While the FIFA World Cup occurs every four years, the constituent continental soccer federations, or more appropriately, football associations, hold their tournaments within their own four year spectrum. Europe is by far the most distinguished continent for soccer, and it is the European championship, or Euro 2008, that has stirred the hearts of soccer fans across the world.
Euro is much like the World Cup, but on a smaller scale. The governing body of Euro is UEFA, not FIFA directly. Instead of 32 qualifying teams, there are 16 teams, leading to four group stages in lieu of eight. The top two teams in each group of four continue to the knockout rounds, though these start at the quarterfinals, not the round of 16. Because of the minimal amount of matches and the comparative brevity of the tournament itself, Euro tends to be more intense than World Cup, though obviously not as prestigious.
Euro 2008 was co-hosted by Austria and Switzerland, spanning eight cities from Geneva to Vienna. The sixteen teams to qualify were of course the hosts, Austria and Switzerland, as well as debutante Poland, 2004 runners-up and host Portugal, rivals Italy and France, defending champions Greece, underdogs Romania, Croatia and Turkey, record winners Germany, powerhouses Spain and the Netherlands and previous champions Russia and Czech Republic.
For Tech, Euro 2008 continues to herd the soccer fanatics in areas of the Student Center and elsewhere. From seemingly random screams arising from the Post Office to the viewers of Woody’s, the slogan of Euro 2008—“expect emotions”—has not gone unproven. Ravi Dayabhai, a second-year MGT major, is an avid attendant of these Tech-hosted matches. Taking classes for the summer semester, he feels the rigor of being both a student and a fan, but enjoys the outcome of the matches, which are on the brink of the final round.
“The summer of the Euros is probably one of the most exciting times in sports, save the World Cup,” Ravi says.
Ravi has even noticed the change in atmosphere around Tech’s campus: “Between those that follow the sport, it has been absolutely thrilling. I’ve met a few people who share my passion for soccer through random interactions wherever the game is being watched.”
Even individual support is seen, as Ravi describes, saying, “I’ve noticed a few more people opting for their favorite player’s or club jersey at pick-up games on the SAC fields.”
Ravi set his bracket up early, making up his mind as to who were the winners. “I was pulling for Portugal in Group A, Croatia in Group B, the Netherlands in Group C and Spain in Group D.”
Some of Ravi’s favorite moments have involved the biggest surprises, such as the Netherlands’ domination in group stages. He especially admired their goal scoring opportunities, noting on the first match of Group C, “The swiftness and poise of the Sneijder goal against Italy blew me away.”
Euro 2008 has still seen its share of tournament-level controversy, with the expected fans at each others’ throats, and the recurrent issues of refereeing. Ravi agrees, reiterating many commentators and critics, saying that “The officiating of the Euros has been abysmal. I think many of the turnouts have been a direct result of inconsistent refereeing.”
Overall, the tournament has been a major success for soccer fans, with many goals to disheartening upsets. As promised, the expected emotions were well received. Ravi describes these sensations as “Disbelief. Euphoria. Disappointment. Exhilaration. The things you expect out of this tournament.”
While Euro 2008 may be an exciting era for these fans, the next World Cup will send even greater tremors to the campus, not from Western Europe, but from the host country of South Africa.