Dec 2, 2007

As Expected, Euro 2008 Groups Anything But Fair And Balanced

From the Nothing You Didn't Know Already department: UEFA's seeding scheme for the Euro 2008 finals was a complete joke that ended up creating the exact imbalances it was created to resolve. It would have been fairer--not to mention far more efficient--to just pull the groups out of a hat at random.

In case you missed it, here are the groups:
Group A: Switzerland, Czech Republic, Portugal, Turkey.
Group B: Austria, Croatia, Germany, Poland.
Group C: Netherlands, Italy, Romania, France.
Group D: Greece, Sweden, Spain, Russia.

What you've got here is one supergroup (Group C) and three highly mediocre ones. Within the supergroup (or if you prefer, the Group of Death), you've also got two teams (Romania and Holland) that faced each other in qualifying. I feel badly for Romania, by the way: their first major tournament in a decade and they're faced with the world champions, the world cup runner-up and the aforementioned team they already bested in qualifying. Germany have probably the easiest draw of all. Austria is terrible, Poland and Croatia mediocre compared to most of the other teams in the field. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first time Austria and Germany face each other in a major tournament since the infamous Nichtangriffspaktschande of 1982 (blatant and overt match-fixing that should have resulted in the disqualification of both sides but FIFA didn't lift a finger and Germany ended up advancing all the way to the final).

Spain also have a pretty easy route to advancement, but have a long history of disappointing at major tournaments like this one. Is this the time they finally make it past the quarterfinals? I don't think so.

The rematch between France and Italy is probably the marquee game of the first round. Switzerland versus Turkey is a potential powder keg, with everything that happened the last time these two teams met (in the play-off for world cup qualifying). It will be interesting to see what the Swiss authorities divvy up tickets for that match. There is a sizeable Turkish population in Switzerland. I just hope there isn't any ugliness on the field or in the stands (or in the city's bars and cafes before and after the game). I'm also looking forward to seeing Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sweden face Spain and obviously every other game in the Group of Death.

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