Euro 2008 Preview

EURO 2008 is the second biggest soccer tournament in the world, only trailing the World Cup in quality, viewership, and prestige.  It is held every 4 years in that off even year between World Cups and features only European National Teams as it is the European Championship.  Each continental confederation of nations holds its own championship tournament for national teams: the Copa America for South America, the Gold Cup for North America and the Carribean, the African Cup of Nations, etc.  The teams are made up entirely of a roster of 23 players who qualify for citizenship of that nation after a lengthy qualification process, which begins only weeks after the end of the World Cup and takes nearly 2 years to complete, sees every nation in Europe being whittled down to just 16 finalists.  Qualification is a brutal process, which most notable claimed England, the inventing nation of the game, as the most famous to be left out of these finals as they were beaten on the last day by a spirited Croatian team and saw the spots form their qualification group go to that Croatian team and the Russians.  

All of the games in this the final stages are played in a host nation?s designated stadiums and the host nation, or in this case nation(s) with Switzerland and Austria co-hosting, are automatic qualifiers for the finals.  These finalists are divided by a seeded, random draw into 4 groups.  Each team plays every other in the group once, 3 points awarded for a win, 1 each for a draw, and at the conclusion of all matches the team with highest point total advances to the single elimination knockout rounds, until a champion is determined.

For our North American audience, all of the games are set to be aired on either ESPN2 or ESPN Classic, with a few games in the later stages even gracing ABC.  Due to kickoffs in European prime time the matches will be on live during the day in the US and A but ESPN Classic will be showing the best game of the day on replay in the evenings. 

The following will be a look at each group, the teams therein, and the star players for each nation, concluding with my predictions for the tournament. 

Game on.