WARSAW, POLAND - JUNE 08: Greece fans soak up the atmopshere during the UEFA EURO 2012 group A match between Poland and Greece at The National Stadium on June 8, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Hey, American: Euro 2012 is underway and you still don't know who to root for? Good thing Spencer Hall is here to help.
SB Nation's Rootability Indices help you decide as an admittedly ignorant viewer who to root for in a sporting endeavor you know nothing about whatsoever. The subject today: Euro 2012, already underway and sucking up valuable broadcast time usually given to Skip Bayless berating a toddler for being a choker in the playoffs. The toddler is literally choking in this scenario, and Bayless is doing nothing because he is a horrible thing. Enjoy.
CZECH REPUBLIC. The world's oldest astronomical clock sits in Prague, and also plays midfield for the Czech side when not standing around being historical. This uneven squad will spend the tournament being pushed around the map by the Russias of the soccer world. (Like, say, the actual soccer Russia sitting right in their group.) Then they will drink beer and have thoughtful atheist affairs because I read too much Milan Kundera as a young person.
CROATIA. The Redneck Riviera of Europe, so if you vacation on the Gulf Coast you are automatically locked into pulling for the Panama City Beach of the Adriatic's favorite side. If you are Coolio, the rapper popular in the 1990s, you also have to root for Croatia due to his bizarre and fanatical following there. (Ditto for you, sweaty fat guy from the "Gangster's Paradise" video.) Bonus: they're actually not bad at all, and you get to root against Italy and thus serve humanity as a whole in the process.
DENMARK. Like so many European stereotypes, Denmark's soccer team exist solely to confirm your existing biases about Hamlet's backyard, spending most of their matches working diligently and their halftimes studying the slow movements of the cosmos.
Playing in group B against Germany and the Netherlands, they will overcome insurmountable odds to advance only to lose in the next round staring enviously at Swedes. "WHY ARE THEY THE PRETTY ONES?" [ball soars past envious, average-looking, hard-working Danish goalie] Not even owning Greenland, the largest nation in the map-stretched world, will comfort them in this dark hour.
ENGLAND. The greatest English novels are either novels of manners where little happens, or tales of foreign adventure where English people go overseas and die. In other words, you've already read this preview in 100 forms, and can skip to the end in both.
FRANCE. Possibly the good France this time around, i.e. the France of Daft Punk, demonically strong coffee, Laetitia Casta, and fans who bring live roosters to matches and then eat them afterward without apology or sorrow. Note: they may not eat their own roosters, but they are eating someone's chickens, because despite your perpetual American diss-track against the French, they're more carnivorous than we are, and in more baroque variations.
As always there's the possibility for total implosion, and bad France is always right around the corner, just waiting there with an armful of Yannick Noah records and a DVD of Le Ballon Rouge that will wreck your shit whether you want it to or not. Talented headcases with spotty records and some embarrassing selections on your iPod: your team is chosen for you, especially if you like saying the name "BEN-ZE-MAAAA" as much as we do.
GERMANY. Since they're going to win and do so with shocking aggression, athleticism, and brilliant team and individual play, just pencil yourselves in here if you are a fan of any of the following: The New York Yankees, The Miami Heat, lions snapping the necks of young springboks, landslides obliterating helpless mountain hamlets, Bagger 288 (which is, of course, German), gravity, the wolves in The Grey, Death, Starbucks, Voldemort, killer asteroids, unstoppable video game assassins, the brutal march of time, extinction, genetic disorders, heavy things falling onto soft things, crop-killing freezes, Anton Chigurh, the pre-conscience incredible Hulk, hurricanes, random electrical accidents, and taxes.
They just blow stuff up with great force and inevitable doom, and it's pretty great to watch if you're not playing the role of "elderly building No. 5."
GREECE. Like Italy without the budget HEYO ECONOMIC AUSTERITY JOKES. To be fair, Greek soccer was austere and penny-pinching before their economy ever was, and don't ever watch Greek soccer.
ITALY. Like Greece with a budget, but far more talented and far more embroiled in actual scandal. If you are Italian, you must root for Italy as a matter of national identity and in recognition of the Italian side's legendary history. If you are anyone else and pulling for Italy you have a disorder and should seek medical attention immediately before you bite someone and give them what you have and end entertaining soccer as we know it. (Exception: If you are an Alabama fan you are already an Italy fan by default. ROLL AZZURRI TIDE, AMICO.)
NETHERLANDS. We had Dutch jokes, and then Nigel de Jong kicked them out of our hand without drawing so much as a yellow card. You say this team looks nothing like the seal-clubbing orange jackboot squad of the 2010 World Cup, and by evidence you are right. We know they're lurking beneath the surface, though, waiting, lurking, playing gently along with the flow of play until that special moment when circumstance conspires to allow a perfect blindside boot between the shoulder blades of a streaking forward.*
*This is based on knowing nothing about modern Netherlands besides that which we learned watching Bas Rutten videos. Lessons: the Dutch have odd accents, use anything in a barfight, use 'di-dangity-dang' for emphasis, and can split someone's liver in half with a single kick. So, possibly very accurate in some cases.
POLAND. The homeside is just lucky to be here at all, but we boldly predict they will score at least one goal in their match against Greece. No, we're not writing this as the game is happening. That would be unfair.* They will probably also lose their goalie to a red card, but still draw. Just a feeling.**
PORTUGAL. Historically known for squandering empires, so if you've pissed away a trust fund lately, here's your squad. The Portuguese are also the choice for those who pick their teams based on cheap tax havens and fine cork for wine bottles, the two cornerstones of the Portuguese economy. (Tipsy tax cheats, you are selected.) This team stands nowhere near the quality of past Portugal teams, and will have to lean heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo, who will fall down begging for a card, and then your team will be out of the tourney early so you can go to your beachside villa in Portugal.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND. If you're of Irish descent, you are already familiar with the long sorrowful string of events that got you here. Against all odds, child after defenseless child was borne forth through the tide of history by little more than love and the hope that each successive step away from cruelty, oppression, and scarcity would get them closer to something like a life of quiet dignity and peace. Think of the odds, the brute determination to survive, the long story of pain and devotion it took to get you here, in this moment, reading these words. You owe people who never even met you for the life you live each day.
It's amazing, and also explains why they've been busy doing things besides building a national team that will get out of the group alive. Life's hard like that.
RUSSIA. [JUST A LONG LIST OF DELETED JOKES ABOUT VLADIMIR PUTIN AND WORLD WAR II REFERENCES]
SPAIN. The reigning Euro champs present an opportunity for you to say things about yourself. Do you enjoy the process as much as the result? Do you coo at the scene in Hoosiers where Gene Hackman says you have to pass the ball four times, but really wish it were forty times? Do you wish your sporting highlights films used less "Shoot To Thrill," and instead used the entire length of a Bon Iver record? On a related note, did you think The Avengers really took a dive quality-wise when the Hulk showed up?
If so, and you often find yourself eating your dessert while your fellow diners are on their second post-meal scotch, then you must root for Spain. They are brilliant. They take forever to do anything. They make art, not soccer, and sometimes score begrudging goals while enjoying the national sport of connecting 500 passes in a row through flustered, weeping defenses. (P.S. If you have ADD this team will either kill you with boredom or hypnotize you into a happy catatonia. be warned.)
SWEDEN. TOO PRETTY AND PERFECT NO YOU CAN'T HAVE SOCCER AND A FROSTY PARADISE STOCKED WITH TALL SHAPELY PEOPLE MOVE ON NOPE GO DO SOMETHING ELSE YOU HAVE LIKE FIVE MONTHS OF VACATION A YEAR SO GO DO THAT AND DON'T TAKE SPORTS AWAY FROM PEOPLE WHO DON'T HAVE IKEA LIVES AND BEAUTIFUL BLONDE LIVES SERIOUSLY WE'LL TELL FINLAND YOU'RE BEING MEAN AND YOU KNOW YOU DON'T WANT TO MESS WITH THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE INSAAAAAAAANE.
UKRAINE. Not weak! But weak this time around, and possibly with some horrible side effects via an early exit thanks to the section of Ukranian soccer fans who like mixing their soccer with violent racism.