Monday, June 23, 2008

The Beautiful Game

I've been watching the Euro 2008 championship football (that's association football, or soccer) tournament, either on TV or online, and so far it's been a great show.

The refereeing could be better, though, but they're not Argos - they don't have a thousand eyes and in many cases their calls depend on what angle they're looking at. There's no instant replay in football, you see.

So any way, time for a quick recap as we look at each of the sides coming into the semifinals.

Germany: Favored to win the championship, they started out poorly in the groups by losing to cohost Austria. They managed to advance to the quarterfinals and beat the tar out of Portugal, 3-1. Very strong, with stars like Ballack, Podolski, Klose and Schweinsteiger.

Turkey: Turkey's been running on sheer heart and guts, finally beating Croatia on penalty kicks in order to get into the semis. Many of their star players, like Nihat, are out either due to suspensions or to injuries. There's even some speculation as to whether there are enough players left to take to the pitch.

Germany plays Turkey in a semifinal match on Wednesday. Since I'm part German I expect Germany to win, but the sentimental fave will be the Turks (they've never gotten this far before).

Russia: The Russians beat the heavily favored Netherlands side 3-1 in extra time to advance; like the Turks this is about the farthest they've managed to get. Very strong side, with Kolodin and Pavlyuchenko showing speed, strength and accuracy. I expect them to win.

Spain: Spain sent the Italians home yesterday with a match that went scoreless through regulation and both extra periods, finally deciding the issue on penalty kicks. Heavy strikers such as Fabregas, David Villa and Torres will give the Russians a run for their money.

Russia faces Spain on Thursday.

It's been great fun to watch all of the matches, and I'm amazed that there have been so few injuries (soccer players wear very little protective gear, and their shoes have cleats that can cause real harm if used improperly).

My picks for the final will be Russia and Germany. Russia will fly right at Spain, trusting to their swarming offense to overpower the Spanish defense; Germany might have some trouble out of the Turkish side, but since they'll be playing a largely scratch team Ballack & Co. will win.

Eventual winner? My pick is Germany.

I'll update this the day before the final.


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