Welcome to the first of our summer specials which sees us focusing on the big football action taking place over the summer: World Cup qualifiers; Copa Libertadores action and of course, the European Championships. On this show we look back at the history of the European Championships as well as focusing on this year’s version. Who will be the dark horses? The flops? The player of the tournament? The winners? Download the show to hear our expert analysis. In addition, we review the football week in the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, introduce a football expression in English for Football and start a new battle in the predictions competition.
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How many different countries have won the World Cup? When France won in 1998 they became only the seventh country to do so in 18 tournaments. How about the European Championships? Well, this is the 13th time that the competition has been held and remarkably there have been nine different winners of the tournament in that time. This may be due to the fact that the strongest teams focus more on the World Cup but it may also have to do with the strength in depth of the European game.
Germany are the most successful with three victories, with the last of those wins coming in England in 1996. France are the only other side to have won it more than once, taking the trophy in spectacular style under the leadership of Michel Platini in 1984. They won it again in dramatic fashion in 2000 when David Trezeguet scored a last-gasp winner against Italy to give them the double of Euro and World titles.
The first winners of the tournament were the Soviet Union who beat Yugoslavia in the final in 1960. At that stage the competition comprised of only semi-final and final matches and continued to do so until the 1980 version in Italy, which saw 8 teams participate in group matches before the knock-out stages. In 1996 the number of teams increased to 16 which has remained unchanged to the present day (2008).
Current holders are Greece who surprised everyone by winning in Portugal four years ago though perhaps even that victory was not as remarkable as Denmark’s win in 1992, for they had not even qualified for the tournament entering as a last-minute replacement for Yugoslavia. Other teams that have won it include Italy, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Spain and thanks to Marco Van Basten, Holland in 1988. So, with such strength in depth who is to say that a tenth different name won’t be on the trophy at the end of June?
So how about 2008? Well 16 teams meet in four groups. 2 teams are hosts: Switzerland and Austria. It’s doubtful whether the Austrian team would have qualified as most pundits agree they are a woeful side, ranked 92nd by FIFA. This year there are seven out of the top ten FIFA ranked teams taking part: Germany, Spain and Italy are the top three favourites, with Germany most people’s pick. As Damian said they have won it three times already, can they make it a fourth?
The group of death this time around is Group C with the last two World Champions France and Italy joined by Holland and Romania, both teams that are no pushovers. Romania are the lowest ranked team in that group at 12th spot and they qualified top of their group above the Dutch team. France and Italy will not have an easy passage into the quarter finals.
So, two teams from each group go through to the last eight and surely Germany will be one of them as they are in arguably the easiest group, Group B. The German team continues its run of easy groups this year and it’s difficult to see them slipping up even if Poland will be desperate to beat them, and Croatia have proved they are there on merit by finishing ahead of England and Russia in their qualifying group. Austria are there to… um… I’m not sure.
Group A has the Czech Republic, Portugal, Turkey and the other co-hosts Switzerland, and in Group D we have Spain, Russia, Greece, the holders, and Sweden.
So, it’s time to start thinking about predictions: dark horse for me is Russia, winner is Spain, flop is Portugal, and player to shine is Fernando Torres – and no, just because he plays for Liverpool doesn’t mean I’m biased. How about you Damian?
English Football Expression: Underachievers
Today’s English For Football phrase is underachievers which we use to describe something or someone that fails to achieve or reach their potential. In football we use this expression when a player or team does not do as well as expected beforehand. This is the case with the Spanish national team who have always produced a great number of talented players raising expectations that they might win a championship. However, since 1964 the team have won nothing despite being tipped to do so by many, hence the term underachievers. Yet again many are tipping the Spaniards to do well and they themselves are hoping to shake off this term of underachievers by going all the way in this month’s European Championships. Underachievers.
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