I’ve been looking forward to the tournament for weeks. I raved about the Euros on the Times Goal blog earlier this week (comments welcome there) and will undoubtedly write more for the Times’ soccer site, with all its resources.
In the meantime, I am putting up this entry as sort of an experiment, to keep it open for the next 24 days. I welcome my friends – anybody -- to comment on whatever happens. Or just watch the Euros and get outdoors as much as possible and do all the other good things at this time of year.
I’m heading to the Meadowlands Saturday for Brazil-Argentina and will file for the Sunday paper.
A few thoughts about the Euros:
One thing I noticed in writing my Times essay was that surprising teams have won the Euros – Denmark in 1992, Greece in 2004. And other fans wrote about teams like Turkey that had their wonderful runs.
Conversely, when you think about it, the Euros are a very tough tournament because they are the 16 survivors of European qualifying. There are few soft spots, as there can be in the World Cup, with its qualifiers from other regions.
Sometimes the Euros can be a jumping-off point for a new dynasty, the way 2008 was for Spain. But given the hideous year-round schedule of soccer, dynasties do not last long. Remember how France won the World Cup in 1998 and then the Euros in 2000? I was sitting in Seoul in 2002 watching television as the French team got off the bus for a warmup – and those guys looked dead, and subsequently played that way. This sport chews you up.
No nation has ever won the Euro championship twice in a row. Tough league.
There are some great matchups in the first four days:
Friday: Russia-Czech Republic. (Martina Navratilova beat a Soviet junior right after the clampdown of 1968 and she marched to the net and said in Russian: “You need a tank to beat me.”)
Saturday: The Group of Death. Germany-Portugal right away. Good enough to be a semifinal.
Sunday: Spain-Italy. I think I am going to be driving while that one is on. Unless...
Monday: England-France. A tale of two anciens régimes.
Love to hear your reactions from now through the finals.
Welcome to World Cup 2022, the most absurd thing that the routinely absurd world of sports has ever produced.
Those extreme descriptions were what virtually the entire world, save for those who had walked off with bags of cash from Qatar, called the awarding of soccer’s greatest event to the incredibly tiny, incredibly wealthy country back in 2010.
Twelve years ago, many were convinced this event couldn’t possibly happen: staging the world’s biggest sporting event in a country the size of Connecticut, one with zero soccer culture and even less soccer infrastructure? The tournament couldn’t possibly take place in 120-degree heat, and FIFA, the governing body of soccer, most certainly wouldn’t upend football leagues around the world to change the traditional summer schedule, could it?
And, for God’s sake, what about the beer?
Those were just the logistical concerns. The moral concerns are far more distressing. FIFA, so busy paying lip service to equality, couldn’t possibly expect the world to embrace a country where you could go to prison for being gay, where women’s rights are severely curtailed and female victims of sexual assault could go to prison, charged with engaging in extramarital sex. And all those questions came before the global realization that the World Cup was being built on the backs of migrant labor: modern-day slaves held in Qatar with virtually no rights, low wages and no ability to leave. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s stated population of 3 million. The country’s native-born equal about 300,000, or roughly the size of Anaheim.
---Ann Killion, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.