Football to Football: Comparing the 16 Euro 2012 Contenders to NFL Teams
This month 16 teams will battle in one of soccer's most prestigious tournaments, the UEFA European Football Championship.
International tournaments evoke the most emotion out of any sports all over the world.
In America, the sport that can evoke as much emotion is football, and the NFL has become the most popular league in North America.
So with this being soccer's time and not much going on in the NFL, let's bring the NFL into something topical in June. Here is a list comparing each of the 16 teams competing in this year's European Championship and comparing them to their NFL equals.
It's America's favorite sport joining the world's favorite sport.
Poland = Cleveland Browns
We start with a co-host of this year's Euro. Poland hasn't had much success in big tournaments, as the Cleveland Browns haven't achieved much either, at least not post-merger.
Poland had some great teams a while ago, finishing in third place in both the 1974 and 1982 World Cups. Poland lost to West Germany 1-0 in 1974 and to 2-0 to Italy in 1982, with those teams going on to win it all.
The Cleveland Browns, in turn, have made it to three AFC Championship games, losing in heart breakers in the 1986-87 and 1987-88 to the Broncos. They lost a third one to the Broncos in 1989-90.
Poland has only qualified for the Euro twice; first in 2008 and this year they automatically qualified from being a co-host.
Another fun little comparison. Several great Polish players play for another team. For example, the German squad has Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, both Polish-born players. The city of Cleveland lost a great athlete of their own to another team.
Poland is capable of competing with better teams, as the Browns can also compete on certain days. They're just not really going to scare anyone and will likely be out of it pretty quickly. Poland has raucous supporters, while Cleveland has the Dog Pound. Both are intimidating. Okay maybe Polish soccer games get a little crazier.
Greece = Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The main point here is the fact that both the Buccaneers and Greece have won one championship, and they weren't far apart.
Tampa Bay won Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003 while Greece won the Euro 2004 18 months later. Both championships were won on stingy defense. Although Greece was a huge underdog in 2004 and the Buccaneers were a serious contender going into their championship season, the histories are similar.
The Buccaneers did not have a rich history going into their championship season, with Tony Dungy having built the team. Jon Gruden took over and won in his first year on the job.
Otto Rehhagel took over as Greece's manager in 2001. He won in his first tournament with the Greek team. The team qualified for Euro 2004 and stunned many winning the tournament as 100/1 underdogs. They conceded no goals in the knockout stages, beating France, Czech Republic and Portugal all by scores of 1-0.
Tampa Bay shut down San Francisco, Philadelphia and the juggernaut Oakland offense to win their only Super Bowl in franchise history.
Greece now has built themselves to respectability and the Buccaneers are in rebuilding mode right now. Greece have a chance to make it out of Group A this year, as the Buccaneers may have a chance in the NFC South in 2012, having made some big signings and with uncertainty surrounding some of their division rivals.
Russia = Buffalo Bills
Besides the fact that both teams colors are red, white and blue, their histories in big tournaments draw similarities.
Russia (then the U.S.S.R) was a very tough team when the European Championship started. They won in 1960, then drew more comparisons to Buffalo later. They lost in the final in 1964, finished fourth in 1968, then lost in the final again in 1972. They didn't qualify again until 1988, where they lost in the final yet again, this time to West Germany.
They would lose in the quarterfinal of the 1958, 1962 and 1970 World Cups. Their best result was in 1966, finishing fourth after a loss in the semifinal to West Germany. They made it to the second group stage in 1982.
Russia then underwent some tough years. They didn't qualify for the World Cup in 1998, 2006 and 2010, nor for Euro 2000.
The Buffalo Bills have had a rough start to the 21st century as well, having not made the playoffs since the 1999 season.
However things are looking up now for both Russia and Buffalo. The Bills seem like one of the early sleepers of 2012, as does Russia going into this tournament. Russia also made it far in the last tournament as big underdogs, finishing third.
Both teams seem to be in good shape moving forward.
Czech Republic = San Diego Chargers
Both the Czech Republic national team and the San Diego Chargers have fallen in terms of being true contenders.
Both teams have constantly underachieved on the big stage. The Chargers have lost in the playoffs five times in six seasons between the 2004 and 2009 seasons. They have missed the playoffs the last two seasons.
Both teams are always hyped, but fail to deliver when it matters most. They each have had some success and remain competitive, but nonetheless are noticed.
The Czech Republic national team has a pretty short history though. Czechoslovakia won the 1976 Euro and were runners-up in 1934 and 1962.
In the Czech Republic's first tournament since gaining independence from Slovakia, they surprised many and made it to the 1996 Euro Finals. They wound up losing 2-1 in extra time to Germany.
This was a year and a half after the Chargers lost in their lone Super Bowl appearance.
Following the 1996 Euro, the Czechs had some tough years, not qualifying for the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.
The Czech Republic was ranked no. 2 in the world going into the 2006 World Cup and following their loss to eventual champion Greece at Euro 2004. After underachieving as a favorite in 2004, many were expecting big things out of them in 2006. They went out in a whimper. After a dominating 3-0 win over the USA to open the tournament, they lost 2-0 to both Ghana and Italy and were out.
Euro 2008 saw the Czechs bow out in the group stage. Up 2-0 against Turkey, they blew the lead in the final 15 minutes of the game, losing 3-2. It's just oh so similar to the Chargers' failures on the big stage in recent memory.
The Czechs didn't qualify for the 2010 World Cup, and they're not expected to go far in Poland/Ukraine this year.
Just as the window has closed on the Czech Republic's championship dreams, at least for now, the same thing may be true in San Diego. The AJ Smith/Norv Turner era has to end and the Czech Republic will have to start building again to where they were five to eight years ago.
Netherlands = Philadelphia Eagles
Just as the Philadelphia Eagles have come close so many times and are seen as a dangerous team, so are the Netherlands. Both teams have never quite been able to win when it matters most though.
The Eagles won three NFL championships pre-merger, in 1948, 1949 and 1960. Since then, they have failed to secure a championship, despite coming close on several occasions.
After a long drought, the Eagles finally regained prominence in the early 80's, winning their division in the 1980 season but lost to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV. Philadelphia then had a string of playoff failures, making it to the dance six times between 1988 and 1996 with stars Randall Cunningham, Keith Jackson and Herschel Walker.
Under the Donovan McNabb era, the franchise enjoyed a lot of success, winning the NFC East five times, appearing in five NFC Championships and one Super Bowl appearance since the year 2001. Much like the Oranje football team, this football team fell short on the big stage. The Eagles won just one of their five NFC championships in that span and lost 24-21 to New England in Super Bowl XXXIX.
The Netherlands qualified for the 1934 and 1938 World Cups, but had a dry spell of their own. They didn't qualify again until 1974, where they went the distance before losing to West Germany in the 1974 final. They made it back to the final in 1978, this time losing 3-1 to Argentina in extra time.
Holland didn't qualify for the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, but they did win the 1988 Euro, beating the Soviet Union. They made it to the semi-finals in 1992, 2000 and 2004. In the World Cup, since their pair of second-place finishes in the 70's, their best finishes were a fourth-place finish in 1998 and were runners-up to Spain in South Africa two years ago. They narrowly missed out losing 1-0 in extra time.
Now the Eagles are led by Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson. They have a very potent offense as does the Netherlands with Wesley Sneijder, Dirk Kuyt, Arjen Robben, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and others. Both teams are intimidating and not many want to face them, but you have to wonder when either of them are finally going to get it done.
Denmark = Kansas City Chiefs
Both Denmark and the Chiefs are inconsistent, but both have some rich history. Kansas City is trying to regain their glory of the past, while Denmark, not a traditional powerhouse, has still enjoyed some success.
Denmark won Euro 92', which was followed by a 1995 Confederations Cup win. They have since qualified for four of the last five Euros. They have barely had any success at the World Cup though, only qualifying four times, their best appearance coming in 1998, where they made the quarterfinals.
Despite not being able to get over the hump, they remain competitive but unfortunately this year they have drawn the group of death, where they'll have to compete with Germany, Holland and Portugal.
The Chiefs are an improved team themselves, but this year they'll play in the same division as Peyton Manning.
Kansas City has had their share of success, winning Super Bowl IV and winning three AFL championships. They have won the AFC West six times post-merger and 16 playoff appearances. Denmark is always on the brink of qualification, not quite being able to reach the next level.
We'll see if either team is able to pull a major shocker this coming year.
Germany = New England Patriots
Here we come to a pair of powerhouses. It's intimidating to play the New England Patriots and it's intimidating to play Germany.
Both teams have rich histories, each of them have three championships and own seven appearances in a final.
Germany has been a mainstay on the world stage. They are known for having a potent attack and pile on goals whenever they can. The Patriots do the same.
Germany has never failed to qualify for a World Cup. They chose not to enter the inaugural World Cup and were banned from the 1950 World Cup. They won the 1954, 1974 and 1990 World Cups. In fact, their 1990 World Cup was won on a late penalty kick by Andreas Brehme, much like the Patriots won a couple of Super Bowls on late kicks by Adam Vinatieri. New England won their three titles in a span of four years, winning Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX.
Each team also has four losses in the championship game. Germany finished second in the 1966, 1982, 1986 and 2002 World Cups. The Patriots have lost in four Super Bowls, in Super Bowls XX, XXXI, XLII and XLVI.
Germany has been successful in Euros as well, winning it all in the 1972, 1980 and 1996 tournaments.
They are ranked no.2 in the world, much like the Patriots may be considered the NFL's second best team right now after their Super Bowl loss this year.
Each team has the most dangerous offense in their respective sports. The Patriots' attack is led by Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker while the Germans are led by Lukas Podolski, Thomas Müller, Miroslav Klose and Mario Gómez, just to name a few.
Like every year, Germany is a favorite to take the Euro this summer. The Pats of course will be a favorite as well going into the 2012 season. This comparison is too easy to make.
Portugal = Atlanta Falcons
Both the Portuguese national team and the Atlanta Falcons are solid franchises filled with great talent, but neither franchise has been able to call themselves a champion.
Portugal qualified for their first FIFA World Cup in the same year the Falcons were founded, in 1966. Portugal did well in their first big tournament, finishing in third place, following a semifinal loss to England. The Portuguese then hit a dry spell, not qualifying again until 1986. They bowed out in the first round. They made it back to the World Cup in 2002 ,but again fell in the group stage. They had a much stronger showing in 2006, making it to the semifinal before losing to France 1-0 and wound up finishing fourth. Two years ago, they lost to the eventual world champion Spain 1-0 in the first knockout stage.
In terms of their Euro success, they have made it to three semifinals, in 1984, 2000 and 2004. They made it to the final as the hosts in 2004, but were upset by Greece 1-0 in Lisbon. They made it to the quarterfinals in the other two times they have qualified.
The Falcons haven't enjoyed a whole lot of success until recent memory either. They have four division titles in their history, in 1980, 1998, 2004 and 2010. They also have 11 playoff appearances under their belt. Their lone Super Bowl appearance came in the 1998 season, following an upset win over the 15-1 Minnesota Vikings in the classic 1998-99 NFC Championship game.
Much like the Atlanta Falcons franchise came to life after drafting Michael Vick, and again with Matt Ryan, the Portuguese team was rejuvenated with the emergence of stars like Luís Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Portugal has fallen short though, much like the Falcons. The Falcons lost in Super Bowl XXXIII to the Denver Broncos, in the 2004-05 NFC Championship and have not won a playoff game since.
Both teams have not quite been able to make it to the next level. This year Portugal is stuck in a group with Germany and the Netherlands, while the Falcons may have a tough year with promising young teams like Carolina and Tampa Bay chasing them. Both teams deserve their share of respect though, as they're no pushovers.
Spain = New York Giants
The defending world champions of their respective sports, the New York Giants and Spain's national team seem to be equals at the moment. Both teams shut down the sports' best offenses en route to their recent championships.
In their histories, Spain has only gained prominence as a powerhouse in recent years, while the Giants have been a cornerstone of the NFL for decades.
Spain won the 1964 and 2008 Euro Championships and won their first World Cup two years ago in South Africa. They finished fourth in the 1950 World Cup and were runners-up in the 1984 Euro. They have qualified for 14 of the 19 World Cup tournaments and nine of the 14 Euros.
The Giants have four Super Bowls, four NFL championships (pre-merger) as well as 11 conference championships, 16 division titles and 31 playoff appearances.
Spain has stymied their opponents in recent years, not giving an inch to the opposition to beat them. In the Euro 2008, Spain finished with a perfect record, winning all three group games and did not allow a single goal in the knockout stage. They beat Italy on penalties following a scoreless 120 minutes, then swept through upstart Russia 3-0, and shutout Germany's dangerous offense in a 1-0 victory to win the tournament.
Spain won the World Cup in similar fashion. Following a shocking 1-0 loss to Switzerland in their opener, there was panic and doubters jumped all over them. (Much like the Giants seem to be scrutinized to no end). Spain responded with a pair of victories to win their group, then again did not concede a goal through the knockout rounds. They won all four games by scores of 1-0, beating Portugal, Paraguay, Germany and finally the Dutch in the final. They shut down two of the world's best attacks in Germany and Holland.
The Giants did the same in their two most recent championships. In the 2007 season, they started 0-2, before making the playoffs as a wildcard, then shut down Tampa Bay, Dallas, Green Bay and the undefeated Patriots en route to their third Super Bowl. Much like Spain, they suffocated their opponents through their defense, the Giants of course using a deadly pass-rush to do it.
New York did something similar this past season. Much like Spain's shocking opening loss in 2010, the Giants were shocked in Week 1 when the Redskins beat them 28-14. The Giants would undergo a streak in which they lost five of six games late in the season. Once the team got healthier though, they went on a roll, and finished the season at 9-7, which was enough to win the NFC East.
The playoffs got going and the Giants went all the way in similar fashion to their championship run four years prior. With a deadly pass rush once again, and timely scoring from their offense, they shut out the Falcons' offense with a 24-2 win in the wildcard round. They followed with 37-20 win over Green Bay, keeping the Packers' offense at bay. Following a tight 20-17 win over the 49ers in the NFC Championship, they again beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, this time 21-17.
Spain is to Germany what the Giants have been to New England in recent years. A thorn in their side.
At this point, you would trust Spain the most to get it done in a big game, as you would the Giants. They just know how to get it done when the game's on the line. Much like experts expect Spain to win one or two more championships before their window closes, people expect the Giants to do the same under Eli Manning
Italy = Pittsburgh Steelers
Both Italy and the Pittsburgh Steelers have built a reputation of being winners, and both have done it with defense. The Steelers have the most Super Bowls with six, while the Italians have four World Cup titles, the second most of any country.
The easy comparison comes with the defense. The Steelers had their share of offensive stars en route to their championships, but the Steel Curtain is what people think of when they think of the Steelers. Pittsburgh built a dynasty in the 70's, winning championships in 1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979. After many years of losing their way and then falling short many times in the playoffs under Bill Cowher, including a loss to Dallas in Super Bowl XXX. They won their fifth championship at Super Bowl XL, after becoming the first wild-card team to win it all.
They have remained elite since, winning a sixth championship at Super Bowl XLIII and losing Super Bowl XLV to the Green Bay Packers. They had a slow rise back to the top, but they made it on what they had built their reputation on.
Italy did the same on the international stage. Following wins in the 1934 and 1938 World Cups, Italy struggled to reach that level of success again for a long time. Post World War II, Italy lost 10 of their players in a terrible tragedy in 1949, when the Torino A.C team died in a plane crash. Italy wouldn't make it past the group stages of the World Cup until 1970.
Following a Euro win in 1968, Italy finished second in the 1970 World Cup, losing to Brazil in the final. Just over a decade later (much like Pittsburgh), Italy made it back to the final in 1982, but this time won it all. They defeated West Germany 3-1 in the final, winning the World Cup following a domestic soccer scandal. What followed was a string of heartbreaking exits for Italy.
After failing to qualify for the Euro 84', Italy lost to France in the Round of 16 at the 1986 World Cup. They lost 2-0 to the U.S.S.R in the 1988 Euro, Italy lost in penalty shootouts in three straight World Cups. They lost as hosts in the 1990 semifinals, the 1994 final, and 1998 in the quarterfinals.
At Euro 2000, Italy stormed through the tournament, and appeared to be on their way to a championship, leading France 1-0 into injury time. It was not to be. Sylvain Wiltord equalized for France in the last minute of injury time and David Trezeghet scored the golden goal, sending Italy home empty-handed.
A controversial exit in the 2002 World Cup and a disappointing finish in Euro 2004 worsened the blows to the Azzurri, but in 2006 the formula of timely scoring and stingy defense worked.
Much like mainstays on Pittsburgh's defense in recent memory have been Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, James Farrior, Lamar Woodley and Ryan Clark, Italy had Fabio Cannavaro, the controversial Marco Materazzi, Alessandro Nesta, Gianluca Zambrotta and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. They conceded only two goals in the 2006 World Cup and won it all by beating France on penalties.
Both teams the last few years though have seen their rosters age, which has led to some disappointing defeats. Pittsburgh lost to the Tim Tebow led Broncos, while Italy failed to make it out of the group stage in the 2010 World Cup. Italy has undergone a youth movement, as the Steelers will very soon. While it will take a couple of years for both teams to be top contenders, you wouldn't bet against either of them making it back in any given year.
Republic of Ireland = Oakland Raiders
If you want to compare the successes of these two teams, there's not much to say about the Republic of Ireland and while the Oakland Raiders haven't done much recently, they do indeed have a rich history. There's no Al Davis type figure in charge of Ireland's national team, but the controversies these two teams have undergone are where this comparison comes to fruition.
We all remember the Immaculate Reception and the infamous Tuck Rule. Both those plays happened at the Raiders' expense and any Oakland fan will tell you the injustices of those plays. They also have a point.
Ireland suffered a similar fate, although the injustice they recently suffered was as clear as day, and there's no argument to be made against it.
Ireland almost qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In 10 qualifying games, Ireland went undefeated, winning four times and drawing in six matches. In their group, Italy finished first, automatically qualifying. Ireland tied France for second, so the teams played two legs to decide who would go to South Africa.
After a 1-0 loss in the first leg, Ireland won 1-0 in France, so the fate of the two teams would be decided in extra time. On one of the most controversial plays in the history of soccer, France striker Thierry Henry touched the ball with his hands twice, before crossing to William Gallas, who scored the winner for France and spoiled Ireland's bid for a spot in the World Cup.
FIFA, in typical FIFA fashion, did nothing to rectify the situation. France went on to have a miserable World Cup campaign, finishing last in their group and players turned on manager Raymond Domench.
Of course, the teams who got through on controversial plays at Oakland's expense went on to win the Super Bowl.
Many see the Raiders as the bad boys of the NFL, and while the Irish may not be the bad boys of soccer, the stereotypical view of the Irish has that perception.
Ireland has qualified just three times for the World Cup and this year marks their second qualification in the Euro. They're in tough this year, as they share a group with Spain, Italy and Croatia. The Raiders share a division with a Peyton Mannning led Broncos team, a talented Chargers team and a promising young Chiefs team.
Of course, Oakland also has three Super Bowls and 15 division championships to hang their hat on.
Croatia = Tennessee Titans
Croatia is pretty new on the international scene. Since the division of Yugoslavia, Croatia has been a solid team on the international scene, but have yet to develop into a true powerhouse. Same thing goes for the Tennessee Titans.
They officially joined FIFA and UEFA as Croatia in 1992. The Titans moved to Tennessee from Houston a few years later, following the 1996 season.
They were not eligible to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, but did make it to the quarterfinals of the Euro 96'. Croatia then shocked many pundits in making it to the semifinals of the 1998 World Cup, before losing 2-1 to France.
Tennessee got a surprise of their own just a few years after their move, making a run to Super Bowl XXXIV before falling a yard short of tying the Rams in a 23-16 defeat.
Before Croatia gained independence, as part of Yugoslavia, they had several close calls. They finished third in the 1930 World Cup, fourth in the 1962 World Cup, and lost in the quarterfinals three times. They qualified for eight out of a possible 14 tournaments.
In addition to that, they lost in two Euro finals in 1960 and 1968, and finished fourth in 1976.
Following Croatia's first World Cup, they failed to make it past the group stages in both 2002 and 2006. They did not qualify in 2010. They didn't make it past the group stage in 2004 and blew a 1-0 lead late in extra time to Turkey in the 2008 quarterfinals, before losing on penalties.
Going into the Euro 2012, Croatia has some promise, but aren't expected to go past the quarterfinals.
The Titans have been in a similar position since their move to Nashville. As the Houston Oilers, they won two AFL championships, but failed to make it to the Super Bowl. The franchise has nine division championships and has made the playoffs 21 times.
Both teams are competitive, but are never favorites to really do serious damage on the big stage. Both teams are waiting for their big breakthrough.
Ukraine = St.Louis Rams
Ukraine's national team barely has any of its own history, as they were part of the Soviet Union until 1992.
The St. Louis Rams have won a Super Bowl, and three NFC championships. They have 15 division titles and 27 playoff appearances.
If you take into account Ukraine's history as part of the U.S.S.R team, it would include solid showings in several world cups, including a fourth-place finish in 1966 and a Euro win in 1960. They also won Gold Medals at the 1956 and 1988 Olympic games. As its own country, Ukraine has qualified for one World Cup in five attempts. That came in 2006, where they went to the quarterfinals, before falling to eventual champion Italy 3-0.
Ukraine didn't qualify for the 2010 World Cup, but automatically qualified for this year's European Championship as a co-host.
Much like the Rams have been carried by the play of running back Stephen Jackson for so long, Ukraine has been carried by captain Andriy Shevchenko, who has 46 goals in 107 games for his country. The teams wear similar colors, which were originally the same when the Rams played with yellow and blue jerseys, rather than their current navy and gold look.
Ukraine will be looking to take advantage of home field this year, while the Rams will be looking to capitalize on their recent high draft picks. Perhaps Ukraine can soon emerge as one of the better teams in Europe, as the Rams will hope to climb the ladder of the NFL in the upcoming years.
Sweden = Minnesota Vikings
This comparison of Sweden to the Vikings goes far beyond the fact that Sweden is a Scandinavian country. The history of these two is actually quite similar. Both teams have traditionally been very good at each of their respective sports.
Minnesota has 26 playoff appearances in their history, 18 division titles, four conference championships, but no Super Bowl win. We're all aware of how close they've been, losing in all four of their Super Bowl appearances, and the 1998 Vikings were arguably the best team ever to not win a Super Bowl.
Sweden has come painfully close to tasting World Cup glory. They finished fourth in the 1938 World Cup, and finished third twice, in the 1950 and 1994. Their best finish came in 1958 as hosts. Ten years after a gold medal win at the Olympics, they won their group, then beat the Soviets and West Germany to advance to the final. They were outclassed by Brazil though, losing 5-2 in the final.
Since 1994, they have made it past the group stage just once in a World Cup, losing to Senegal in the Round of 16 in 2002. They have qualified for 11 of the 19 World Cups.
In European Championships, Sweden did not qualify until 1992, as hosts, where they lost to Germany in the semifinals. The closest they've come since was a quarterfinals exit in 2004.
The Vikings haven't made it to a Super Bowl since the 1976 season.
Both teams' histories suggest they will regain some past glory once again, but they're still both in search for that elusive championship.
France = Indianapolis Colts
The twists and turns of the Indianapolis Colts and the French national team have been eerily similar. France has always been a strong team, but it wasn't until the arrival of Zinedine Zidane that they truly became an international powerhouse.
The Colts in turn became a perennial powerhouse once Peyton Manning was on the team. Under Manning, the Colts won eight division titles and have made it to two Super Bowls, winning one.
With Zidane, one of the greatest players of his generation, playing for Les Bleus, the French made it to the semifinals of the 1996 Euro, then won the 1998 World Cup. Zidane then helped lead them through the Euro 2000, beating Italy 2-1 in the final.
With Zidane injured for the 2002 World Cup, the French did not score a single goal and didn't make it past the group stage, the worst showing of any defending champion in the tournament's history.
Zidane helped France to the quarterfinals of the Euro 2004, but a shocking 1-0 loss to Greece sent the French home early.
With France struggling to qualify for the 2006 World Cup and Zidane retired, manager Raymond Domench pleaded with Zidane to come out of retirement. He did, and helped write a great story. France successfully qualified with Zidane back and went all the way to the 2006 final. Of course the Zidane wound up being ejected in extra time following a headbutt to Marco Materazzi. Italy wound up winning the final on penalties, and after a great career, Zidane will always be remembered most for that one incident.
Following Zidane's second and final retirement, France again struggled, failing to advance past the group stages of the 2008 Euro and the 2010 World Cup. The team formed a mutiny under Domench, and he was fired.
Much like the Colts will eventually do under Andrew Luck and new management, the French team has been much better under manager Laurent Blanc. They will have a resurgence and have a good chance to do much better this Euro in a weaker group.
The Colts, meanwhile, fell apart following Manning's injury this past season, much like the French fell apart after Zidane's retirements. The Colts won one championship, like France with Zidane and, lost one after a crucial mistake late in the game, an interception to Tracey Porter. Although we don't expect Manning's last act in a football game to be a headbutt to an opponent's chest.
Back to histories, France has qualified for 13 World Cups, reaching the semifinals five times, the finals twice and one championship.
The Colts have two, but only one since their move to Indianapolis.
Again it's the events of the last 10-15 years with these two teams where the similarities are evident.
England = New York Jets
Last but not least we come to the home of football, and the biggest market in football in the western hemisphere, the English national team and the New York Jets.
Both teams have similar droughts. England won their only World Cup as hosts in 1966, and it came under controversy. In the 1966 final, Geoff Hurst scored England's third goal, which proved to be the winner after a 4-2 victory in extra time over West Germany. Hurst's goal appeared to have not crossed the line on replays, but with no instant replay (wait, there's still no instant replay in soccer), the goal stood and England added an insurance goal in the 120th minute.
England has not won any major tournament since.
The New York Jets' lone Super Bowl of course was Super Bowl III, in the 1968-69 season, following Joe Namath's guarantee. That remains the Jets' only championship in their history. They have made it to the AFC Championship four times since, and have 13 playoff appearances, but no hardware since.
England has suffered some heart-breakers. They have qualified for 13 of the 19 World Cups. Besides their championship, they finished fourth in 1990, and have lost in the quarterfinals six times. They've finished third twice in the Euro Cup, in 1968 and 1996.
They've never won a penalty shootout in a World Cup, having been eliminated in 1990, 1998 and 2006 on penalties. They also lost controversially in 1986 due to Diego Maradona's 'Hand of God' goal.
England was also given a raw deal in the most recent World Cup. After falling down 2-0 to Germany in the Round of 16, England cut the deficit to one, then appeared to have tied the game on a floater by Frank Lampard. The ball bounced off the crossbar, and clearly bounced over the line, but the referees failed to see it. With no instant replay in soccer, it was no goal and England's momentum halted. Germany went on to win 4-1. In reference to my Germany to New England comparison, the England-Germany rivalry is similar to the New York-New England rivalry in the NFL. Couldn't you just see a call like that going the Patriots' way? Luckily in the NFL there's instant replay.
Onto the fans, English supporters and Jets fans carry the same type of reputation as wild, unruly fans in their sports. The Jets and the Three Lions are hyped every year, but we're waiting for the results. Even though the teams may disappoint you, you can always count on the fans for entertainment.
Now, England's manager Roy Hodgson is no Rex Ryan unfortunately, so no comparison can be made there. Let's see if Hodgson guarantees victory prior to the 2014 World Cup.
England will be in tough this year though, with players Frank Lampard, Gary Cahill, Gareth Barry and goalkeeper John Ruddy all out with injuries. The Jets will have an interesting 2012 season with Tim Tebow on the team. Both are expected to crumble by many experts.
Hopefully this has spoken to fans who may be new to soccer, and who follow the NFL. This was written to speak to those who follow one of the two sports and now have some insight on who's who in International Soccer and vice-versa.
Enjoy the 2012 Euro Cup with this new-found knowledge.