Superstition-Based Euro 2012 Predictions: Italy, Spain and England
When it comes to sports predictions, people love trying to tell the future by analyzing the past. This is especially true in soccer, where superstition runs rampant and the search for predictors can verge on the mystical.
Here are three key Euro 2012 predictions based on football myths that could determine the fate of Italy, England and Spain.
1. Italy Will Win Euro 2012
Let's start with the most obvious. Italy's last two major tournament wins, World Cup 1982 and World Cup 2006, both came smack in the midst of disgraceful match-fixing scandals.
Both years, a generally unfavored Italian squad overcame the odds to lift the trophy.
Italy Loves a Scandal
Many speculate that far from distracting the players, the scandals forged a siege mentality which, married to a desire for national redemption, inspired unshakable team spirit powerful enough to boost the Italians all the way to the ultimate victory.
2. England Are Bound for Glorious Failure
Lately England have abandoned their celebrated national storyline of glorious failure and traded it for a less glamorous ignominious variety.
But judging by past patterns, glorious failure for the Three Lions is about to make a spectacular comeback.
England failed to qualify for Euro 2008, the first time they had missed out on a major tournament since World Cup 1994. And that failure was immediately followed by England's last really convincing performance in international football, Euro '96.
Semifinal Rematch: Germany V England?
Then, as now, England entered the competition with somewhat less of the usual over-confidence and hype. Personal scandal hung over certain senior players (Paul Gascoigne's boozing then, John Terry's pending racism trial now).
England's great goal-scoring hope was shooting blanks (going into Euro 96, Alan Shearer hadn't scored for England in nearly two years; going into Euro 2012, Wayne Rooney hadn't scored in an international tournament since Euro 2004).
But Euro '96 wound up setting the stage for that quintessential denouement of glorious failure: a semifinal, penalty shoot-out loss to the Germans. If England can manage to flout the Italian scandal superstition and win their quarterfinal, an epic semifinal re-match awaits. Can glorious failure be far behind?
3. Humiliation for Spain
Once, twice...but there is no such thing as three times a champion in world football. In fact, whenever anyone even tries to win their third major tournament in a row, they are horribly humiliated. Spain, champions of Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010, will be next.
Only two other teams have managed to win consecutive European and world championships: Germany with Euro '72 and World Cup '74, and France with World Cup '98 and Euro 2000. But what awaited these exceptional teams on their third try?
Germany's Euro '76 Humiliation
France slunk out of World Cup 2002 meekly in the group stage. Germany mounted a more impressive title defense at Euro '76, then lost the final to Czechoslovakia on penalties.
To lose on penalties was shocking enough for the Germans, but the Euro '76 loss reached the realm of humiliation thanks to the manner of the winning penalty, a cheeky chip subsequently dubbed the Panenka after the player who scored it.
Who Will Put the Pain on Spain?
Soccer superstition demands that Spain will lose the final to an outlandish piece of skillful bravura conjured by a unique footballer.
The Balotelli, anyone?