The beautiful game is back, and how?
At times, I have a bad habit of following sports in a manner that would be termed as maniacal by the non-lovers and by my mom :). I was sitting up late during most of June to follow the best football tournament I have seen so far — the UEFA European Championships 2008 (Euro 2008).
We have seen fantastic attacking soccer, great goals, a team that just won’t say die (till they met their match in that department) and caused a string of upsets (Turkey), a team that blew away the World Champions and the runners up, but forgot how to score goals when it mattered in the quarters (yes, Holland); another team that watched the opponents pass the ball with such immaculate beauty and precision that they forgot to compete in the semis (Russians).
Finally, it was down to a team that seems to be on the verge of redefining beauty and consistency in modern soccer — Spain, the 1964 European Champions — against a team that has been blowing hot and cold in this tournament, but who have scored 10 goals (three of them would feature in the top ten goals of the event) on the way to the finals here — the three time European Champions, Germany.
What has made this experience doubly sweet has been the absolutely fantastic coverage of this event by the best newspaper in UK — The Guardian. Their match coverage includes the review report, a fantastic minute-by-minute report (sample this and this to know what I mean), and an array of gifted reporters who write excellent posts in The Guardian Sports blog. Of course, some of you must have read the match reports in The Hindu in India, who (re)prints the articles from The Guardian at times.
In fact, The Observer/Guardian reporter Marcus Christenson had predicted a Spain v/s Germany finals at this Euro. I read the Malayalam version of that in Mathrubhoomi, who have played it up yesterday to announce that the Mathrubhoomi prediction was on the mark! The only saving grace was that it had his name and pix in that article, though any reference to The Guardian was missing. He got most of his predictions right, including Russia storming into the semis and Portugal loosing out to Germany. He went wrong in the case of Holland and Turkey (he underestimated both of them, but their run was not something we could predict, isn’t it?). He has predicted that the Germans would be the champs. And he was proved wrong there too.
Spain emerged the Champions in a final in which the Germans just were a couple of notches below their usual commanding self (how many times did Schweini miss making immaculate crosses for which he is well known?). Anyways, football emerged the real winner this time. Watch out for the European challenge led by Holland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Russia, and France (they have a decent chance of coming up again) in the 2010 World Cup to be hosted by South Africa.
I hope they wouldn’t allow the Brazilians to run away with yet another World Cup. The best part is that ESPN has got the rights to telecast it in India, and their telecast of Euro was fantastic. Thanks for reading thus far and hope you like what you read in The Guardian too.