Sunday, December 02, 2007

Coming Soon -- The Euro 2008 Film Festival!

Dec 2, 2007: By early sunday morning (5 am Mountain time, 1 pm European Time), the draw for next summer's European Championship was completed. It gives soccer fans plenty to look forward to next year but it also gives me the chance to assess the potential match-ups for my Euro 2008 film festival.

Here are the groups:

Group A: Switzerland, Czech Republic, Portugal, Turkey
Group B: Austria, Croatia, Germany, Poland
Group C: Holland, Italy, Romania, France
Group D: Greece, Sweden, Spain, Russia

The Group of Death, almost:

Leading up to today's draw, the fear of a 'group of death' was a real possibility. Such a group would have featured France, Italy, Holland and Germany. Well Group C comes close with Romania standing in for Germany. Romania are not an easy team to beat and might even nick a point or two off France & Italy. Romania also had the upper hand over Holland in the qualifying group -- the Dutch could only manage a 0-0 time with Romania and Romania won the group top spot by beating the Netherlands 1-0.

The German conspiracy:

About two months ago, Germany were poised to qualify as the highest rated team from all the European qualifying groups. This would have given Germany the highest seeding for the tournament along with co-hosts Austria & Switzerland and defending champion Greece. That would have meant that Germany would have avoided meeting these three teams in the Euro 2008 Group stages. It was at this time that I noticed articles mentioning that such a high seeding for Germany would be a disaster as they would miss the easy points they could pick up against Austria, Greece or Switzerland, the three weakest teams in the tournament. Sure enough, in the final three games, Germany duly lost at home to the Czech Republic and drew 0-0 with Wales to finish behind the Czechs and miss out on the top qualified team spot.

So the Germans got the draw they wanted. They are indeed drawn with the tournament's weakest team in Austria but the Germans will not have easy games against Croatia and Poland. Still, despite their planning, the Germans could have been in the group of death with France, Italy and Holland. But as it stands, I am sure they are happy to in Group B.

Such conspiracies are not new to German football. In 1974, West Germany were rumored to have thrown their match against rivals East Germany (1-0) so that they could avoid meeting the tournament's best team Holland. In the 1982 World Cup, West Germany and Austria settled on a 1-1 draw which ensured both teams reached the knock-out stages at the expense of Algeria. This was especially cruel on Algeria who had managed a brave 2-1 win over the West Germans.

The Two Hosts:

I am sure Switzerland will do fine and have a good chance to advance from Group A. But currently the Austrian national team is in shambles and if things don't get better, they could find themselves with no points from all 3 games next summer.

Regional Rivalries:

There are plenty of intriguing match-ups with some old rivalries bound to surface. The Swiss had a turbulent match-up with Turkey for the 2006 World Cup where the Turks were eliminated by the Swiss. Expect a fiery match-up between these two.

France and Italy must be sick of each other. Next summer would mark the 4th competitive meeting between these two teams in less than 2 years of international football -- their dramatic match-up in the 2006 World Cup final was followed by two eventful encounters during the Euro qualifying stages.

The numbers game:

An interesting event took place during the draw. To begin with, all the 1st place spots in the four groups were filled such as Group A1, B1, C1 and D1. Next, the slots for the remaining three group positions were to be randomly drawn. Meaning, any of the remaining teams could have occupied positions 2, 3 or 4. Initially only the 4th position number was drawn for all the four groups -- A4, B4, C4 & D4. Next, only the third spots were drawn -- A3, B3, C3 & D3. It was amusing to see the random drawing of positions by 4 different people resulting in the same numbers being pulled out in sequence.

Film Festival:

I had a great time mixing soccer with film for the 2006 World Cup and 2007 Copa America. So I am looking forward to next summer's Euros. And unlike the World Cup and Copa, I am guaranteed to find films from all the countries taking part in the tournament. Also, this time I won't wait until the soccer tournament begins to start watching the films but will start in the next few weeks. I already have some early film candidates in mind.....

Let the games, errr, film watching begin!!

1 comment:

Pacze Moj said...

I think I'll copycat your Euro idea this time. I wonder what our "lineups" will look like!

Although I'm not sure I'll play the films against each other. I may simply watch a film from each country for each stage that country participates in.

That helps me spread out my watching. I can start early for 1 film per country, and then finish the knock-out game after the tourney.

These soccer-film fest ideas are quite brilliant, by the way.