The Tenacious Turks and Delectable Dutch: An Early EURO 2008 Rave

I hope you've all been following the EURO 2008 Soccer Championships since they started back on June 7th. There's been some pretty exciting soccer so far, with a few fantastic games and only one really dull one (France and Romania's 0-0 draw). Portugal, Spain and Croatia are all looking pretty good. However, as far as entertainment value goes, two teams clearly stand out 9 days into the tournament, one for their flair, flash and fabulous goal-scoring ability, not to mention all-round domination, and the other for their incredible heart and perseverance. I'm talking about the spectacularly talented Dutch and the never-say-die Turks, of course.

I mean, did you see that Turkey-Czech game earlier today? It was a game that simply had everything. The second half was the most exciting half of the whole tournament by far and one of the most exciting halves of soccer I've seen in my entire life. What a comeback!! They did it against Switzerland four days ago by scoring in injury time to steal a win and keep their dream alive and then today, against the much-higher-ranked Czechs, they did it again. And there's simply no denying that that winning goal by Nihat Kahveci, his second in less than two minutes, was one of the best shots of the whole tournament!!

Even though I like the Turkish team, I was actually cheering for the Czechs since they've been one of my favorite teams for about ten years now, yet by the end I couldn't help but feel pretty excited for the Turkish win. Even if it should never have happened at all.

And I'm not talking about the Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech's mishandling of the ball on the second goal. No, the simple fact of the matter is that after the Czechs had hit that post late in the game the Turkish defender kicked the top of that Czech guy's head, causing his scalp to start bleeding - I don't know if I've ever seen a more blatant and obvious dangerous kick. That should most definitely have been a penalty shot, which would have made it 3-1 for the Czechs with only a few minutes to go.

But, either way, there's really no denying that the Turks turned it on in the second half and then shifted their game to a whole other level in the final 15-20 minutes - they played with so much heart and determination I don't think that even diehard Czech fans could deny it was a well-deserved win. And now they're off to the quarter finals. But what a heartbreaker for the Czechs, winning 2-0 with just 15 minutes left to play, yet somehow losing in the end and, therefore, now out of the tournament.

But how about the Dutch? Entertaining soccer just doesn't get much better than the display they've been putting on so far in this tournament. They are a team on fire. I've written before about the perils of being a Dutch supporter (see my "Pity The Poor Dutch Fan Mini-Rant"), but, like some sort of deranged doomsday cult follower accepting yet another revised date for the end of the world, I'm telling you that this is the year they're going all the way. Believe in the Dutch, people, and they'll make all your dreams come true! And hopefully they'll also help me win back some of the many, many dollars they've cost me in lost bets over the years! The only problem is that they're simply too good, which means I haven't been able to find anyone to bet against them.

I've watched all 18 games so far and I'm hoping to watch every single game of the tournament once again. I started the tournament cheering for France, Holland and the Czechs as my top three teams, but now it looks like Holland deserves my full support. They've earned it, what with their incredible and highly-entertaining displays of soccer brilliance in their first two games. Their emphatic 3-0 win over World Champions Italy followed by another dominant win, 4-1 this time, four days later over France, sure makes them look pretty unbeatable. When a team can take out the two World Cup Finalists with such ease and such brilliant flair, then you'd have to imagine that they just might be truly unstoppable. Only Spain and Portugal look like they have any real chance of possibly beating them at their own game.

These June soccer-watching rituals every couple of years sure are captivating. Two years ago we were here in Canada watching every single game of the World Cup in our living room. While four years ago we were in a hotel in Istanbul watching every game of EURO '04 with The 5 Pack A Day Guys in a very-smoke-filled hotel lobby. Six years ago, while traveling in China, we watched every game but one, most of them at an amazing guesthouse in the city of Lijiang. But the hardest and most exhausting tournament of all was the 1998 World Cup, which I watched, while working in Japan, live on a big screen at a Brazilian bar between midnight and 6 or 7 AM each night/morning. I only slept 3 or 4 hours per night that whole month. But, man, was it ever worth it!

Anyhow, 20 years after their last EURO Championship Victory, this year it's once again all about Holland. With goal scorers and playmakers as brilliant as Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Ruud van Nistelrooy and a whole team working together in perfect unison it would seem there's really no way they could lose this time. Anyone wanna bet?

Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Sunday, June 15th, 2008

And, if you haven't already, make sure to check out this hilarious clip fully explaining all the intricacies of the glorious game of soccer: Comedian Steve Patterson On Soccer: Finally, The Game Fully Explained

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