The American’s Guide to Adopting a (European) Football Team: Euro 2012 Edition (Part 3)

Alrighty sports fans, this is the final installment of my Euro 2012 primer for Americans who don't know shit about football.  The games get under way in just under 12 hours, and I am freakin stoked. Cheers!

For the final part of this guide, I've broken the remaining 8 teams out by group.  I've also posted this image I snagged from soccernet.com, because it is absolutely mental.  While Schweinsteiger and Xavi guard the flanks, Balotelli uses the Force to levitate one ball while Ronaldo fires another out of his cyborg cannon leg. 

Oh, and Robin van Persie?  Well, he's got a jetpack.  

Best. Graphic. Ever.

Group A:

Poland: One of the host countries for this year’s tournament, the Poles have every chance of riding their home field advantage into the knockout rounds.  Watch out for Robert Lewandowski in attack, the Manchester United target scored 22 times for his club team Borussia Dortmund in the German league this year.  Another one to watch is Łukasz Piszczek, who also plays for Borussia Dortmund, and is arguably the best right back in the Bundesliga.  The final key cog is goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny of English team Arsenal, who is the subject of a humorous .GIF I have displayed below.

Having home field advantage for three games in an international tournament will provide Poland with a huge lift, so despite having the weakest squad in the group on paper, don’t be surprised if they make it out alive.

Unless you’re Polish, enjoy being the butt of jokes that aren’t funny, or are the contrarian class clown, you’ll probably cheer for someone else.

Czech Republic: The Czech team is coming down from the rarefied heights of a legitimate Golden Generation to a more sober existence in the middle of the pack in Europe.  Players to watch are Milan Baros, who is a top shelf striker when he’s healthy and playing well (neither of which seems to be true of him at the moment), Tomas Rosicky, who had a good year in midfield for his club team Arsenal, and goalkeeper Petr Cech, who has been in the conversation about the best goalie in the world for the last several years.

At the last several major tournaments the Czechs have made an impression, and have a history of going deep into the knockout stages.  Unfortunately, they lack players with that experience as well as legitimate go-to threats to score.  It’ll be a big ask for this rebuilding team to make it out of the round.

The Czech team has a fine pedigree, so despite its steep decline into irrelevance, wannabe aristocrats and royalists should find themselves with a good team to root for.

Greece: The Greeks are derided for their defensive counterattacking style, but it won them the Euros in 2004, so they seem to know what they’re doing.  They are an older team, and will rely heavily on striker Giorgios Samaras to poach goals whenever possible.  Kyriakos Papadopoulos is one of the young guns in the side and will be looking to make an impact in defense.  Veteran midfielder Giorgos Karagounis has loads of experience and the Greeks will need every inch of it.

The Greeks...man they are really boring to watch.  Giorgios Samaras does look a bit like Jesus though, so if you're into that sort of thing, or cheering for guys who like like they should be schlepping falafel instead of playing footy, I guess this is your team.  Who knew?

Group B

Denmark: Poor Denmark.  Despite having a strong squad anchored by top talent like Christian Poulsen, Dennis Rommedahl, and Daniel Agger (oh FINE and Nicklas Bendtner), the Danes have found themselves smack dab in the middle of the Group of Death.  Games against Holland, Portugal, and Germany will all be brutal tests, with the likelihood being a group stage exit.

This is a quality side, and I will definitely be cheering for them within the group after their first game against the Dutch.  It’s only a bold man or a Dane who would claim them as their first choice to support, however.

Group C

Croatia: Head coach who smokes, red and white-checkered jerseys, and Luka Modric are three reasons that Croatia are the hipster pick of this tournament.  Full of quality but less attractive than their Group C rivals Spain and Italy, Croatia are the edgy pick to the sure things and the sentimental default (Ireland).  The Croats are fairly well loaded with experienced talent: Darijo Srna, the captain, has vast international and top club level experience and will be the pillar that holds it all up.  Luka Modrić, one of the most gifted playmakers in the game, will play just in front of him with Brazilian transplant Eduardo and Nikica Jelavić try to find the goals. 

Croatia are a good side, and they are completely capable of seizing one of the two qualifying spots for the knockout stage should the Italian malaise continue or the wheels fall off for Spain. 

The cultured choice in this group of easy fan favorites, Croatia are the perfect team for people who are fans of terrible bands that haven’t released an album yet (because they're terrible), and also pay money for vintage clothes.  Do you know what vintage means you hipster spaz?  It means old.  Which generally means used.  You’re wearing old used clothes.  You’re so fucking cool.


Ireland: The Irish are going to have a rough time in this group.  They might be able to get one good result, but it seems unlikely that they’re going to make it to the later rounds.  They do have some talent: Shane Long had a breakout season for his club team in England, West Brom, but he is the lone young gun surrounded by a cadre of aging stars like Shay Given, Richard Dunne, John O’Shea, Damien Duff, and Robbie Keane. 

While it’s fair to wonder if they’ve got enough left in the tank after a long season, this is Ireland’s first major tournament since 2002, so you can be sure that the old dogs will give everything they have for both their team and their countrymen.  The fans will also be a force, with an estimated 30,000 Irish travelling with their team.   

Ireland are a sentimental favorite of public inebriants the world over, and this tournament will be no different, but if you’re in it for the footy, and Ireland do pull off a couple miracles, it will be a magical time to be a fan.  As they say in England, emotional scenes.

Group D

Sweden: The Swedes have a wealth of attacking talent but are a little short on the defensive side of the ball in this tournament.  Luckily, with the exception of the French, neither England nor Ukraine look likely to score many goals, so for Sweden the best defense may be a potent offense.  Sebastian Larsson, Johan Elmander, Ola Toivonen, and rising star Rasmus Elm will need to provide some of that offense, but when it comes right down to it, right down to the bare bones, to the nitty gritty, you really only need to know one glorious word: Zlatan (if you’re a stickler for convention, his full name is Zlatan Ibrahimovic). 

This team will live and die by the performances of their captain, which is a double-edged sword: it is good, because Zlatan can do things on the field that maybe only one or two other people on the planet can do.  It is bad, because he never seems to do these things in big games.   

Sweden are a perfect team for those seeking to worship a cult of personality: you do not cheer for Sweden, only Zlatan.                 

Ukraine: Bringing up the rear, the Ukrainians are led out by 35 year old Andriy Shevchenko, who in his prime was one of the best strikers on the planet for a series of very good AC Milan teams.  Now, he is well past it, as they say in England, and the fact that he is in the starting lineup is an indication of the difficulty the second host nation is going to endure.  The other star forward for the Ukrainians is Andriy Voronin, who played well enough in Ukraine to earn a move to Liverpool in England, where he failed spectacularly.  His career has recovered somewhat at Mainz in the German league, but he, like Shevchenkco, is also not in the same class as most of the other attackers in the tournament.

So…reasons to cheer for Ukraine…reasons to cheer for Ukraine…reasons…You know what, the Ukraine have had it pretty rough the past century, what with the Russian Empire and then the Soviets, so let’s just give them a break, huh?  Come on.  You guys are dicks.

Whew!  Well I'd love to thank someone for helping me out with these posts, but I can't, because I did all that shit myself.  For real though, this tournament is one of the world's great sports spectacles, and it makes it way more fun when you have a team to support and make you feel part of it all.  

Enjoy your football America!

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