Thursday, June 26, 2008

Euro 2008

These past three weeks has been paradise for those of us who love what most of the world calls football. After almost two years of qualifying play, the best 16 teams in Europe got together in Switzerland and Austria to see who was best. It has been a great tournament. And because of enlightened programming by ESPN/ABC every game has been telecast live in the U.S.

Most people expected the perennial top teams – Italy, France, the Netherlands, and Germany – to do well, and except for France they all made it into the quarterfinals. The over-achieving surprises were Croatia, Russia and especially Turkey. The Turks came from behind three times with late-game heroics to win and only lost a semifinal to Germany in the final minute. The Spanish, who have a history of collapsing when it counts, broke their jinx and looked good. They’ll play Germany in the final on Sunday.

England wasn’t there. In what was a national humiliation, they didn’t qualify. It cost the coach his job. A totally appropriate consequence in my view. The country went into mourning. Also a totally appropriate consequence. So this under-achieving European football powerhouse took the summer off.

I went into Euro 2008 wanting Italy to win. But my preferences changed as the games unfolded. I thought I’d like Germany and Russia to do badly, but the quality of their play modified my view – at least a little. I haven’t forgiven the Croats for supporting the Nazis, but I found the team’s quality and the enthusiasm and sportsmanship of their young coach, Slaven Bilic, very attractive. I was glad to see Italy knock out France. I was impressed by the Dutch. I wasn’t distraught when Spain eliminated Italy, because the Spaniards were clearly the best team. And like everyone, partisan and neutral alike, I fell in love with the Turks.

I have a clear favorite in the final – Spain. That would top it off nicely, thank you very much.


Blogger Charlton13 said...

One thing leads to another...My wife and I just recently became affiliated with the Chelko Foundation and in learning more about who he was I came across your blog, and then across your post on Euro 2008.

One thing always leads to another.

Anyway, Euro 2008. Some say disappointment, but one of the best teams won it.

I had hopes for the Turks, I pulled for the Russians, basically anyone who was an underdog had my heart.

The Dutch qualified brilliantly and repeated so much history in so little was like 1974 and 1978 all over again.

As for your point that the Croats allied with the Nazis, hmmm, when do we drop our connection to the past in hopes of embracing a better future.

I say Croatia, you think Nazi partners.

You say Croatia and I think, 1998, on of the newest National teams, finishing 2nd to Argentina in group play, followed by a thrashing of giants in Knockout play; Romania 1-0, Germany 3-0 (shouldn't that count for some restitution), a narrow loss to France 2-1, and a victory over the Dutch 2-1 for third place, not to mention Davor Suker's unselfish play that could have cost him the golden boot, but he got it anyway.

So, why soccer? What's the point?

I've been hanging around an office with guys who saw Euro 2008 as the "flopping world championships" (in reference to the "diving"), but I see the game that heals all wounds.

Damn near every kid in the world knows Ronaldo, most of them know Zidane.

So was it your connection Paul Chelko that got me to write or was it your Croatia comment? Don't know.

Look forward to seeing more of your blogs and keep an eye out for The Chelko Foundations newest project:
Project Authentic Beauty.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Charlton 13,

Good football summary. Agreement aside, a pleasure to listen to a knowledgable fan.


11:30 AM  

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