The Euros

Can the drama, intensity and late minute heroics of the Euros 2008 be beaten? We’re a month away from finding out.

With the signing of Roy Hodgson as England manager, the table is finally set for the Euro 2012. Sixteen countries qualified for the tournament that is being held in Poland and Ukraine, and all 16 are looking at this tournament dreaming of national glory. Defending champion and World Cup winner Spain is the favorite going in, with the Netherlands and Germany also being picked by many to win it all.

Poland and Ukraine were given automatic bids as co-hosts, but are likely to bow out as both are in Pot A with Spain and the Netherlands. Pot 2 is the tournaments “group of death,” with the Germany, Italy, England and Russia. England’s chances of winning the tournament are seen as slight, but getting through this pot and on to the knock-out stages would do a lot for Hodgson’s future with the Three Lions — England has never reached the final of the competition.

This will be the 14th edition of the European Championships, with Germany (including wins by West Germany) taking home the trophy three times. Spain and France have both won twice and no other team has won more than once.

There is no doubt this competition is one of the most important that these players will get to participate in throughout their careers, with aging players like David Beckham trying his hardest to impress the England brass for one last chance at international glory. Players on club teams around the world have been angling for more playing time to try and show their international team’s coaches that they have what it takes to be selected for the team – some even asking for transfers to lesser clubs that will allow them more playing time.

One problem will remain no matter what the outcome: only one of 16 teams will go home satisfied. Second place might be seen as a success for teams like Ireland, Russia or Sweden, but getting that close and still losing hurts nevertheless.

Over 12 million applications for tickets were received for the 31 matches that make up the Euro 2012, an all-time record for the championships. Ukraine and Poland will look quite different this summer, going through the same influx of visitors and festivities that South Africa saw two years ago when it hosted the World Cup.

The following video should give you a small taste of what this summer will bring. Matches will be on ESPN for those of you not lucky enough to go. Want tickets? We’ll have them up until the day of each game here.

England a long shot to host 2018 World Cup?

The 2010 World Cup kicks on June 11, 2010 in South Africa. And even though that tournament has not yet started plans are already being made around which cities will host future World Cup tournaments.  The 2014 World Cup has already been awarded to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Now soccer’s governing body, FIFA, is planning for the 2018 and 2022 soccer World Cup.

FIFA has indicated that the 2018 World Cup will likely be hosted by a European country.  The early favorite to host the 2018 World Cup might be Russia, which impressed FIFA head Sepp Blatter when he visited the country recently. Other European countries in the running include; England, a combined bid by Spain & Portugal, and a combined bid by the Netherlands & Belgium.

One would assume that England would be one of the strongest candidates for the 2018 World Cup since they already have much of the infrastructure necessary to host such a large event.  But FIFA’s Blatter said “not sure” that England would be able to secure a win to host the tournament.  Which makes it sound like no matter how good England might look on paper, there could be other factors that prevent them from securing the right to host the 2018 World Cup. 

That said, anything can happen in these situations.  Many thought Chicago was the favorite to host the 2014 Olympics and IOC selected Rio de Janeiro instead.  So at this point England is still in the running, but it sounds like they’ll need to win over FIFA if they are going to host the 2018 World Cup.

Saints vs. Chargers in Europe?!

For the second year in a row, the NFL will play ball at Wembley Stadium in London, England. The NFL match will pair the Saints vs. the Chargers at Wembley, continuing a history of the NFL playing at the historic stadium. Last year, the Giants faced the Dolphins in the UK, and the Giants pulled out the win 13-10 despite inclement weather conditions. In the American Bowls, running from 1986 to 2005, american football teams played at Wembley a total of eight times. Some of NFL’s biggest stars walked on and off the field in London, including Joe Montana, Steve Young, John Elway and Dan Marino.

And I’ll bet you thought that football was only played in the United States. Not nearly. In fact, NFL players have made several appearances outside the U.S. As part of the American Bowls, the NFL has played in Tokyo, Montreal, Berlin, Barcelona, Mexico City, Dublin, Osaka, Vancouver and Monterrey. This just goes to show that the fandom of American football is more far-reaching and diverse than you would have initially thought. Although the American Bowl series no longer exists, the International Series is carrying on the tradition of bringing live football to fans all over the world. The International Series is the successor to the American Bowl, as games played abroad are now regular season games instead of preseason games. In addition to these games, the Buffalo Bills will be playing a preseason match in Toronto against the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 14. Make sure to catch the Chargers vs. Saints game this year, especially if you are going to be in Europe!