Soccer is totally for pussies
June in an even numbered year for soccer fans is a great time to be alive because either the World Cup or the European Championship is happening. For those of you who don't know what the World Cup is, you are a hopeless person and shouldn't be allowed to procreate. The Euro, however, flies way under the radar for most American sports fans. It is essentially the World Cup for Europe and is taken almost as seriously there. And since European teams are consistently some of the best in the world, over the next few weeks, you are in for some of the best soccer ever.
First things first, the 16 teams are divided into 4 groups. Everyone plays each other and the top 2 teams in each group advance to the playoff round(I'm sure there is some fancy European word for it). My predictions are based mostly on how much fun I had in the participating countries and a little bit on the actual skill of the teams. Here's the breakdown:
What God drinks
Group A- Switzerland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Turkey
Yeah, Turkey is part of Europe now, I know its weird. I remember how much all the Germans I met hated the Turks, so they cant be all bad. The Czech Republic will always hold a special place in my heart, as all the Budvar I drank there probably damaged my aorta in some way. I guess a special place on my liver would be more accurate. Speaking of Czech beer, if you live in New York and haven't been to the Radegast Beer Hall in Williamsburg(thats in Brooklyn, for all you Manhattanites)you are missing out. One of the best bars in the city. I'm sort of surprised the notoriously xenophobic Swiss are allowing this tournament to happen in their country, I'm sure the guy who's job it is to blow up all the tunnels into the country in case of attack will be on high alert throughout the tournament. I mean, these guys just joined the UN like 5 years ago. And you thought Cheney and W hated the UN. As for the soccer side of this, Portugal has a lot of flashy players, led by the Manchester United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. Link for the ladies. And for the guys, these were/are his last 3 girlfriends: Gemma Atkinson, Merche Romero, Nereida Romero. Guy gets a lot of shit for flopping and being a playboy, but hes a pretty solid bet to lead his team out of the group, right behind the Czech Republic.
Germans always support the national team
Group B- Austria, Croatia, Germany, Poland
Croatia gets the prize for being the only country Germany didn't invade in WW2 in this group. But I have a feeling things will pretty much go as they did in 1939 in this group. I only stopped briefly in Austria, long enough to change trains and drink a beer at 1030am. Sounds odd, but I wasn't the only one at the bar. Germany, however, rocked. Between trips to concentration camps and looking at the bitchin Soviet war monuments, the beer, sausage and intensely strict rule following populace made me feel like a welcomed guest. Germany is also a perennial soccer power, so look to them to advance, with Poland warily following behind.
Italian Supermodel at the beach
Group C- Holland, Italy, Romania, France
Every tournament has a "Group of Death", where the teams that don't advance are killed at the end of their final game. HA, I wish! That would make any sport 4-5x more entertaining. No, this is the Group of Death because there is no way that Holland or Romania has a chance. The Netherlands is a great place, and despite their coddling of radical religious extremists, would be my #1 choice for emigration if I ever got deported. I mean, all the fun stuff is legal, everyone speaks English and entry level jobs as hookers and pickpockets abound. I got nothing on Romania really. I hung out with a Romanian sugar mama in Rome who told me that the only time she got to eat oranges growing up was at Christmas. Yay communism! France and Italy are the powers here, and look for their game to be intense after the World Cup Final in 2006. The Italians are a grimy, dirty team who cheat their way to wins, not unlike their citizens. I like the French team generally, which may come as a surprise to anyone who's had a political discussion with me in the past 10 years. These two will advance and probably meet up again in the semifinals.
Spain, where bulls go to die
Group D- Greece, Sweden, Spain, Russia
Spain is the most badass place on Earth. People there know how to get down and have a good time, and as a result have the lowest productivity of any country in Europe. And they just don't care, all they wanna do is dance. Ive got nothing but respect for that. Ive never been to Russia, but I spent 9 years as a child afraid they would blow me up with nukes and are now controlled by a guy who...I think wants to do that again. So, I'm not rooting for them. This will be a competitive group, with Spain pacing the other teams. Greece won the tourney in 2004, which came as a total shock to the rest of Europe, as they hadn't won anything since the battle of Thermopylae. Don't expect them to repeat even though they had a rather easy time qualifying. Spain will win this group and Greece will squeak by to get beat in the second round.