So I tried to do a “running diary” of Monday’s England-France game but all I really got was “Is Joleon Lescott Shelden Williams’ grandfather?” and “Samir Nasri looks like a prepubescent Maggie Gyllenhaal” (just trust me). God that game was boring. There’s no better way to confirm how foolish fandom is than by avoiding all social media, internet usage and general contact with other human beings for 8 hours just to avoid seeing the score of a game that ultimately rewards you with 93 minutes of absolute drudgery. By the way, if someone tells you they DVR’d the game, but you watched it and saw how boring it was, just do them a favor and tell them not watch it. You’ll be making the world .000001% better and they’ll thank you in the long run. I think this guy pretty much sums it up the game entirely: The fantastic .gif of that guy is here.
So after one round of matches, your current group leaders are Russia, Denmark, Croatia and Ukraine. God help us all. Meanwhile, Spain, Netherlands, France, Italy, Portugal and Sweden have combined to earn as many points as Russia. It’s a good time to be Eastern European I suppose. Savor that sentence, because it’s the first and last time you’ll hear it for 50 years.
Known for: Biennially underachieving, Simon Cowell, Getting pwned by America for 200 years
Best Player: Wayne Rooney, Forward, Manchester United
Why root for them: Besides Spain, you probably know more people on the English side than anyone else, which makes cheering for them a little easier. Many of the classic names are still there- Rooney, Gerrard, Cole, Terry…but they’ve also got some new additions who (allegedly) add a little excitement to the Three Lions’ tactics. Ashley Young (Manchester United), 21-year old Danny Welbeck (Manchester United) and Peter Crouch Andy Carroll (Liverpool) inject some new life into this roster, but the must-see newcomer is 18-year old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal). The young winger started against France and shows plenty of promise, and how could he not with a name like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. If his first name was Winston or Charles it would officially be the most English name ever. He sounds like someone who you’d see sprinting at a wall on Platform 9-and-three-quarters.
In addition to the young blood, this English team is a little easier to get behind than most because expectations have been lowered from the typical disillusioned win-it-all-or-bust-even-though-we’ve-literally-won-one-trophy-in-100-years standard. Injuries to Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Gary Cahill (Chelsea) and Gareth Barry (Man City) have forced the likes of Scott Parker (Tottenham) and the awful James Milner (Man City) into the starting 11. Rooney will miss the first two games due to suspension, which could severely damage the low-scoring Brits’ chances. For once, the Three Lions may actually be underdogs. Also, despite having John Terry on their roster, England might be the least racist team in the tournament, which is a plus. And a Euro Cup win gives you a chance to walk down the street chanting WHO’S YA FAV’RITES? And I’ve always wanted to do that.
Why root against them: John Terry is the worst human being on earth. I feel like every time I do a soccer blog I end up devoting 800 words to why Terry should be waterboarded for eternity. I guess I’ll skip that processs here, but just know that he’s a racist, cheating scumbag who heckled Americans on 9/11. I hope John Terry gets raped and set on fire then raped again. That seems unlikely at the Euros (although it’s Ukraine so who the hell knows), so this bit of Schadenfreude will have to do for now.
Also, Wayne Rooney’s hair transplant is one of the most pathetic things I’ve even seen. How do you root for someone with such little self-confidence? Delightfully, with his new-found locks, he looks like a dipshit prep school underclassman.
Known for: Bicycles with baguettes in the front basket which dangerously obstruct the riders’ vision; ill-timed head-butts; baseless arrogance.
Best Player: Karim Benzema, striker, Real Madrid
Why root for them: Well, it’s always an adventure with the French. They set new records for team dysfunction at the World Cup, with their full-fledged team mutiny. After dropping their first game of qualifying under new Head Coach Laurent Blanc, France has been on a tear- going 19 games straight without a loss. Like England, many of the old guard have been replaced by exciting young playmakers like 21-year-old Yann M’Vila (Standard Rennes), Jeremy Menez (Paris Saint-Germain), Adil Rami (Valencia) and Newcastle midfield duo Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the tremendously named Marvin (the) Martin. They’ll be fun to watch and they’re probably the only team in the tournament that’s the clear favorite to win their group.
Why root against them: Well, for starters, their two best players- Benzema and Franck Ribery- were caught in an underage-prostitution sting, which is really all you need to know. Of course, it wouldn’t be the Euros if the team didn’t have some sort of shockingly racist incident recently– based on all these previews I’m think racism was actually part of the qualification process for this tournament. Blanc was embroiled in a scandal last year after he suggested that the national team should consider adopting a policy to limit the number of non-whites in France’s training camp to 30%. Wow. That’s like advanced, diabolical racism. That’s a 400-level class. France is fucking bizarre because on one hand, they’re the magnanimous, wine-sipping, forward-thinking society with a celebrated cultural melting pot, highlighted by the Black-Blanc-Beur (Black-White-Arab) team that won the 1998 World Cup. On the other hand, they lead the league (they play in the first-world league, aka Division I) in riots over the past decade, they’ve got a fairly strong contingent of neo-Nazi fans that support top clubs like Paris Saint-Germain and many Parisian neighborhoods are almost anachronistically segregated by ethnicity. France, more than any other country in Europe, just can’t seem to decide whether or not to put both feet in the waters of the modern Western world. C’mon guys, the water is warm, and good luck finding someone to pretentiously discuss Rousseau with in Kazakhstan.
Known for: Incoherent chefs; Ikea; consistent overuse of consecutive consonants; Elin Nordegren; Peter Forsberg; being the whitest country on Earth. I know a lot about Sweden.
Best Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Forward, AC Milan
Why root for them: The Swedes are my dark horse pick to make a run in the tournament. For starters, France and England are two of the biggest fuck-ups in soccer, so the odds of both of them getting out of this group are minimal. It also doesn’t hurt that Sweden also hasn’t lost to the Brits in over 40 years. And Ukraine is an awful team cheered on by awful people so there is no God if Ukraine advances. The Swedes scored the third-most goals of any team during qualification and earned impressive 5-0 wins at Finland and a 3-2 comeback victory over the Netherlands. They’re led by Ibrahimovic, a gargantuan freak who is a colossus on the pitch and a colossal asshole off it. He’s joined on offense by striker Johan Elmander (Galatsaray) and supported by a small army of slick-passing midfielders, including Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland) and Kim Kassltrom (Lyon), who both ranked top-five in assists during qualification.
There’s absolutely no reason for this, but I think 9 out of 10 people would agree that Sweden is the most likeable of the Scandinavian countries. I think maybe it’s the jovial blue and white color scheme. It doesn’t hurt that the Danish are freaks and I’ve yet to be convinced that Greenland actually exists. Also, people from Norway and Iceland take themselves way too seriously (*Note: 96% of my Scandinavian knowledge comes from Cool Runnings and the Mighty Ducks franchise). Also, the Swedes rank behind only the undefeated/undisputed Brazilians in “gratuitous camera shots of hot female fans-per-game”.
Why root against them: Well for starters, Ibrahimovic is a black belt in Taekwondo, which is weird in itself, but that didn’t stop Team USA’s resident badass Oguchi Onyweu from beating wholesale ass and breaking Ibra’s ribs during a training camp fight at AC Milan. Also, Ikea is a horrifying wunderland of oddly named, inexpensive furniture. I bought a desk there a few months ago and literally spent four hours walking around, taking lap after lap through their bizarre showrooms. That place is a front for a cult, I’m sure of it. By the end of my afternoon there I had blacked out and legally changed my name to Petr Fuenbörrg and learned Swedish via osmosis. It will be gleefully ironic if this team falters in the group stage because it takes them too long to put their team together, even though they had all the right pieces in place. That’s a shamefully poor attempt at an Ikea joke. I apologize. Also I assume their food sucks since every recipe apparently includes a heaping amount of bork.
Known for: The Chernobyl Diaries, Klitzchkos and uh…borscht? Jesus I have no idea.
Best Player: Anatoily Tymoshchuk, midfielder, Bayern Munich
Why root for them: They’re the host country, they’ve got passionate fans, it’s their first Euro trip, blah blah blah fuck these guys.
There is no less welcoming place on earth than a Ukrainian soccer match. Fortunately, their government has made it clear that the actions of a few hooligans aren’t representative of the rest of Ukraine…oh wait, the leaders of England, Germany, France and Sweden have all boycotted Ukraine because their president imprisoned and horribly mistreated his (female!)political rival, who remains in jail serving a seven-year sentence. Politics aside, fuck everything about this team. Sweden all day, son. (*Finally checks Sweden-Ukraine score) GOD DAMMIT I’m never picking games ever again.