The Euro 2012 soccer (I live in America; it is soccer dangnabbit!) tournament (simply: Euro 2012) kicks off tomorrow when co-host Poland takes on debt-ridden Greece. (As per the bailout deal, Greece will start out the match down by three goals.) For those of you unfamiliar to this grand event, the Euro tourney happens every four years as a stopgap for soccer fans who yearn for the World Cup. Pointing to the more concentrated talent pool of Europe, some argue that the Euro is a better event than the World Cup. This is pure horse puckey. First and foremost, this tournament leaves out the two South American superpowers (Brasil & Argentina), plus all of the colorful characters and flavor from Africa and Asia, and it leaves out the definitive capitalist soccer nation, the United States of America.
That is not to say that this is a meaningless circus – far from it! With all of the pointless exhibitions that are scheduled between national sides, the Euro offers a real competition amongst premier talent. You do not even have to wait to the knockout stages to find some insanely marquee battles. As mentioned above, I call this tourney a “stopgap,” but what a stopgap it is!
If you are a casual soccer fan, one who only watches the World Cup, or a non-fan, I urge you to at least checkout two tasty match-ups going down this weekend, then judge for yourself.
First up, we have Germany v Portugal on Saturday. Germany is among the favorites to win the tournament, while Portugal is a dark horse. The highlight of Deutschland is a wonderful, young, attacking midfield that should be one of the treats of the whole competition. Within this elite squad is Mesut Ozil, who looks like he would be better suited in a brooding emo band, but pocesses loads of creativity. He’s dreamy, but not as dreamy as Cristiano Ronaldo, who will lead the Portuguese squad. Ronaldo is a soccer phenom (who does soccer-it-up by rolling around a bunch), and would probably be considered the world’s best player, if the son of Jor-El did not ply his trade for Barcelona and Argentina. My prediction: 2-2 draw – two midfield goals by the Germans, with Portuguese strikes coming from Ronaldo and Miguel Lopes (representing the world’s greatest club, Real Betis), and, of course, a red card for the volatile Pepe.
The second match is even more delicious. On Sunday, the team with the second most World Cup crowns, Italy, will face the current World Cup champion, Spain (the tourney favorite). Italy are going through a bit of a defensive crisis – actually, they are Italian, so THIS IS A CATOSTROPHIC NIGHTMARE OF A DEFENSIVE DEBACLE!!! Yeah, Italy has some issues in the back, but are strong in the midfield. Expect them to come out in a midfield-heavy 3-5-2 formation with the attacking center point being the most amusing player in all of soccerland, Mario Balotelli. Italy’s strength is also that of the World champs. While Spain will be surely missing their top (and purest) striker, David Villa, they can line up midfielders for miles – sorry, kilos. Look for Spain to send short passes around the pitch to a dizzying degree. My prediction: 2-1 Italy, with Balotelli scoring twice, picking up five red cards, and leaving the pitch while lighting a Cuban cigar with roll of money.
If those two matches are not enough to get your goulash going, there is always gambling! Below are the high-money picks I took for the Euro. (Ed. Note: I am consistently awful at betting soccer, with the rare exception of picking Diego Forlan as the high scorer in the 2010 World Cup.) Other than these bets, I will be pulling for the only nation keeping Europe from falling into a black hole, Germany. My fandom is strictly economical. The invisible hand shall guide the Deutsch to riches!
Team to Win
Holland: 7/1 – I always pick Holland for tournaments because I enjoy their play.
Italy: 12/1 – Being chiefly a Serie A (Italian League) fan, it is the squad I am most familiar with.
Portugal: 18/1 – Ronaldo said he would bet a giant bag of cash on Portugal if he could. Hey, it is better than my other reasons.
Top Goal Scorer
Robin Van Persie: 9/1 – I am shocked he is not the odds-on favorite (Gomez).
Mario Balotelli: 25/1 – I have to put money on my favorite cartoon. But odds are, even if Italy advance to the final, he will miss games through suspension or simply leaving the tourney.
Karim Benzema: 14/1 – I have a feeling France is going to make a run in this one, and they will need Karim on target if that were to happen.
Wesley Sneijder: 33/1 – Tied for the most goals in the 2010 World Cup and is at 33/1? Yup, I will take that.
Mesut Ozil: 50/1 – I think Germany’s leading scorer will come out of the midfield.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 40/1 – Zlatan is impossible to pass up at these odds, even with Sweden in a group with France and England.