From the mind-boggling stadiums to the tension-fuelled grudge games, Euro 2012 kicks off in just 4 days and I simply cannot wait. Here are 10 reasons why the tournament is a must-see this summer!
Anyone can win the trophy
It would take a fool to completely rule out the chance of a minnow triumphing this summer. Miraculous 80-1 shots Greece shocked us all in 2004, and both Denmark (1992) and the Czechs (1976) have also pulled off unlikely Euro wins. With nine different champions from 13 competitions, and only Germany, Spain and France winning it more than once, this is the most unpredictable of all International tournaments.
The longer format means a true outsider has never won a World Cup, with eight teams monopolising its 19 tournaments, while Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay boss the Copa America. With a bit of luck and the right tactics, every nation fancies their chances of escaping the group stages here and progressing to the latter rounds.
No involvement from FIFA
The World Cup is still the greatest show on earth, but FIFA’s frankly surreal behaviour of late (potential winter events, figures of £138bn being bandied about for air-conditioned stadiums in the desert) means it’s refreshing to enjoy a tournament free of Sepp Blatter. Michel Platini maybe be a mini-Sepp of sorts – his decision to raise the number of teams to 24 for 2016’s competition may prove to be a mistake – but his scope for meddling is lessened considerably by the fact the tournament is restricted to Europe.
A decent ball
The Jabulani caused huge problems throughout the last World Cup. The majority of players struggled to control its swerve as it flew wherever it so pleased. Diego Forlan was the only player who really mastered the technique needed to control the thing.
For this tournament, Adidas have returned to a more familiar style – the Tango 12 arrives as the most tested ball of all time. Considering the ball is the most important part of technology needed in the game. Hopefully this time round, Europe’s top players will feel at ease when playing with the Tango 12, allowing them to perform at the top of their game.
Sensible kick-off times
The reality of the 2014 Brazil World Cup for British armchair viewers will be numerous midnight and 2am kick-offs. The Euros, however, have refreshingly convenient kick-offs – Ukraine is only a couple of hours ahead – meaning none of the games can be avoided.
Two ‘groups of death’
With Germany, Holland, Portugal and Denmark in Group B alongside Spain, Italy, Croatia and Republic of Ireland in Group C, this stage of the competition should be a cracker. England’s group isn’t half bad either.
Let’s be honest: France winning in 1988 was fun, and Zidane headbutting Materazzi in 2006 was an unforgettable ‘wow’ moment, but there hasn’t been a genuinely enthralling World Cup final since 1986. The Euro end games have been far more exciting.
Recall the stunning quality of France vs Italy in 2000, the Danish and Greek fairy tales of 1992 and 2004, the genius of Platini in the 1984 final , Van Basten and Gullit’s majesty in 1988, Spain breaking their trophy drought in 2008 – all of these matches have either been absorbing spectacles or had a dramatic underdog narrative. We hope for more of the same this summer.
There really are no easy games
Ten of the world’s top 15 sides are performing in the tournament, and there are no lowly ranked teams to lower the quality of the competition.
At Euro 2008, only four games were won by 3 goals – two of them Spain – and none by four or more.
In this years fixtures there are no predictable victories – this just adds to the excitement.
Great window shopping
New stars are born at every European championship, and a host of young stars will look to impress this summer for the chance to move the Europe’s biggest clubs. In the past this category has included the likes of Andrei Arshavin and Mesut Ozil.
Along those looking to give themselves global profiles is Demarks Christian Eriksen – already the youngest ever scorer in Euro qualifiers after netting against Iceland – Germany midfielder Mario Gotze, hailed as the best ever German prospect by Matthias Sammer, and clinical CSKA Moscow and Russia forward Alan Dzagoev.
There’s also young Greek keeper Stefanos Kapino , Yann M’Vila of France. Holland’s Kevin Strootman, Ivan Perisic of Croatia, Spain’s Thiago Alcantara and plenty more. I’m even excited to see several of England’s youngsters, especially Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Seriously impressive stadiums
With each passing tournament, the venues involved become more and more impressive. This time round, we can marvel at all eight arenas – 4 in Poland – 4 in Ukraine.
These include the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw, Lviv Stadium, the new Polish National Stadium in Warsaw and the PGE Arena in Gdansk.
Then there’s the technological marvels of the Olympic stadium in Kiev (Venue of the final) – which has been given a huge makeover and transparent roof – and the £262million, infrared-heated Donbass Arena in Donetsk.
England have a chance of winning?
England have never made it to a European Championship final, let alone won it. But as one of the best seven sides in a 16-team tournament, and with an eminently winnable group, a decent run is far from beyond hope.
The Three Lions have shown their ability in friendly wins against the likes of Spain and Sweden in the past year. But tournament football – with the pressure and expectations of a nation playing on the minds of the whole squad – is a different matter. Recently, however, these expectations seem to have been lifted – and with Hodgson as the new head coach, maybe they have a good chance. Hopefully Roy can be the man to channel any remaining pressure into positive results.
England will be faced with eliminating at least two of the World’s best sides if they wish to win the tournament. Many of the teams who didn’t play well at the last World Cup (such as France and Italy) will be equally determined to return to the top of their games. But who knows, with a bit of luck it could just be England’s year. It’s certainly about time!
Please comment with your thoughts and opinions!