The 2008 European Cup (aka Euro2008 - the third most popular sporting event in the world after the World Cup and the Olympic games according to ESPN) kicked off today in Austria and Switzerland.
The Euro cup is every four years, but I've only been following soccer since 2005, so this is the first one since I've been paying attention. International matches tends to be a lot more "defensive" (i.e. boring) than league matches, because the players don't play together that often, so there's not a lot of chemistry. And teams that represent nations come with a lot of nationalism and jingoism that is contrary to the spirit of athletic competition. That's the main reason that despite my raging Anglophilia, I'm not really "down" with England's national side. It seems to bring out the ugly National Front side of British culture (us against "the foreigners").
Luckily England didn't qualify for Euro2008, but even though it's nice to have the opportunity to watch guys kicking a ball around, I'm still not sure which country to support. I used to cheer for Holland during their World Cup runs in the 70s, so I still have a soft spot for those orange uniforms, but they don't have much of a shot. I also like Spain, since I recently visited there, and cheer against the favorites like Germany and Italy. Always cheer against Axis teams.
Here's the breakdown of the four Euro groups, with who I think will go through and who I'm pulling for in each group. Off the top of my head since I don't know about most of these teams.
Group A: Switzerland, Czech Republic, Portugal, Turkey
Since Austria and Switzerland are co-hosting the cup, they both got seeded to the finals, which is unfortunate since they're both "pants" as the Brits say. I like Portugal and the Czech Republic to advance, and am pulling for Portugal because I like watching Cristiano Ronaldo, even though I can't stand his team (ManU).
Group B: Austria, Croatia, Germany, Poland
This is Austria's group. Germany and Croatia will advance. I think the Croatians were the "good guys" in the Bosnian conflict (Milošević was a Serb), so I'm pulling for them, even though the Germans will dominate just like they did 70 years ago.
Group C: Holland, Italy, Romania, France
I'm pulling for the Clockwork Orange, but Italy and France will advance. I'm a poet and I know it.
Group D: Greece, Sweden, Spain, Russia
I like Spain in this group, since I was just there. They look like a favorite but I don't know which other team will advance. Greece are the defending champs, but the Swedes and Russians have more international stars, so they're probably stronger.
After group play, the top eight teams (two from each group) advance to a single elimination tournament, like the World Cup. The final four will be something like Germany, Italy, France, and Spain (or Portugal) and the final will be Germany and someone else. Germany will be the winner, because the finals are in Austria (a suburb of Germany) but they lost the World Cup in their own coutry so you never know.