Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Euro '12: Final Thoughts

Here are more thoughts about the European Football (soccer) Championships, or Euro '12, which ended Sunday night with Spain beating Italy 4:0 in the final match. Spain made history by becoming the first team to win 3 major tournaments in a row: Euro '08, World Cup 2010, and Euro '12. Italy was classy in defeat and paid Spain many compliments. In both the World Cup and in Euro '12 Spain looked very flat. In fact, Spain came close to being eliminated by Croatia in the group stages. But La Furia Roja (the Red Fury) has a way of coming up with great performances in the finals. Spain's decisive victory on Sunday silenced the critics who complained about La Furia Roja being boring. I can easily see Spain defending its World Cup title in Brazil in 2014.

Trainer of the Tournament: Cesare Prandelli of Italy. He took over coaching the Italian team in 2010 after its disastrous performance at the World Cup. In 2010 the Italians didn't even make it out of the group stages after winning the title in 2006. The players on the 2012 Italian squad seemed to be a bunch of aging veterans, misfits, and others who were considered hard to handle. There were very low expectations  for Italy at Euro '12 because the team had poor performances in qualifying and in pre-tournament friendly matches. Yet Prandelli did a great job of guiding the Azzuri all the way to the final. Italy's highlight of the tournament was its win over heavily-favored Germany in the semi-finals. Even though Spain won the tournament, Italy won the most hearts and fans.

Typecasting: If I was a casting director, Euro '12 would be a gold mine for finding people to fill specific roles.
Count Dracula: With his slicked-back hair, Italian coach Cesare Prandelli would be a good choice to play Dracula or a grown-up Eddie Munster.
The Incredible Hulk: Mario Balotelli of Italy. He is incredibly muscular and looks very deadpan, or even angry. His celebration after his second goal against Germany in the semi-finals was to take off his shirt and show off his muscles without cracking a smile.
German Soldier or Hitler Youth Leader in a World War II movie: German goalie Manuel Neuer. He has short blond hair, blue eyes, and a sturdy build. If this was the 1930s, Neuer would be held up as an ideal example of how a German should look. My son has a poster in his room in which Neuer is holding a football with his right arm extended in what looks like an old Nazi salute.
1920s American football player: The Czech Republic's goalie Petr Cech. He wears a leather helmet when he plays to protect his head because he suffered a severe concussion. That helmet looks like something an old-time American football player would wear.
My Favorite Martian: Franck Ribery of France. He has a long, thin head and pointy chin. I can easily imagine him with a set of antennae on top of his head.
A Young Beatle: If I was making a documentary about the Beatles, I would cast David Silva of Spain because he has a mid-1960s Beatles haircut. Silva would probably play the role of Ringo because he's short.
Hannibal Lecter: Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands. With his shaved head he has a resemblance to Anthony Hopkins. OK, I confess that Sneijder looks evil because his team, Inter Milan, beat Bayern Munich in the 2010 Champion's League final.  Even though Sneijder didn't score any goals, he was instrumental in Inter's victory. That automatically makes him mean.
Nemo: Mesut Oezil of Germany because of his eyes. Oezil's eyes look like fish eyes because of how they pop out.  His Real Madrid teammates even call him Nemo.
A Southern Redneck: Petr Jiracek of the Czech Republic. He is the only player with a mullet.
Dr. David Hayward: German trainer Joachim Loew. The evil Dr. Hayward is a character on the US soap opera "All My Children" played by Vincent Irizarry. Loew and Irizarry could pass as identical twins. They are even the same age!  A couple of years ago I was at the gym with my son. "All My Children" was on one of the TVs. Dr. Hayward was in that particular scene when I looked at the TV. I turned to my son and said, "Jogi Loew is on TV." He looked at the TV with "All My Children" and did a double take while wondering why the German national trainer was on an American soap opera. He was also amazed at the resemblance between Loew and Irizarry. If "All My Children" ever comes back, and Irizarry has other committments, Loew can step into Dr. Hayward's role.
Opera Singer: Gianluigi Buffon, the Italian goalie. He really belts out the Italian national anthem. While his  projection is excellent, he needs to work on his singing voice.

Melting Pot: Germany's team has a lot of starting players who are from different countries. The players themselves are German citizens; they were either born in Germany or came to Germany as young children. Mesut Oezil is Turkish, Sami Khedira is Tunisian, Mario Gomez is half Spanish, Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose are Polish, and Jerome Boateng is from Ghana.

Battle of the Midgets: Two of the smallest players at Euro '12 were Germany's Philip Lahm and Mathieu Valbuena of France. Lahm is listed at 1.70 meters (about 5'7") and Valbuena between 1.63 and 1.67 meters (5'4" to 5'6"). Both players faced each other during the 2012 Champion's League playoffs, but not at Euro '12. When my family watched the Marseilles vs Bayern Munich series earlier this year (Valbuena plays for Marseilles, Lahm for Bayern), my son started calling Valbuena, "The Mighty Midget." Unfortunately, Valbuena didn't get any playing time at Euro '12, even though he was on the French squad. Maybe France would have scored more goals with the Mighty Midget in the lineup. The Greek team also looked to be quite small, but then again I saw the Greek players next to the very tall German defenders, so it was hard to make a real comparison.

Neighbors: Two of the German national players come from towns which are very close to Garmisch. Bastian Schweinsteiger is from Oberau, which is 8 km away. Thomas Mueller comes from Weilheim, which is 35 km away. Both men play for Bayern Munich.

How I Knew Spain Would Beat Italy: In my last post I described how I used the songs on my iPod to predict how Italy would do in its matches, at least for the quarter and semi-finals. On Sunday I went for a two-hour run. There were 50 songs on the playlist that I was using, but only one was by Eros Ramazzotti. I added one from Antonello Venditti and decided that if Eros came up first, then Spain would win (he has recorded most of his songs in Spanish as well as his native Italian). In retrospect, I should have used "Spanish Bombs" by the Clash, which actually has a few words of Spanish. But that's another story. Anyway, neither Antonello's nor Eros' song came up. Then it was Plan B. I decided that all of the songs by British singers or bands would represent Spain because the English were the Redcoats in the American Revolutionary War. Spain is La Furia Roja or the Red Fury. Songs by American bands or singers would represent Italy, since US Revolutionary War soldiers are depicted wearing blue. Italy's team is the Azzuri or the Blues. During my run I listened to songs by: Elton John, the Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton, the Police, the Rolling Stones, Credendce Clearwater Revival, Bruce Springsteen, the Hollies, the Who, Frank Zappa and many others. But when I finished my run and tallied the songs, the British tunes outnumbered the American ones. It was at that moment I knew that Spain would win. If the Italian team needs someone to predict the outcomes of their matches, I'm available. But I won't be holding my breath waiting for a phone call from Italy.

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