It has been said before that North Americans don’t have the attention span to follow “soccer.” Certainly it would appear so with the indifference towards European club football, and the preference for fast-paced, stop-and-go sorts of sports, the type where the officials are insistent on breaking fluidity by stopping the clock for the sake of meticulous dissection of replays while the TV audience are treated to the latest Coors Light commercials.
Still though, Basketball supporters in the Americas just don’t have the fervent passion of European football followers. Even in the case of the Olympics, Canadians and Americans alike seem relatively ambivalent. There are no cars dressed in flags, no perpetual shirt-wearing as is the case for the EUROs or the World Cup. Part of this could well lie in a sense of European-heritage that’s devoid in other sports. The only other recent time that Toronto’s expressed this kind of frenzied nationalism was when Canada won hockey in the Olympics.
And the frenzy was on show again in Little Portugal, when the iconic sex-icon, Cristiano Ronaldo, fired his team into the semis. Toronto’s Little Portugal was ablaze with football passion, with bumper stickers on every other car.
Truth be told, they’re likely to lose, and much will depend on Cristiano Ronaldo, who has the Ballon d’Or, to win, if he pulls off magic against Spain in their semifinals on Wednesday. But saying that may discredit the hard work on display by the rest of the team. They’re hungry, and the boys in maroon now have their greatest chance of success since the much-heralded golden days of Luis Figo.
All the PIGS countries qualified for this Euro cup, with Ireland being the tournament’s great underdog, proving the pundits right by crashing out of the group stage. At least they registered a goal – more than most “bird teams” have done in Euro Cups prior. The Greeks faced the Germans in a one-sided affair. As predicted, the German juggernauts enjoyed a wealth of possession, offered the Greeks little, and it’s a wonder how they scored two goals against the powerhouse. Merkel attended, flailing her arms in the air at every one-two her team had to offer. Following the match, political cartoonists watered at the mouth. This writer’s favourite was the one depicting a Greek player with the word “Germany” on his shirt. “They’re our sponsors,” he said.
Germany-Spain is becoming a bit cliché by now. Ruthless efficiency will likely face romantic aesthetics once again in this final. The Spanish, showered with praise and accolades of late, have mastered a blue-print tiki-taka style that’s easy on the eyes. Many teams are now ditching their stereotype play in lieu of the Iberian blueprint; the English swashbucklers now seem to be wearing sombreros, and even the Italians have almost forgotten their trademark bottleneck defense. Very likely, however, Torontonians may prefer the Germans’ more direct style; with no-nonsense fluidity, and fast breaks on the counter attack. Still though, the Italians and Portuguese could pull off miracles.
Stranger things have happened – after all, Ireland did score.