Sunday, December 2, 2007

Euro 2008 Draw Analysis: Group of Death

Waking up early was worth it Sunday morning. Not necessarily because the Euro 2008 draw was sitting there waiting for me on ESPN2, but mere for the entertainment value of watching eight grown men swirl hollow soccer balls about a bowl and pull out the names and group placements of the 16 Euro finalists.

When you see watch these things, it's difficult not to by cynical. When the balls are emptied and you see suspicion manifested as hosts Austria are paired with Germany and Switzerland paired with Turkey. Austria isn't long for the tournament, but gets its glory day with Germany for the sake of the tournament. Same goes for the Swiss, its gets a rematch on home soil with Turkey; remember Turkey players attacking the Swiss during a World Cup qualifier two years ago?

Then we get a legitimate Group of Death. Granted, with 16 teams, it's difficult not to get some juicy pairings, but c'mon: Netherlands, France AND Italy? Italy and France, for some reason, are conjoined at the touch line. Roberto Donadoni said it flat-out: "I had a feeling it would turn out this way." And Holland, well Holland is always in the Group of Death. Remember last year's World Cup: Argentina, Holland, Ivory Coast and Serbia.

This is excess at its best--or is it worst? Rather, well, I'll say it: this is rigged. It's well thought out, well planned and well executed. I don't buy the luck-of-the-draw explanations. I won't swallow that Dino Zoff wasn't a pawn in UEFA's game! No, no, no. There's a master plan at work here.

opens against Romania and Italy tangles with Holland. France then gets Holland, while Italy has its turn against Romania, setting up the World Cup final rematch between Italy and France. Thank God this game cannot go to penalty kicks! Anyone seen Zizou? If the game's lacking any drama, maybe France can pry the gifted one out of retirement.

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