Bets I'd make for a Drachma
Jun 12, 2012 / 5:00 am
On a weekend when Kevin Garnett stared The Truth in the face and realized that age had finally caught up with the Boston Celtics… on a weekend when it appears that the Devils may in fact be asking the Kings to return the soul they sold… on a weekend when boxing referees and promoters proved that they are funnier than Adam Sandler movies with their Braille scoring system of the Pacquiao/Bradley fight… on a weekend when it took until an early Western Canadian dawn for Rafael Nadal to prove that like the Wicked Witch of the West it is only rain that causes him to melt… on a weekend when horse racing’s Triple Crown failed to materialize as I’ll Have Another was questionably pulled from the Belmont amid Roger Clemens/Brian McNamee-type allegations… on such a weekend, let us turn our attention to the cities of Poland and the Ukraine and the opening weekend of Euro 2012, a Tournament of Economic Bailout and Racial Harmony.
Every 4 years, the jewel of the UEFA crown spreads its wings and graces sometimes one, more recently two of its member-countries with this public intoxication cash cow. Yes, every Greyhound Bus in Europe has been leased to supporters clubs in Milton Keynes, Urbino and Chamonix-Mont-Blanc as the national scarf-wearing football aficionados and hooligans Thomas Cook themselves for their quad-annual vacation to tourist hotspots like Gdansk and Kharkiv. Each to their own I suppose, but I think my 2 week European reality escapes might be more likely to find me and the loved ones anchored off the coast of Skyros in search of non-alcoholic local retsina and somebody who would actually take old Drachma Travelers Cheques. There really is no accounting for taste. I would have missed out of course on the ever-popular Monkey Chanting For Racial Inequality that has caused practice venues to be closed to the public while UEFA has implored the 8 city Mayors to take “all effective and necessary measures including an increased police presence” to try and nip this growing cancer of radical intolerance in the bud while the lights and cameras of the international audience shine upon them. Somewhere up there Jesse Owens is polishing his medals and laughing somewhat sadly.
The competition opened on Friday with 2004 Champs Greece taking on hosts Poland in a Wheel of Fortune battle pitting the vowels against the consonants. It took a Polish goal and the 2-yellows sending off of Papastathopoulos to motivate the Greek side who equalized through Salpingidis and should have converted the comeback from the spot after the Polish keeper found himself headed to the showers early after what can best be described as a rather cynical Ovechkin-esque knee-on-knee tackle. The penalty itself had the skillful qualities of a Shaq free-throw and reserve keeper Tyton’s save to preserve the 1-1 tie seemed a fair result all things considered. It was however, the Russians who proved to be the class of Group A with their 4-1 pounding of the Czech Republic behind 2 goals from superstar-to-be Alan Dzagoev whose crazy talent more than adequately obscures the fact that the Russian team has a guy named Alan on it. Group A picks – Russia, Greece.
Group B has been regarded as the “Group of Death” from the moment the bingo balls were sucked up the tube and it is justifiably so. With Germany, Netherlands, Denmark and Portugal ranked at #3, #4, #9 and #10 in the world respectively, the four nations certainly have a right to feel a bit hard done by. With that in mind, the Netherlands came out flatter than Den Haag pannenkoeken and with the assistance of some moonlighting NBA referees who couldn’t notice not 1 but 2 handballs in the box, the Danes proved that not everything was “Robben in the state of Denmark!” and escaped with a 1-0 win. Expect more badly placed Hamlet quotes the deeper they go in the tournament. In WWE action, Discipline outworked Flair as the Germans refused to allow Cristiano Renaldo to work his magic and Mario Gomez’s rare goal for his country more than made up for the extended time I have had to spend enduring Michael Ballack as a studio analyst. Group B picks – Germany, Denmark.
In the “Group of Debt,” World #1, current Euro and World Champs Spain battled perennial contenders Italy in a game that despite moments of remarkable skill and talent, illustrated that ‘flopping’ is talent not only for the Miami Heat and Ben Affleck movies but a necessary evil in the modern game of footie. A 1-1 draw might have left the Spanish fans feeling a little worried but talent alone should see them through to the knockout stages. For the Italians, controversial striker and Chad Ochocinco lookalike Mario Balotelli has threatened to kill all the banana-throwing racists – presumably after he gets benched – and while his courage is to be applauded, I can’t say for sure if this bear-baiting tactic is the approach needed. Meanwhile, in other Debt action, Croatia disappointed the Republic of Ireland’s army of fans in a 3-1 blowout which left many wondering just how old is Robbie Keane really? Group C picks – Spain, Croatia.
Speaking of golden oldies, Group D saw the ‘beautiful game’ at its best as 35-year old Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko pocketed 2 gems against favoured Sweden after Ibrahimovic had put the visitors ahead early in the second half. It puts Ukraine at the top of the Group as the Channel War between England and France had ended earlier in a 1-1 draw, in no small part due to Wayne Rooney unable to take the field for the Queen’s Men. The French are a Ribery-led enigma at this tourney and assuming nobody decides to go head-butt crazy, I like their chances of getting through better than an English squad who relies a little too much on Steven Gerrard and suffers from a Hugh Grant level of stage fright in international competition. Group D picks – Ukraine, France. Until next time Kelowna… hands off the ball unless you have gloves on.
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