Monday, June 30, 2008

Euro 2008: That's it. Bet on the Cubs.

In the end, it wasn't much of a game, really--unless you were Spanish. Then, it was the game of a lifetime, or at least a game unmatched in 44 years.

Spain’s 1-0 win over suddenly ordinary Germany finally made a champion out of the red, black and gold. For years Spain had become a punchline—an arrogant, enigma of a punchline—failing time and time again to match results with potential.

It took just 90 minutes of effective football yesterday to change all that. Now, Spain is the most talented team in Europe and the best team too.

It’s also likely the World Cup favourite in two year’s time.

With many of the world’s powers struggling, and the tournament taking place outside of Europe and South America, there is no clear cut team to beat. You could do worse than putting a fiver down on the same final as yesterday with the same result.

But, there is a lot of football between now and then. The nature of the game that you barely have time to recover from your Euro hangover before World Cup qualifying begins. Kazakhstan and Andorra get it started in Europe on August 20 (the same day Canada starts its CONCACAF semi-final group against Jamaica in Toronto it should be noted). The champions get to wait all the way to September 6 before Bosnia-Herzegovina will get the first shot at knocking them down a notch.

There is little time for celebrating in international football. Even when you have waited 44 years.

There was one bit of bad news yesterday, when it leaked out that the tournament will likely be expanded to 24 teams in 2016. One of the great things about the Euros is how difficult it is to gain entry to. There isn’t a weak touch in the draw, which makes it a compelling three weeks.

If the field had 24 teams in it this time around (using FIFA rankings) you would have seen the likes of Northern Ireland and Bulgaria. It’s hard to see what teams of that caliber would have added.

Of course, you also would have seen England. And, you have to wonder if that’s what this is all about.


sager said...

Hey, Spain is simultaneously soccer champions of Europe and basketball champions of the world, don't forget.

Twenty-four teams in Euro? No thanks. Like John Doyle wrote in the Globe early on in the tourney, the event is better for not having the pampered, where's-the-players'-lounge Brits and their WAGs, not to mention the soccer hooligans.

Mike said...

Spain deserved the win, this German side was so hard to gauge - they played poorly in the group stage, great in the quarters and semis and then mailed it in for the final? They're still the Germans they're not going anywhere on the world stage, but Spain were the rightful winners yesterday in my opinion.

I too don't like the notion of 24 teams in the Euro Cup, it almost seems like that'll turn this into something like an "everyone gets a trophy day" with so many countries being awarded a berth in the Cup. I like the England conspiracy theory though :)

sager said...

If it goes to 24, Canada should play England, they might beat them!