The Five Billion Person Party

Notes of a wandering American soccer fan

Who cares about the English — Where’s my minnow?

Posted by steigs on December 2, 2007

The draw for Euro 2008 was held today.  Here are the results:

Group A: Switzerland, Turkey, Portugal, Czech Republic
Group B: Austria, Poland, Germany, Croatia
Group C: Holland, France, Romania, Italy
Group D: Greece, Russia, Spain, Sweden

Now I could offer some predictions (the Germans are going to win!) or note that C is the obvious “group of death.”  (Every major tournament seems to have one.)  But next summer is a long way off.  Just because a team looked good in qualifying (Germany) doesn’t mean it’ll still be in good shape then.  Players get hurt and go in and out of form etc etc.

So I will merely lament the absence of a true minnow, a real underdog team, preferably from a small and obscure country.  Slovenia at Euro 2000, for example. Or Latvia at Euro 2004, who qualified by rallying to tie the Turks (who had just finished third in the ’02 World Cup) in Istanbul in the play-off.  Scrappy Slovenia at Euro 2000, a lesser-known piece of the former Yugoslavia (not to be confused with Slovakia, the former partners of the Czechs) introducing itself in international soccer.  Or Latvia at Euro 2004, a team that managed to qualify for the tournament by beating Turkey in a play-off, only months after the Turks had finished third in the ’02 World Cup.

Pretty much all the teams in Euro 2008 have a pedigree.  The Greeks are defending champs, after all.

Poland?  They’ve been in the last two World Cups.

The Swiss?  Made it out of the group stage of the last World Cup.

We’re lacking that “who the heck is that?” team to root for, that real Cinderella story.

The World Cup always provides that, a random team from Africa (Senegal!) or unfancied hard-working outsider (Australia!) or charming Caribbean side (T&T!).

Let others fret that England failed to qualify.  Me, I’m more disappointed that the Finns or Northern Irish didn’t make it.  They came close enough to hope, taking it to the last round of qualifying.  Sigh.

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