neil to do a recap after each round of the Euro.  Don’t blame the guy if his post is boring…he’s covering soccer after all.  How exciting can you make the sports equivalent of watching grass grow sound?  Maybe if he does this first assignment well, I’ll promote him to my main WNBA blogger next.

According to Rmurdera, my article last week on why everyone should watch the Euro was the most read soccer post ever on this blog, so he asked me if I would do a quick recap now that everyone has played one game and what to look for as each team plays their second game in the group stage.

Group A
What happened: Everything went pretty much according to plan to start this group. Russia was a clear favorite in the group and they looked very good in dominating the Czech Republic. I laughed pretty hard when Rmurdera sent me a text five minutes into the Russia/Czech game saying he put a bet on Czech to win. Russia was up 3-0 about 15 minutes into the match. If only he read my post. Poland and Greece played to a very eventful draw that included horrible officiating, the home team dominating the first half, Greece scoring the equalizer down a man, and the backup Polish goalkeeper coming off the bench with no warm-ups and saving a penalty kick, which many of us may never get to see again in our lifetime.

What’s to come: Assuming Russia beats Poland in their match (not a guarantee because Poland is playing at home, but Russia looked really good in their first match), the Greece v Czech Republic match will tell us a lot about the second team to advance from this group. If either of them can get a win, that team will be in very good shape to make it out of the group stage. A draw is not the worst result for the Czech Republic, but would put serious pressure on Greece who will have to play Russia in their final group match on Saturday.

Group B
What happened: We were 16 minutes away from having giant upheaval in this group. Instead we got only above average upheaval. Denmark scored an early goal against one of the tournament favorites, Holland. Even though the Danes were exhausted from chasing Holland around, and Holland played a better game, Denmark hung on for the huge 1-0 upset. Portugal looked as if they were going to be able to hold on and force a draw with another tournament favorite, Germany, until the Germans scored a late goal and hung on for the win.

What’s to come: Again, The Netherlands were one of the three favorites (along with Germany and Spain) to potentially win this tournament. Depending on how things go on Wednesday they could be eliminated. On the other hand, it is not impossible to imagine both Portugal and The Netherlands wining on Wednesday and making for a very exciting final group day for this group on Sunday. Either way, both of the matches for this group should be great on Wednesday.

Group C
What happened: Spain and Italy, the two favorites to come out of this group at the beginning of the tournament, played to a well deserved 1-1 draw. Italy played a little better in the match but Spain is probably the better team, so the draw seemed pretty fair. Croatia more or less dominated Ireland and is now the leader of this group after the first set of matches.

What’s to come: With Spain only getting a draw and being outplayed by Italy, the most likely scenario is that they come out a little more motivated against Ireland and win easily. That makes the Croatia v Italy match on Thursday the important one for this group. Whereas Italy will probably be OK with a draw since they have Ireland in their last group match, Croatia will be more pressed to get a win as they have Spain in the last group match. A loss for either team will probably mean virtual elimination, so it will be interesting to see if the game is tied in the last thirty minutes or so whether either team risks pushing forward to try to win or would rather settle for a draw.

Group D
What happened: England and France played a fairly lackluster game (especially the English, they were very passive most of the game) and ended up with a 1-1 draw. Co-host Ukraine was able to to outlast Sweden 2-1 (all three goals came in an exciting 10-minute span) and will go into the second set of games as the group leader.

What’s to come: Much like group C, you had the two favorites to advance out of the group playing each other to a draw in game one. France will play against a home team in Ukraine on Friday, and would like a win but can probably live with a draw. England will need to be a little more aggressive and try to get a win against what will be a desperate Swedish team. England needs to avoid a situation where they would need to win what amounts to a road game against Ukraine on the last day of group matches in order to make it to the next round.

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No Basketball, No Hockey, No Problem! Everything You Wanted To Know About Euro 2012

Editor’s Note: The following post was written by infrequent blog contributor Neil “Nkilla” Gariepy.  As the WBFF Blog expands its reach, I’ll need to have more guest bloggers to keep up with my readers’ demands.  Believe it or not, this blog has been accessed by people in more than 30 countries, so a post on an international soccer competition isn’t that ridiculous.  And since Neil is the only person I know who gives a shit about this thing, I figured I’d let him write til his heart’s content.  Here we go.

When Rmurdera (pronounced are-mur-dare-a) wrote his summer TV preview the other day, I responded that he does not need sitcoms and dramas to make it to football season because it’s going to be a great sports summer with the Euro and the Olympics happening. His response: “Can you explain to me why I should care about the Euro?” Sure, Rmurdera, let me give it a shot.

What is the Euro?
This is an easy question to answer. Every four years the countries of Europe hold a soccer tournament to determine who has the best team in Europe. It’s just like the World Cup, but only for Europe.

Why should I care?
There are people who know much more about soccer than I do who are adamant that the Euro is a better soccer competition than the World Cup. Their argument is that the World Cup only allows 11 European teams to participate (out of 32 total teams), but there are more than 11 European teams in the top 32 in the world. They conclude that since the Euro has 16 European teams it is a better collection of talent than the World Cup. I am not sure I agree with this perspective, but I can see where they are coming from. Other than Brazil and Argentina, the only other countries that really have a legitimate chance to win the World Cup every four years come from Europe. Occasionally another South American team will have solid back-to-back World Cups and you may get a Japan or South Korea making some noise every once and a while, but really it is the two South American juggernauts and all of Europe that have the true legitimate chances in the World Cup.

Let me try and explain that last part a little better for this blog’s target audience. Let’s say there was a competition for the hottest woman in the world. Let’s say that competition was between 12 women. Based on pure hotness, you would probably end up with 10 Americans (Munn, Perry, Wilde, Lawrence, Stone, Fox, Lively, Johansson, Hathaway, Biel), 1 Russian (Kunis), and 1 Israeli (Refaeli). That is your top lineup for a “12 hottest women on the planet” competition. Now let’s say the competition committee decides more countries need to be included to truly be able to name the hottest woman on the planet, so only half the field can be Americans. Now you have a tournament where you have to pull out four of the Americans listed above and replace them with Misses Nigeria, South Korea, Uruguay and Egypt. Sure these women are probably beautiful, but could they really beat Jessica Biel if she was allowed in the tournament? Probably not. So those who argue the Euro is a better competition than the World Cup are the same that would argue that the “almost all American hottest woman on the planet” competition is better than the one with Miss Egypt.

Another reason you should care: There is some general animosity between almost all the countries in Europe. I think if you go back far enough you can find a war between any two European countries. Everybody hates the Germans for obvious reasons. The Czech Republic and Croatia hate their old Eastern Bloc “allies” Russia and Ukraine. Neighboring countries tend to have some extra hatred for each other: England-France, England-Ireland, Spain-Portugal, Germany-Holland. Everybody hates the Italians because they are traditionally the biggest collection of floppers. And so on. The heightened and natural dislike between some of these countries raises the competition level.

When and Where Can I Watch These Matches?
All games are on ESPN. Even better, all games are on ESPN3. Since they are in Europe, the matches will take place during “work hours” US time. What better way to make the work day go by quicker than watching four hours of soccer on your computer. There will be two matches a day during the group round through June 19th. For the quarterfinals you will have one match each day June 21-24. Semifinals are June 27 & 28, and then the final is on July 1st. If Rmurdera gets more than three readers on this post, he might let me do a quick update every few days letting everyone know which upcoming matches are important and why.

Who should I root for?
At this point you’re probably thinking, “OK, this makes sense, a highly competitive sports tournament, I’ll give this a try. But for some reason they are not letting the USA participate, even though we constantly bail them out of wars and financial crises. Who should I root for?” Let me give you a couple of options:

Heritage: Most of us have some European heritage in our family. Decide which of your great-grandparents you like the best and root for their home country.

Food: There are several varieties of food native to European countries. Pick your favorite and then root for that team. You like pizza and pasta – Italy is your team. Baguette and cheese person – go France! Tapas people are going to want to jump on the Spanish bandwagon. You are not much of an eater, you just like to drink – well you sound like an Ireland supporter. Oh, you meant hard alcohol – Russia it is. Chips, pretzels, doritos, ice cream bars, and frozen pizza is more your speed – Holland all the way!

National Anthems: Finally, you can look at the words to some of these countries’ national anthems to see if the lyrics inspire you. If you like green beaches, then you will want to cheer for Denmark (“A lovely land is ours, with beaches green about her”). You want a country that aggressively shows their hatred of other nations in their national anthem? Then you my friend are a Poland supporter (I am not going to paste the whole thing here, but let’s just say Poland calls out both Italy and France in their anthem). Feeling arrogant, then root for Portugal (their anthem alludes to how they are the greatest people and could conquer the world if they want. I guess to the Portuguese “world” = “a little sliver of land Spain let us have on their beach”). And then there is this from Ukraine:

Ukraine is not yet dead, nor its glory and freedom,

Luck will still smile on us brother-Ukrainians.

Our enemies will die, as the dew does in the sunshine,

and we, too, brothers, we’ll live happily in our land.

We’ll not spare either our souls or bodies to get freedom

I’m ordering Ukrainian flags and jerseys as fast as I can.