Well, I don’t know about you, but my Euro 2012 bracket is shot. Small price to pay for what has turned out to be one hell of a tournament. Here are some stray thoughts on the Euro so far. (Or you can skip straight to the Group Stage results and Quarterfinal schedule by clicking here.)
• Greece squeaked through the Group Stage on sheer will alone. The country is in turmoil from an economic mess compounded by political instability. Workers haven’t been paid in weeks. And I speculate that the Greek squad had to find lodgings for the tournament on Couchsurfing.org.
The European Championship could mean everything – hope, inspiration, confidence and prize money – and the team put it all out there. However, their chances against the German juggernaut is a bit David against Goliath, and not a little ironic given that Germany is the biggest contributor to the Eurozone bailout, which was triggered by the Greek recession. At least the headlines for this quarterfinal matchup should be fun.
Unfortunately, Greece isn’t the only team in the Hunger Games Euro 2012 that could use the cash to send back home. Portugal and Spain are also in the midst of extensive austerity measures. Ireland, as well. But the boys in green are on their way back to the island after a pathetic, error-prone display. Lucky for them, their ever-optimistic fans seem to be taking defeat in good-humored stride.
• Cohost Ukraine provided the biggest thrills of the tournament. Team captain and national hero Andriy Shevchenko, in his last international hurrah, led a Disney-style comeback against Sweden that roused a stadium and excited millions around the world. Even viewers like me who had written off the #52-ranked squad as a non-competitor suddenly found themselves cheering fervently for the underdogs. Only two host nations have ever gone on to win the Euro: Spain in 1964 and France in 1984.
After a loss to France in game two, Ukraine needed a win against England in game three. Despite dominating possession, Ukraine struggled to finish and lost momentum after a goal was disallowed in the 62nd minute. The controversial call renewed cries for goal-line technology, a necessity FIFA president Sepp Blatter affirmed on Wednesday. Video footage caught what the goal-line referees couldn’t – the ball crossing the line before John Terry cleared it. The persistent, if unlucky, Ukrainian underdogs lost 1-0.
• The Netherlands drew the short stick in the “Which Team Gets to Fall Apart” game this year. Every big tourny sees at least one of the big boys fail miserably – and occasionally hilariously. (Come on, like these antics didn’t crack you up. Karma, baby.) Italy had the last World Cup. France managed the feat in Euro 2008 AND World Cup 2010. England didn’t even qualify for the Euro in 2008. This year it was the Dutch. As one fan so aptly tweeted before the long-time rivals met in game two: “Prediction: Netherlands run around beautifully playing with style, panache & skill. Germany wins.” And so it went.
• One last shocker: Spain’s Fernando Torres scored. Twice.
✓ Czech Republic – 6
✓ Greece – 4
Russia – 4
Poland – 2
✓ Germany – 9
✓ Portugal – 6
Denmark – 3
Netherlands – 0
✓ Spain – 7
✓ Italy – 5
Croatia – 4
Ireland – 0
✓ England – 7
✓ France – 4
Ukraine – 3
Sweden – 3
Euro 2012 Quarterfinals Schedule
Thursday, June 21
2:45pm — Quarterfinal I: Czech Republic vs. Portugal (ESPN)
Friday, June 22
2:45pm — Quarterfinal II: Germany vs. Greece (ESPN)
Saturday, June 23
2:45pm — Quarterfinal III: Spain vs. France (ESPN2)
Sunday, June 24
2:45pm — Quarterfinal IV: England vs. Italy (ESPN)
Euro 2012 Semifinals Schedule
Wednesday, June 27 — 2:45pm — Semifinal I: Portugal vs. Spain (ESPN)
Thursday, June 28 — 2:45pm — Semifinal II: Germany vs. Italy (ESPN)
Euro 2012 Final Schedule
Sunday, July 1 — 2:30p — Euro 2012 Final: Spain vs Italy (ESPN)