As an American soccer fan, I am greatly enjoying the amount of coverage that ESPN is giving the EURO 2012 tournament. I am a huge soccer fan living in Houston, Texas, and my favorite teams do not include the European National teams. However, after the excitement of the last Men's World Cup in 2010 and the USA Women's run in the Women's World Cup 2011, I have begun following more international teams with interest.
Before I begin, I would like to explain my soccer knowledge and team affiliations.
I did not start following soccer until the World Cup 2006, a tournament in which the USA did not play well but one that had many close, exciting games and a shootout win by Italy over France. I also began to understand the passion of the game and the intensity displayed, especially by Zinedine Zidane and his championship game head-butt.
Here in the United States, I was cheering for the new Houston Dynamo franchise of the MLS. My hometown club was the MLS Champions in 2006 and 2007, their first two years in the league.
Internationally, I mostly watch the English Premiere League because of the contract that ESPN has that broadcasts games every Saturday and other important league games. My favorite team is the Tottenham Hotspurs, mostly because I was amazed with the play of Garreth Bale. I have followed them for the past two years and am very disappointed in Chelsea's Champions League victory that is keeping the fourth-place Spurs out of next year's Champions.
Now, here is my perspective on EURO 2012.
After the first round of games, I have been very impressed by a few countries, their players and their fans. I still consider myself a beginner in terms of overall soccer knowledge, but I do know the best players in the world and what good soccer looks like.
The most impressive team in terms of star power has to be Spain. With players such as Casillas, Pique, Ramos, Xavi, David Silva, Iniesta, Fabregas and Fernando Torres, how can you lose? Well, they almost did to a strong Italian squad which made that first round game one of the most exciting and intriguing so far. It ended in a 1-1 draw.
The next match that was the most exciting to watch because of the two teams involved was Germany's 1-0 defeat of Portugal. Christiano Ronaldo is, of course, the biggest star of a tournament. Germany played fantastic team defense to keep Ronaldo from having many touches and won the game on a Mario Gomez goal in the 80th minute that had me yelling at the TV.
It was not a surprise result, with names like Ozil, Muller, Podolski and Klose on the German side, but it was a hard-fought, well-earned victory that will help Germany to move forward in what is called the "Group of Death."
The most inspirational team of the tournament is Ukraine. Pulling out a win in the first ever EURO match, in front of the home crowd no less, was an amazing result for Ukraine and their star of the match, Shevchenko. I have never really paid attention to Ukraine, but that is why international competitions such as this are so much fun. Teams come out of nowhere, and the world gets behind them.
Now for my favorites the rest of the way.
Russia and Poland should move on. Russia was very impressive in their 4-1 victory. Poland will use their home crowd advantage to make it into the second round.
The "Group of Death" is far from over after the first two games. I think that Germany will move on with a defeat of the Netherlands, and because of that result, Portugal will get past Denmark to join Germany in the next round.
Croatia pulled out a big win in their first game, and I think they will surprise everyone and pass Italy to join Spain in the next round.
Despite their opening win, Ukraine will not make it past their next two games vs. France and England, who will represent group D in the next round.
Personally, I believe that Germany and Spain have the best chances to come home with the EURO 2012 championship in three weeks.
Here's to great international soccer!
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