Written 5 June 2008.
Hello SoccerBall fans,
Due to a contractual agreement with some of my friends I can now only refer to association football by the above name. In fact, where I wrote ‘association football’ in the last sentence I actually meant ‘association rugby league’. I know it’s confusing, but these are troubled times, after all, a major football tournament is starting this weekend and Germany aren’t favourites. Oh, wait…
That’s right loyal subjects, Euro2008 kicks off this week in Austerland, and you can expect all the Swissteria normally associated with these championships. The true soccerball fan, and the true racist, will tell you that this tournament is actually a lot better than the World Cup because, conveniently, countries like Togo, Saudi Arabia and Costa Rica aren’t in Europe. Unfortunately, despite Germany’s best efforts, Poland, Russia and Switzerland still are, so there will be time to catch up on your yawning once the games get under way.
As anyone who breathed round November last year will know, Ingerland has failed to qualify. All they needed was a draw from their final game, at home to Croatia. They looked good for a 2-2 before Lamps, Roonaldoey and co thought, “nah, I fancy a trip to Blackpool Pleasure Beach this Summer”. Also not qualifying were Whales, Scumland and Borelands North and Free. It’s a tough time for the home countries and an even tougher time for the colonies. I’m lucky, there’s some French blood in me about 20 generations back, but who is Australia’s Sports Minister going for? I rang up Kate Ellis’ office and asked. Let’s hope I get a reply before I finish writing this.
For those who don’t know much about soccerball outside the UK, the players are all soft one-trick ponies who like falling over, waggling their fingers at the ref and winning major trophies. The European Championships dates back to 1960 and has been propping up minor soccerballing nations ever since. Along with the obligatory Germanic triumphs, which we’re happy to give them in return for not winning World Wars, the honour board is littered with victories from such luminaries as the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Greece and Denmark. This last world soccerballing power won the 1992 tournament despite not even qualifying for the finals. Gives hope to Luxembourg.
Even though the home countries are spending the summer cleaning the dirt out from under their fingernails, the British leagues are well-represented, with all the decent players from your favourite clubs being called up to play for the country of their birth or, in the case of Eduardo, not play for the country not of their birth.
Anyways, it’s set to be a great three weeks of soccerball, so get out your wallets and get ready the splash the cash around…
Fancy a meal in Swiss restaurant? Wash the Turkey down with Port and make sure you pay by Czech.
All witty puns aside, this should actually be an entertaining group. Portugal and Turkey are all about attacking football, the Czechs are technically brilliant and the home crowd should encourage the Swiss to get forward, although I daresay goals are out of the question.
For individual match betting, I predict a fiery encounter between Portugal and Turkey, and red card betting should prove lucrative. The Czechs should snatch a draw with Portugal and be too good for Turkey and Switzerland, who will probably draw every game 0-0.
Suggested Bets: Portugal to win Group A; Czech Republic to qualify for second round.
(CP: Portugal did win Group A, though Turkey pipped the Czechs to second.)
Watch out Franz Ferdinand! Those crafty Prussians are back to take the Empire and the Balkans.
In a group that would make Gavrilo Princip’s hand turn black, two of soccerball’s great rivalries will be played out, with Croatia running interference. The Vistula Cup will be up for grabs when Germany crosses into the Polish half, while Hun pride is on the line when Germany takes on Austria. Croatia has the ability to upset the apple crumble cart, but can they bring down an empire? That question is not rhetorical, I expect you all to write in answering, ‘yes’, with all your most anti-Germanic fervour. (Whilst researching this paragraph, I learnt that Franz Ferdinand spent the summer of 1893 hunting kangaroos and emus in Australia. The more you know.)
Suggested Bet: Germany to win Group B (unfortunately); Croatia to qualify for second round.
(CP: It ended up the other way round, with Croatia topping the group and Germany in second.)
The Ultimate Group of Death by Overexposure to Fantastic Flowing Soccerball.
At the time of the draw for the group stages of Euro 2008 there was a 25% chance that this group would include Germany, instead of Romania, along with France, Italy and the Netherlands. Only God, and by God I mean me, knows how I could possibly make my banner headline more enthusiastic, and that would be by having a go at Germans.
Romania isn’t that bad actually. Currently ranked #12 by FIFA in terms of soccerball ability and #1 by ME in terms of I’dneverwanttogothereability, Romania boasts some world class players including, but not limited to, Razvan Cocis, Mirel Radoi and the unquestionable talents of Inverness Caledonian Thistle goalsneak Marius Niculae. This team is held together much in the same way as an Eastern European drug syndicate, that is, by Adrian Mutu.
We already know enough about world champions Italy and almost world champions France. The Dutch like to play good, lose bad.
Suggested Bet: The Netherlands to win group C; Romania to qualify for second round.
(CP: The Netherlands did win Group C, though Italy instead of Romania came second.)
The group of bored to death, formerly known as the group of sleep.
Don’t let the presence of Spain fool you, the sunshine marauders are absolute pants at international soccerball. Meetings in Geneva are currently in session to determine whether forcing people to watch these matches constitutes a human rights violation. But if you absolutely must know whether Sweden is playing two holding midfielders, whether Greece has developed second secret longball strategy or if Russia are even going to turn up when they’re clearly not wanted, then I guess you’re as bored with living as I am. Betting generally turns dull soccerball matches into a 90-minute version of that Egyptian Prince poker machine, so get out your $1 coins and head for the nearest Setanta Sports Venue.
Suggested Bet: Patrick to accidentally commit suicide during Russia vs Greece. (For the sake of going for all four quarterfinalists, let’s have Spain and Russia.)
(CP: Patrick survived this Group to see his prediction come true)
And so to the latter stages. I like Portugal, Germany, Romania and the Netherlands for the semis (snigger), and where I write ‘like’ I obviously mean hate because no-one could possibly ever like any of those teams.
From there I think Portugal will win. Cristiano Ronaldo has proven he can single-handedly win a League/Champs League double and if he’s anywhere near that sort of form they’ll be partying on the streets of Haberfield in just over three weeks. And Longueville.
(CP: The semifinalists were Germany, Turkey, Russia and Spain. Spain beat Germany 1-0 in the final.)
PS: Kate Ellis’ office didn’t return my call.