These are the pressing questions as the qualification for next summer’s European football championship heats up:
Where in the hell is San Marino? And since San Marino has allowed 44 goals and scored none in eight qualifying matches thus far, shouldn’t it be relegated out of Europe and into another continent? I think Antarctica is recruiting.
If Liechtenstein ever qualifies (and it never will), can I still rent the whole country out? Because they used to do that.
Since Russia stretches 3,000 km further east than China, why is it involved in “European” qualifying?
That last one is personally pressing since Russia is on the verge of pushing Ireland’s Euro hopes toward a terminal spiral on Tuesday evening.
Is it snowing yet in Russia? Because this Irish team isn’t very good in the snow.
Or the dry. Or in gravity.
It’s just not very good, which at least gives it the virtue of consistency.
These aren’t very good questions — except the Russia one — but they’re all we have.
Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine is shaping as more of the same from all the usuals. Based on Euros past, that’s a very good thing.
Germany has already qualified. Italy and defending champions Spain will do so Tuesday. France, the Netherlands, Portugal and England are leading their respective groups.
That’s six of the world’s top eight ranked teams right there.
We already know that the Euro is the world’s most exciting sporting competition. This is not a discussion, regardless of how much you enjoy the patriotic orgasmatron that is the Winter Olympics.
The Winter Olympics is great if you’re Canadian, Scandinavian, Russian or an American who lives close enough to Canada to know where Canada is.
Nobody else cares. The Germans win a ton of medals every time, and they don’t really care.
The Winter Olympics is a regional event. A fabulous one, but regional nonetheless.
There are three great global sports events — the Summer Olympics, the World Cup and the Euro. The Super Bowl might be sneaking in there, but only as an oddly timed curiosity outside North America.
Crushed under the weight of its own spotlight and infectious tactical caution, the World Cup always disappoints in terms of quality.
The Summer Olympics has a buffet problem — you end up watching too much early, long before you get to the good stuff, and by the time that rolls around your plate is already full.
The Super Bowl is really more of a chance for us to take America’s temperature once a year.
Take the number of bugles, add in all the shots of men in military fatigues, divide that by the number of Stars and Stripes lapel pins on the broadcasters, and you have a rough estimate of how long the recession will last.
The game itself can be good. I’ve recently started covering it live, which prevents me from cracking my first beer at noon and nodding off on the couch during the third quarter. Obviously, the game needs to be shorter. Or beer needs to be smaller.
The Euro, however, never disappoints. Though the team selection is regional, the audience is global. No sport has done a better job of marketing its stars to the world. As a result, football has transcended nationality. Any snapshot of a crowd in Kinshasa or Mumbai or Jakarta will inevitably include a kid wearing a Spain kit or Wayne Rooney’s national strip.
There is quality throughout the field. There’s a traditional rivalry every second day.
Unlikely wins by Denmark and Greece have proven that there is no advantage in turtling at the outset and trusting to luck. So offence is the rule.
It usually throws up at least one Cinderella. Last time out, it was Turkey.
Their classic semifinal against Germany — portions of which were never broadcast because of lightning-related local blackouts — is still the greatest match I’ve ever attended. Sitting here, I get tingles thinking of Philipp Lahm’s curling winner at the death.
The Euro is special because it delivers on its promise from start to finish every single time. You should already be counting down — 276 days to go.