Euro-Centrism by David L. Reznik (aka D-Rayza)

It’s important to pause a minute before I offer my predictions for this year’s Euro 2012 tournament and reflect on the state of international football (not soccer!).  Given how dominant club football has become, tournaments like the Euro (and even the World Cup!) seem almost like historical artifacts at this point.  An example was this year’s Champion’s League final between Chelsea and Bayern Munich, which was touted as a match pitting the best from England and Germany despite the fact that, of the two clubs’ top players, only a combined handful actually represent those two countries in international competition.  Indeed, the oligarch owners of powerhouse clubs across Europe have assembled veritable “dream teams,” signing the best players from all over the world and squeezing as much out of these players as possible (including having them play a ridiculous number of tournaments all while trudging through the regular seasons of their respective club leagues).  Given this situation, playing for “country” is a sentimental treat at best and an annoying liability at worst, despite all of the nostalgic nationalism that is painstakingly drummed-up just before a major international tournament like the Euro.  Bottom line: we live in the era of globalization/transnational capitalism which makes a formerly epic event like the Euro feel really like an exhibition round-robin.

Cynicism aside, however, this is still the tournament which was the stage for my favorite football match of all-time: the Czech Republic vs. the Netherlands in Euro 2004 (Portugal).  If you haven’t seen this match, please Google it and read/watch what a real masterpiece of art-meets-entertainment international football can be…

So, here are my picks:

Group A
The Czech Republic
Poland (host)

Winner: Poland – like South Korea in World Cup ’02, I have a sneaking suspicion that Poland is going to ride a huge wave of frenzied fanfare into the knock-out stages; a huge advantage they have is that a number of their players not only play in the same club league (the German Bundesliga), but they are on the same club team (Borussia Dortmund)!

Runner-up: Greece – the Greek team is known for making things extremely difficult for their opposition, particularly with a physical brand of defensive football mixed with surprising prowess in set-pieces; the fact that most of the team plays in their domestic club league should also help with chemistry and cohesion…

Group B
The Netherlands
Winner: The Netherlands – watching the Dutch play recent international friendlies only reinforces my belief that they are, in fact, the team to beat in this tournament; they just have too many explosive offensive weapons to be stopped…
Runner-up: Germany – this team will perform at a disappointing level relative to the German sides of the past, but they still have the core of the team that were runners-up at Euro ’08 and World Cup ’10…
Group C
Winner: Spain – they found themselves in arguably the weakest group of the entire tournament (particularly with Italy totally mired in scandal heading-in), so the Spanish will be able to coast comfortably into the second round…
Runner-up: Croatia – a bit of a surprise pick here, but it’s based more on the process of elimination (Italy had reportedly considered withdrawing completely from the tournament and Ireland just doesn’t have what it takes to win big games like these) than anything else…
Group D
Ukraine (host)
Winner: England – this is a British side that has virtually no expectations heading into the tournament, which means that they won’t self-destruct amidst the ridiculous media scrutiny they have to endure nearly every time they step on the pitch…
Runner-up: France – although this is a relatively young French side, they do have plenty of weapons and you can always rely on solid wing-play from “les Bleu”…