Euro 2012: Comparing Each European Contender to a Beer
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Inexorably, beer and soccer (futbol) will forever be attached like a pint-carrying hand to its pint glass.
Some of the world’s most talismanic ball-strikers have also been notorious for kicking back more than a few drinks in a sitting.
See: Gaucho, Ronaldinho and his pre-training beverage of choice.
See: Fat, Ronaldo and the bizarre situations his partying habits got him into.
But boozing pervades more than just the players and has embedded itself into the sport. In Glasgow, you don’t dare show up in a Rangers pub wearing Celtic colors, and vice versa. Occasionally, a referee will show up and referee a match drunk.
Hell, if you want to know who’s going to triumph in the upcoming European Championships, don’t trust your instincts or those mercurial FIFA rankings—just ask a psychic beer-loving pig and elephant duo for your picks.
A not-so-bold prediction for the aforementioned European Championships: There will be beer. There will be football.
So what better way to characterize each of Europe’s challengers for next month’s tournament than match each one up with a delicious beer?
Pints up, friends.
Stateside, Newcastle is considered a top-notch microbrew. Not exactly a caviar in beer circles, but certainly a huge step up from your run-of-the-mill domestics.
Typically, the Three Lions are looked upon as an elite squad, despite their less-than-illustrious history in major tournaments. A microbrew of the FIFA rankings, if you will. That said, an exhaustive survey* of English natives proved that the British consider Newcastle to be a second-class “piss” beer. Historically, it’s a swill of choice served lukewarm among the blue-collar shipyard workers in England.
The English national team is rarely seen as second-class, but with frontman Wayne Rooney suspended for the first two matches, a last-second manager making the calls and in-fighting amid racism allegations between omitted defender Rio Ferdinand and John Terry, confidence isn’t exactly gushing from the 2012 England squad.
For once, English supporters are lukewarm on their beloved national team.
* "exhaustive survey" consisted of asking Bleacher Report Vice President of Engineering and resident Brit Sam Parnell his thoughts on Newcastle.
France: Brass Monkeys
Les Bleus are not well liked on an international level.
Maybe it has to do with that whole handball thing that got them into the 2010 World Cup over Ireland. Maybe it has to do with the fact that once the French got to South Africa, they imploded in squabble-like fashion.
The French were so well liked here in San Francisco that local Irish pubs Kezar and O’Niell’s offered out free drinks whenever an opposing side scored against France.
Whenever someone first hears of a “Brass Monkey,” made famous by MCA of Beastie Boys fame, the reaction is similar as hearing about pouring orange juice into malt liquor as it is to when someone boasts about the French national team: “gross!”
After all, the French did top the contending Germans 2-1 in a friendly in late February and boast top-notch playmakers in ugly Franck Ribery and money-grubbing Samir Nasri. Sorry, Na$ri.
Hate on the French as you please, just like the notion of orange juice and malt liquor is frowned upon. Just don’t doubt them at the outset—both are bound to give you a pleasant surprise.
Sweden: Arrogant Bastard
Sweden will only go as far as the enigmatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic will take it.
In his tell-all autobiography, I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he said of legendary and now ex-Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola:
I told him what a friend had said to me—"you bought a Ferrari but drive it like a Fiat." The chat seemed to go well but then Guardiola started to freeze me out. I would walk into a room; he would leave. He would greet everyone by saying hello, but would ignore me.
I had done a lot to adapt—the Barca players were like schoolboys, following the coach blindly, whereas I was used to asking "why?" I like guys who run red lights, not pedantic and strict rules. So I tried to be overly nice, didn't dare lose my temper.
Remember me? Please?
Did you know that Busch still exists? Whenever you think it’s gone, it reappears at a random liquor store near you.
Just when you think he’s gone (like Busch...and six years ago), he’ll reappear. Well played, guys.
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Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal will always be looked at as a world-class contender if only for Ronaldo’s presence on the pitch.
In most groups, Portugal, with all of its talent, would be third fiddle to no one.
But when you’re in a group with two of the most heavily favored sides to conquer Euro in Germany and Netherlands, sorry, Portugal, you’re third fiddle and doomed to flounder to an early exit.
Netherlands: Hell or High Watermelon
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Leave it to San Francisco with all of its eccentricities to be the home of a watermelon-flavored hefeweizen. Local favorite 21st Amendment, a favorite watering hole and eatery for pre- and post-Giants games, actually brews a watermelon beer.
After two, it merely looks and tastes OK.
By No. 3, you’re wondering why you’re drinking a beer garnished by a freakin’ slice of watermelon.
The Dutch are great on first glance. In Euro 2008 they wowed audiences with their fluid, sexy offensive displays. Like San Francisco, the Dutch aren’t without their own internal eccentricities.
But even if the external product is something to behold, keep in mind that the Netherlands have only won one major tournament despite fielding some of the world's most talent-stocked squads.
Swoon over the Dutch’s initial performance like you swoon over the first sip of Hell or High Watermelon, but like the beer, the Dutch ain’t nothing but heartbreak, baby.
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As the cliché has it, Germans are known for their ruthless efficiency. Whenever the pundits think they’re down or rebuilding in the football world, they surprise all and make baffling runs to third place, much like they did in the 2010 World Cup.
Like Germany, it’s always consistent.
Denmark: Coors Original
Onetime Arsenal frontman Niklas Bendtner is a classic case of an egotistical striker with an inflated sense of his own self-worth. Wait, a striker with a bloated ego...no way.
Of course, the Dane has never been short of confidence, but his on-pitch meddle rarely reflects how he views himself in the mirror.
Coors Original, like Bendtner, has a bloated idea of itself. I mean, it calls itself the “Banquet Beer,” when anyone west or east of Denver (sans Bleacher Report’s own Keith Thomas) knows that Coors Original, like Bendtner, is garbage.
Republic of Ireland: Pabst Blue Ribbon
What, no Guinness?
In fact, the Irish are making a comeback of sorts. Not necessarily because of a recent run of form (or lack thereof), but the Irish may have experienced a low point in its footballing history when they were knocked out of World Cup qualifying unjustly by the “Hand of God II” (and by the French, no less).
In spite of their misfortune, the Irish made their way back to the European Championships, even if qualification also meant a horrific group draw with traditional powers Croatia, Italy and Spain. But qualifying is better than being sent home by a religious, illegal hand.
Much like Ireland, once-proud Pabst Blue Ribbon was a prominent beer powerhouse when it won a prestigious blue ribbon...in 1893.
Thankfully for Pabst, its blue-ribbon glory has made a comeback of sorts. Don’t thank the taste, thank the hipster (or bro-ster) movement for bringing it back to relevance in indie concert halls across America.
Because certainly it hasn’t been the taste. Just like the Robbie Keane-led Irish revival has had more to do with karmic redemption, since they stand little chance to advance out of the group stages.
Italy: Pliny the Elder
While the Azzurro are hardly lesser-known (four World Cup triumphs will do that), Pliny the Elder is a lesser-known microbrew from Northern California’s Russian River brewery in Santa Rosa.
Italy has historically played a non-sexy brand of football that has yielded insanely successful results based on defense, defense, defense and a vicious, crushing counterattack.
Pliny, at first glance, is a seemingly harmless double IPA. It tastes great, too. Have two, and you’re fine.
Attack the seemingly attack-void Azzurro twice, and you’re fine. It’s that third time when the counterattack will put you on your rear.
Much like your third Pliny.
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Karlovacho gets above-average reviews.
But have you ever heard of Karlovacho? Right.
Have you heard of many of Croatia’s above-average players, Luka Modric-to-a-team-other-than-Tottenham rumours notwithstanding? Right.
They’re both Croatian, above-average and have kick-ass red and white checkers on them. You’ll have to sip some Karlovacho or watch the Croatian side to learn about their above average-ness.
Spain: Dos Equis
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I don’t always pick La Furia Roja to win every major tournament, but when I do pick someone else, it’s because I’m drunk.
Czech Republic: Steel Reserve
It’s tough for Americans to remember that the Czech Republic has a very non-illustrious history in major tournaments. After all, the Czechs completely smashed the upstart Americans 3-0 in the opening round of the 2006 World Cup, from which the Yanks never really recovered.
Do you assume someone drinking Steel Reserve in a 40 oz. bottle on a street corner is historically successful?
Probably not, but don’t underestimate the punch that Reserve packs. The Czech Republic is in an easily winnable group and led by a resurgent Tomas Rosicky, who found his old self in the latter half of his club campaign with Arsenal.
Don’t underestimate the Czechs.
Poland: Natural Light
In college towns, Natural Light, known more affectionately as simply “Natty,” is known as a subpar, inexpensive trigger of helping students make bad decisions.
But one of Poland’s most well-known commodities in Wojciech Szczesny made headlines recently for both a bad decision and while referring to what a lot of college students refer to as alcohol-induced, ahem, bad decisions:
“At Arsenal [Terry's name] is another word for an ugly girl. If there’s a girl around that we don’t really like, we use it as a smokescreen, as in: ‘Have you seen John Terry recently? He’s terrible’. I recommend this, it really works.”
Fine, fine, Zima isn’t even a beer. In fact, most aren’t even sure if Zima still exists.
The Greeks were hardly sexy, strictly in a footballing sense.
In fact, some would consider their brand of play to be mostly defensive and entirely bland.
But, and it’s a big but (more than the tournament-less Dutch can “but”), the Greeks somehow triumphed over a favored Portugese side to win the 2004 European Championships in one of the major Cinderella stories in the footballing universe.
Before then, well, the Greeks accomplished little. Since then, well, they’ve accomplished even less.
But in that one moment, Greece accomplished what Europe’s entirety was striving to accomplish. In that one moment, Zima captivated the curiosity of boozers everywhere. Before that, and exponentially more so after that, the name “Zima” barely failed to enter the brain.
Russia: St. Pauli Girl
If the Russians are to make any major headlines, much like they did in a surprising 2008 semifinal effort, they’re going to have to rely on the talents of oft-bizarre captain Andrei Arshavin.
Since his move, Arshavin has been both a mercurial presence on the wings but also a bona-fide quote machine. One of his most famous, ire-drawing and strange rants was his criticism of female drivers:
I would never give driving lessons to women. We need to build new roads for them. Why? Because you never know what to expect from a woman on the road. If you see a car behaving weirdly, swerving and doing strange things, before you see the driver you know it is a woman. It is always a woman.