June 7 marks the kickoff to Euro 2008, Europe's quadrennial continental championship. With European sides making up all four semifinalists and six of the eight quarterfinalists in Germany two years ago, the competition in Austria and Switzerland should be just as good as the World Cup. Unlike the World Cup, the Euros have a recent history of darkhorse champions; the last four winners include Denmark (1992) and Greece (2004).
For those who didn't follow the qualifying rounds, the big story was the disastrous campaign of the England National Team. England lost its last two qualifiers to finish third in their group, capped by a 3-2 loss at Wembley to a Croatia team that had nothing at stake. A tie in that match would have been enough for England to advance. So rather than crashing out in the quarterfinals on PKs, England will be enjoying the tournament on TV like the rest of us.
Speaking of enjoying the tournament on TV, American fans will enjoy unprecedented coverage at home, with all 31 games live on the ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 family of networks. Who will you be watching?
Group A: Czech Republic, Portugal, Switzerland, Turkey
Group B: Austria, Croatia, Germany, Poland
Group C: France, Holland, Italy, Romania
Group D: Greece, Russia, Spain, Sweden
Thanks to the goofy seeding process UEFA uses, we were one ping pong ball away from a Group of Death featuring France, Germany, Holland and Italy. The June 17th rematch of the 2006 World Cup final should be the highlight of the first round, especially if it's winner take all for a quarterfinal berth.
The UFEA Web site has a nice looking tournament browser so you can plan your viewing schedules by day or by team (or by venue if you're planning to make the trip.) Plenty more to come from The Soccer Haus as rosters are finalized and the tournament gets underway.