Why American Soccer Fans Should Support England at Euro 2012

Will Tidey@willtideySenior Manager, GlobalMay 24, 2012

BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 27:  England fans enjoy the atmosphere during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Round of Sixteen match between Germany and England at Free State Stadium on June 27, 2010 in Bloemfontein, South Africa.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Starting June 8, Euro 2012 will take over our lives for a month as Europe's finest international teams chase down the toughest prize in football.

The question for the U.S. audience, who will be able to watch all 31 games in Poland and Ukraine live on ESPN this summer, is who to pull for.

The connoisseur's choice is Spain. Vincente del Bosque's team are reigning world champions and the preeminent purveyors of tiki-taka—a luxury brand of football, so sleek and elegant, it's remarkable they haven't named a car after it yet.

The Toyota tiki-taka would be an astonishingly smooth and fuel-efficient ride, with a frightening turbo injection on tap if needed. The only problem would be getting the keys out when you stopped.

Spain have quite the roster. Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Iker Casillas—world-famous names you could stick your mortgage on having a strong run at Euro 2012.

But isn't that a little obvious? Doesn't that make you the U.S. sports newbie who buys a Patriots shirt with Brady on the back, dons a Yankees cap and has a LeBron James headband under it?

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 09:  Xavi Hernandez of Spain runs with the ball during the International friendly match between Spain and Colombia at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on February 9, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Not only are Spain the novice choice, they also represent very poor fan investment. They're the favorites, so you're setting yourself up for massive disappointment if they fail—which could easily happen (in fact, I think they will, especially without David Villa and Carles Puyol at their disposal).

OK, so what about Germany? Joachim Low's team are bristling with exciting players and considered second favorites by the bookmakers.

Germany certainly don't "park the bus." They pile everybody into it and drive as fast as they can until it skids off the tournament highway and falls down the side of a mountain. Based on their run at the 2010 World Cup, following them will be an exhilarating thrill ride.

But here's your problem: Germany are, historically speaking, gluttonous success merchants. Three-time World Cup winners, three-time European champions, you're investing in a trophy-collecting factory, albeit one that's been out of production since 1996.

Moreover, you're backing a team whose players and fans expect to win Euro 2012—just like Bayern Munich expected to beat Chelsea in the Champions League final.

You could call that supreme confidence; I'd call it heaping enormous pressure on your team and setting yourself up for gut-wrenching disappointment. Moreover, follow the Germans and you miss out on the enjoyment of watching them fail.

I can write off Italy for you in one sentence. They're defensively-minded and will be out to stifle their opponents to death at these Euros. If that's how you live your life, then great, and you might just be backing the winner. But if you prefer a more invigorating approach to the game, steer clear of the Azzurri.

As for France, has anybody really forgiven them from cheating the Republic of Ireland out of a place at the 2010 World Cup?

Having lied their way to South Africa, Les Bleus proceeded to act like spoiled children when they got there—and play like them too. They'll be much improved, and can be considered genuine contenders, but it's far too soon to love them again. 

The Netherlands carry baggage too. It was they who tried to assassinate the entire Spanish team during the 2010 World Cup final, going at the game like a band of hatchet-branding Dutchmen in a scene from Gangs of New York.

How about Portugal? It's tempting, especially for the Cristiano Ronaldo worshippers amongst you, but you risk a very plausible premature death in the so-called "group of death."

Portugal are in the same pool as Germany, Netherlands and Denmark. On paper, they're third best, which won't be good enough for a spot in the quarters.

Others likely destined for an early bath are Sweden, Ukraine, Denmark, Republic of Ireland and Croatia.

Then you've got the "group of life"—Czech Republic, Greece, Poland and Russia. Two of those will make it through.

The argument against the Greeks and Czechs is a simple one—they're toothless. Both teams lack firepower and struggled to score goals in qualifying. Greece managed just 14 in 10 games. The Czechs 12 in eight.

Poland are impossible to gauge, having not played a competitive match since failing to qualify for World Cup 2010. But their FIFA ranking of 65 tells you the co-hosts are a lengthy long shot.

As for Russia, they're a good bet to make it to the quarters. But that's where their tournament will surely end, against one of Netherlands, Germany or Portugal.

All of which leaves little old England.

Now, there was a time when England fans fostered a nauseating sense of entitlement. We invented the game, we won the World Cup in 1966...international success is our birthright, so went the mentality.

But the last 46 years have broken us. Heartache has been poured on heartache, and the same three lions who once roared now can be found whimpering, almost apologetically, toward Euro 2012.

England has become resigned to the truth. We are a second tier football nation and there is no guarantee we'll even make out of the group stage this summer.

Humility has crept in. Expectancy has gone down. As a result, England will go to Euro 2012 on a wing and a prayer—and we all know it.

But in this newfound self-awareness can be fresh hope. England have finally accepted their flaws, and they're ready to address them. There's something to admire in that—an honesty that we all seek in our lives. "My name is England and I'm an under-achieving football team."

Yes, we've got John Terry, Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney—and all that comes with them—but doesn't everybody deserve a second chance?

Isn't a redemption story the best sport has to offer? 

If England win Euro 2012, you can take the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series in '04 and multiply by 10. That's how monumental it will be to our obsessed, tortured island of football fanatics.

The Queen will call a national holiday, the players and coach will be knighted, and Paul McCartney will play a free concert on the roof of Buckingham Palace. People will, quite literally, be dancing in the streets.

That's the kind of euphoric, all-consuming pay off on offer if you back England. It probably won't happen, but it might. Just consider the raft of proven Premier League stars in England's squad. 

Consider the fact we have Rooney, arguably the second most gifted player at the tournament behind Ronaldo, and a player in run of fine goal-scoring form heading into the tournament.

OK, he's banned for the first two games, but he'll be ready to explode on Ukraine. From there, it will likely be Spain or Italy in the quarters. And you when you get to knockout football, anything is possible—especially with a match-winner like Rooney in your ranks.

Three games. Three wins and England are champions of Europe. You only need to reference what Chelsea achieved this season to know it's possible.

For the American audience, backing England offers by far the best value. You know the players. You know the backstory. Expect mediocrity and we might just surprise you.

In Roy Hodgson, we have a polite, intelligent and well-spoken manager who will perform his ambassadorial duties with class throughout the tournament. Our Chelsea players are kings of Europe. Our Manchester City players come with the confidence flowing after winning the club's first Premier League title since 1968.

Yet, still we're underdogs. If we go home, you saw it coming. If we don't, you can relish every moment of England proving the world wrong.

I encourage you America, to get behind England at Euro 2012.

Just pray we don't come upon a penalty shootout.


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