Do you also feel less thrilled about the start of the Euro '08 tomorrow? Are you also surprised how much less excited you are about the second most important soccer tournament in the world?
I thought my feelings stemmed from the fact that this year I'm staying at home, unlike the last three Euros, when I traveled to cover them for this paper. But after talking with friends and colleagues I realized that the sentiment was widespread among the soccer-loving public. Sure, they're excited about the tournament. Sure, they're stocking up with drinks and nosh. Sure, they might have a betting pool going with some of their lads, but they're not as enthusiastic as they used to be.
How did it get like this? Perhaps it's because the last Euro ended with a thud; a little 1-0 by the Greek team. Or it is because the last world cup lived up to so little of its promise. Maybe it's because the host countries are neither exciting on or off the pitch. In light of this, it is possible that soccer fans have just lowered their expectations.
But it is this - the lowered expectations - that can turn out to be beneficial, as the fans are less likely to be disappointed. People complained about the level of the soccer displayed at the last Euro in Portugal, but more goals were scored on average there than in the world cup, and many more goals were scored than in the 1996 Euro, which most people considered to be a good year.
Soccer fans dream of a tournament that includes Brazil and Argentina, some African teams as well as Europe's Latin countries. But the European cup has been much more exciting than the world cup in recent years. Michel Platini's France was exciting in 1984; Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gulit led a marvelous Dutch team in 1988; 1992 was unexpected and exciting, and so was 1996. Certainly, the 2000 tourney answered expectations with its epic games and goals.Teams no one expected to win have won in recent years. For instance, Denmark qualified to the tournament it went on to win only because it was the host. Greece, too, was an unexpected Cinderella-type story; an ugly Cinderella, but a Cinderella nonetheless.
When have we seen similar things happen in the world cup? Have Greece, Denmark, Serbia or Colombia ever won the world cup? That trophy is kept for the soccer powerhouses. Even fans of African soccer or Latin American futbol must admit that Europe is still the heart of world soccer, due to its money, tradition, teams and facilities. Therefore, its tournament must be interesting, and there you go, expectations are already increasing.
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