And I know many of you just "don't get" soccer. That's ok. You're American and you mostly only see American soccer, so it's understandable that you wouldn't get it. But in it's pure form it truly is the beautiful game! (I also understand that this is Nascar country - and soccer is the complete opposite of Nascar... I don't get Nascar.) It's been my favorite sport since I was 6. At certain times in my life I've been addicted to it and it almost became a god to me. There is nothing like this game. It has a beauty all of its own. I can't explain what happens inside of me when I have a ball at my feet and a field in front of me. But now that I'm old and after surgery on both knees, the next best thing is watching this beautiful game.
Then with an international tournament like the World Cup there are a whole new batch of elements brought to the table when a team of guys are representing their country on the field and the whole country rallies behind them for a month every 4 years. If you're a basketball fan, think how exciting the NBA finals or March Madness would be if it only rolled around once every 4 years! When I watched my first World Cup in 1994 I watched every single game. When it was over and I learned that I would have to wait 4 years (over 1/3 of my life at that time) before the next one - I didn't know what I was going to do. And that is when I learned about the EURO Championships that also take place every four years. Thankfully this tournament comes only 2 years after the World Cup. A 2 year wait I can handle (a little better anyway).
Basically this tournament is like the European World Cup. Qualifiers work the same. The tournament is set up the same only with 16 teams starting in the Group stage instead of 32. But the vast majority of the best international squads and the greatest players in the world are European, so it's almost as good as the World Cup. In fact, Europe is so stacked this year that England (with the likes of Owen, Rooney, Beckham, Scholes, Cole, and on and on) didn't even qualify for the tournament! I'm so stoked to watch the BEST from Italy, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the Czech Republic!
2 games a day until the knockout round and then 1 game every day until the tournament final on June 29. So, my habits will drastically change for the next 3 weeks. I almost never watch TV! Close to never. For the next 3 weeks my Tivo will be full & I'll be watching hours of soccer each night. Every game is on the ESPN network of channels & 90% are in HD! Thankfully my wife is the BEST & loves sports as well. Like the 1st year we were married she basically required that we watch SportsCenter every night before we went to bed. That's a flippin' cool wife. She doesn't totally "get" soccer, but she's a pretty good sport in watching these big tourneys with me. (She did get into the recent Champions League Final last month between Man U & Chelsea.)
If you're not really into soccer but are interested in giving it a try with watching 1 game... I recommend France vs. Netherlands on Friday the 13th @ 4:45 on ESPN 2. There will also be a rematch of the most recent World Cup Final as Italy takes on France on June 17th @ 4:45. OR if you want to see some amazing individual talent I recommend checking out Portugal vs. Switzerland on Sunday afternoon - June 15th @ 4:45. Switzerland is the co-host of the tourney along with Austria. Crystal and I got to visit several countries in Europe a few years ago and these 2 were by far the most beautiful! It's pretty cool to watch the host country in one of these tournaments. But even more special will be watching Cristiano Ronaldo - the young phenom for Manchester United who's gonna turn some heads for Portugal. Even if you don't "get" the beautiful game, you will be amazed by this kid. He's pretty much the consensus best player in the world.
Just letting you know because I would hate for anyone to miss out on one of the greatest game ever invented at arguably the highest level of competition with Europe's best strutting their stuff. Give me a holla if you want to watch some games at my place. peace