"Extraordinarily gifted but preeningly obnoxious."
"A self-destruct button waiting to happen."
"Hard-working, nose-to-the-grindstone, blue-collar ragamuffins from an economically depressed homeland."
"Living exclusively off faded memories of past glory."
Despite the obvious parallels, these are not, in fact, excerpts from last year's G:TB performance reviews. (Except for the first one - that's clearly Igor.) Rather, this purple prose comes from ESPN's preview of Euro 2012, the continental tournament that begins today in Poland. (The quality of journalistic output and accepted snark is yet another reason to follow the beautiful game.)
Sixteen European sides qualified for the quadrennial event that many observers argue is a tougher test of soccer than the World Cup. When you consider the top-to-bottom quality of the field, the notion may not be as far-fetched as it seems. Outside of co-host Ukraine (weak!), every entrant has at least a puncher's chance to make a deep run. Greece won the whole thing as a 100-1 shot in 2004, giving hope to every Mick, Slava, and Per in Europe.
Defending World Cup and Euro 2008 champ Spain are the oddsmakers' favorites to lug the Henri Delauney trophy back to Madrid (where they'll melt it down to save the country's economy from ruin), followed by Germany and the Netherlands. The latter two find themselves in the same brutal opening round group, along with Portugal and Denmark.
końcowy czteryk in the host nation's tongue). They'll be joined by a surprising Portugal squad, Spain, and France. The Dutch will top Les Bleus in one semi, while Spain knock out the Czechs in the other to set up a World Cup final rematch.
This time, we're treated to an example of what the game can be when it's played at its highest level, and Arjen Robben totally redeems himself with a late-game PK to give Holland the title.
And then we'll only have three weeks until the Olympics start.