Monday, June 11, 2012

An Ignorant Fan's Soccer Enlightenment

It has been well documented on this blog that my two least favorite sports to watch are basketball (because they score too much) and soccer (because they score too little). However, with the NBA Finals looming, I will be exposed to more basketball than I ever wanted to be exposed to on ESPN and other sports news sources. My reprieve from all this hoops: Euro 2012, ironically.

I have watched at least 10 minutes of every match, including a few which I watched for the entirety, and despite my initial thoughts of this is boring, they keep passing, I have come to enjoy the tournament. I'm not a seasoned soccer fan by any means, but I do enjoy watching the Dutch finesse, the Ukrainian fervor, and the Russian attack, although I have absolutely no idea if these traits are trademarks of these nations or if I just seem to have picked up on the wrong things. Either way, I enjoy this new sport.

I am not, of course, completely ignorant. I know that the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, and German Bundesliga are the top 4 leagues. I think that's what they're called. I know from following the last few FIFA World Cups (and from checking the FIFA World Rankings a few minutes ago) that the soccer world powers are Brazil, Argentina, Spain, England, Italy, Germany, France, Portugal, and the Netherlands. I know that only teams from South America and Europe have won World Cups, yet they've been hosted in many more continents than simply those two. I know that the defending Euro champion is Spain.

And that's basically it.

I am aware of the logistics of the tournament but know nothing about the teams or the players themselves. So, with that introduction, welcome to An Ignorant Fan's Soccer Enlightenment (aka Euro 2012 thoughts):

  • I only watched the first half of the Poland-Greece match, but from what I saw, Poland's striker Robert Lewandowski is every bit as good as people say he is. I have no idea how the Greeks scored in the 2nd half, cause they were absolutely terrible in the 1st.
  • I had heard of Andrey Arshavin prior to the Russia-Czech Republic match, but it turns out that Alan Dzagoev is the real star of Russia. I won't forget this name for the next few World Cups. Russia as a whole really impressed me with their goal scoring ability. Not sure where the Czech defense was.
  • Since I had watched the World Cup Finals in 2010, I was familiar with several of the Dutch players but Denmark's defense was very solid in stopping them and it led to multiple chances on the counterattack, ultimately giving them the win.
  • Finally! A match where I knew many of the players, both German and Portuguese. I didn't watch much of this one except the ending, where Portugal had many chances, including an excellent one for Silvestre Varela, but couldn't really convert. Germany's GK was superb.
  • Spain-Italy was a fairly boring match. I hadn't heard of Mario Balotelli before but the commentators were raving about him, so I watched him in particular and he didn't really do anything. The game got interesting right after he left the match because of the two goals, but it was too slow paced for me.
  • Apparently, Ireland is not a top-16 team, and it showed as Croatia got a goal early. I stopped watching shortly before Ireland tied the game up, but I watched the highlights and Croatia is a crisp team that will be some fun to watch, I think. Can't tell a lot from the highlights.
  • France and England was agitatingly boring. England was missing it's star, Wayne Rooney, and never really tried to attack. France was much better, playing similarly to how Netherlands played in their opener, but France could not score enough goals to keep me content or to get the win. Keeping me content is of course the priority over getting the win.
  • By the time the last game arrived, I had learned that often, the smaller countries provide the more interesting matches, and the Ukraine-Sweden game solidified my hypothesis. I didn't watch much, but the Ukrainians have a real clutch performer in Shevchenko and he should be fun to watch moving on.
I truly can't wait for some of the matchups in the second round of the Group Stages. Poland-Russia, Denmark-Portugal, Italy-Croatia, and England-Ukraine all look to be fascinating matches.

I will return with my refined thoughts after the next slew of matches. 

Until then, Ole!

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