The Sporting Event of 2008.
No, it’s not the Olympics. It’s not the World Series, or even the Super Bowl. It’s UEFA’s European Championship which is being held in Austria and Switzerland beginning June 7th. The final will be in Vienna on June 29th.
2004’s European Championship Final had 279 million viewers. The last Olympics held in Italy averaged 20 million.
Team sports draw more attention than individual sport. Football (Soccer, Futbol) is the world’s ultimate team sport. Even the greatest goalie needs the defending of the back line and the forwards can’t score goals without the battles fought by the midfielders.
Anyone in the world, of any upbringing financially and/or socially, can play and excel at football. Not so much with the majority of the events in the Olympics. Many of these events require benefit of “situation” mainly; money. For example; cycling, fencing, gymnastics, weightlifting, etc.
The list is twice as long for the Winter Olympics. Frankly, it would be very hard to name an Olympic gold medalist from a dirt-poor 3rd world country. In football there are countless rags to riches stories starting with the greatest to ever play the game, Pele, to George Best who stands as an icon to the United Kingdom.
I will not go into the current political situation involving China and Tibet - that is just one more reason why the Olympics are not the sporting event of the year.
The UEFA European Championship has been held every four years since 1960.
Qualifying begins immediately after the conclusion or the FIFA World Cup. This year, eight of the top 10 teams in the world are participating. The missing two just so happen to be the top two, Argentina, and Brazil, respectively.
England, currently ranked 11th in the world, did not qualify for the tournament. Ironic considering being regarded as the “birthplace” of football, having one of the largest and most fervent world-wide fan bases, and being home to arguably the most popular professional league in the world: the Barclays Premiership.
UEFA (United European Football Associations) was founded in 1954. Its creation was brought about after discussions between the French, Italian, and Belgian FAs (Football Associations) for the financial and competitive benefit (power through unity) of all nations involved.
There are 16 teams participating in the Championship. The two host countries qualify automatically; quite a shame this year seeing as Austria (ranked 102nd in the world) and Switzerland (46th) have absolutely no chance of making it out the first round-their competition being far superior.
The defending champion is Greece—the host of the 2004 Championship—who upset Portugal in a thrilling Final. This year is Austria and Poland’s first appearance. Germany has the most appearances with nine, Russia is next with eight, and The Netherlands and Spain come in 3rd with seven each.
The tournament is broken into four groups—two teams emerge from each group and continue into a playoff.
Group C was coined: "The Group of Death"
Germany, Italy, and Spain are all favorites.
My predictions of who will come out of the group stages: Czech Republic, Portugal, Germany, Poland, Italy, France, Greece, and Spain.
As for the winner: I think Italy will win and hold both the Euro Championship and the World Cup.