As you may or may not know, soccer's less glamorous and yet possibly technically superior second biggest tournament starts on the 8th June. Just around the corner. This 2012 European Championships cheat sheet? So what's this all about, you might ask. Simple. What we're doing here is taking a team from the upcoming European Championships and equating them with a team from American sports, just to give, in particular, our American users a better idea of what to expect from teams in the Euros.
Over the next few nights we will be knocking these out, group by group, like Josh Hamilton loses balls in the bleachers.
Let's chop it up.
For Poland, we present for your approval, The 2012 Utah Jazz. Poland, like Utah, back-doored it into the Championships. Utah were the bottom seed West of the NBA, Poland are one of the lowest FIFA ranked teams ever to 'make' the tournament. We say 'make' as Poland are only in it because they got a free pass as hosts. Utah, like Poland will, played in front of boisterous home crowds, there was no doubt, and there will be no doubt, about the passion of the home fans. The problem for Utah was they just weren't very good, and the problem for Poland will be very similar. Utah went 0-4, and Poland will probably get pretty close to that.
For Greece, we have the 2012 Detroit Tigers. Greece carry the weight of their entire nation on their shoulders, much like the Tigers have come to be the torch bearers for their economically depressed city of name. A good tournament for the Greeks would mean a huge lift for the nation, much as a good playoff run for the Tigers would mean a big lift for the city of Detroit. Much like the Tigers, Greece are also no mugs. Greece topped their qualifying group and were undefeated in the process; notching victories over Israel and group favorites Croatia. The Greeks may not play the prettiest football (and Detroit have been known to kick the baseball around a little during the playoffs) but it is hard not to root for them to lift the depression hanging over their home nation. Much like very few of us would begrudge the Tigers a deep playoff run a little later this year.
Mother Russia is something of a dark horse coming into the tournament. Much like the underdog '96/'97 New England Patriots, the Russian team has plenty of talent in its ranks, but are largely unfancied pre-tournament. For example, the Patriots had Drew Bledsoe, Russia have the potential match winner but ultimately flawed Andrey Arshavin.
The big problem for Russia, much as it was for the Patriots, is their head coach's head may be somewhere else. Many think that Patriots team was undone by Bill Parcell's itchy feet, and Russia's coach, Dick Advocaat, is moving on when the tournament ends. How focused will he be? There is no way to tell, but the precedent is not good.
The Czechs are hoping their disciplined play, well marshaled defence and superior goalkeeper can catapult them out of Group A and deep into the tournament proper, You could say the Czechs defence has to over come their attacks frailties, much like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are the perfect choice, as they were a great defence, but by no means the best of all time (The Vikings, Bears and Steelers various greats will always be better, despite Ray Lewis's enormous mouth and ability to put out hits). The Czech;s defence is great, but not GREAT. Unlike the Ravens, the Czechs probably aren't going to win anything, no matter how many penalties Peter Cech saves.