SB Nation Chicago's EuroCup 2K12 Guide For the Disaffected

It's June. Chicago's dismal winter has evaporated into the splendor of sunshine, beaches and avenue canyons that is the Windy City in summer. In spite of the weather and largely thanks to Derrick Rose's treacherous left leg, the Bears training camp still being weeks away, (yet another) first-round exit by the Blackhawks, the Cubs being in last and you not even knowing that the White Sox are in first in the AL Central, you probably are feeling a bit betrayed and dissatisfied with Chicago sports spectating. Walk with us to the dark side, wherein we implore you to shed your civic pride and fall head first in the nationalistic scrum that is watching (and rooting for) the madness that is the EuroCup. Today? We preview Group A: Poland (one half of the "host nation" contingent, Ukraine is the other co-host), Russia, Greece, and Czech Republic.

The decidedly Eastern bloc/human trafficking vibe to this entire grouping, save for Greece's fanbase vacationing in northern Europe and snorting off-market Xanax to forget about the rapidly crumbling market back home, is a bit beguiling and could lead one to the disingenuous conclusion that "ZOMG! Poland vs Russia or Czech Republic vs Russia = TEH BLOODBATH." And while that is a fun narrative, it's really not all that true considering that Russia and/or Poland both want a piece of Germany if either advance past the group round. Poland's best talent is routinely poached by Bundesliga squads (not cool, guys) and Putin's nationalistic fervor will demand nothing short of rubbing Angela Merkel's face in some historic crow/"We quagmired the Third Reich in all sorts of frozen Hell during the Battleof Stalingrad, et cetera." So how will each team fare, who will advance and whom should you, the disaffected Chicagoan root for? Read on if you dare.

Poland

What You Need to Know:

  • Along with Ukraine, Poland is the host nation for EuroCup 2012. Poland isn't all that strong on paper. They're ranked 65th by FIFA which is far-and-away the lowest ranking of the field of 16. For reference: USA (not competing, obviously) is 30th and Ukraine is next "weakest" on paper, ranked 50th; see! there are benefits to being the host nation, like getting to compete automatically.
  • "No, really! We didn't bribe anyone to allow us to have the EuroCup in our nations." Though there's likely some level of malfeasance/bribery-rooted shenanigans somewhere, Poland/Ukraine genuinely seem thrilled to be hosting this tournament. Still, there are far more messed and awful things to worry about. Namely, white supremacists and fear-mongering nationalists are a major concern on both sides of the UKR-POL border.
Rootablility?

If one can look past the ugliness of the "WHITE POWER" one usually associates with the dregs of the SEC (but x's 1,000) that some backwater citizens are presenting (admittedly a large, bitter, pill), Poland actually presents a pretty compelling underdog story. Beyond that, Chicago has the single-highest concentration of Poles outside of Poland, dozens of "Zimno Piwe" Old Style dives dot the near west and north side neighborhoods and douchey clubs in the Loop and West Loop provide a safe haven for Polish girls to head to when they want to capture the magic/decidedly short-skirted-ness and tightness of their motherland's discoteques. More reasons? Arsenal's brilliant keeper, Wojciech Szczęsny is awesome, although hobbled for the tourney. He's a likable enough sort. And if you're a huge Gunner fan, you probably already know that his backup is none other than known headcase/crummy keeper, Łukasz Fabiański. Cross yourselves, ye Catholic-Poles.

2 out of 5 stars.

Likelihood of Winning?

"We're just happy to be here and more so? We're happy you're here with your tourist Zlotys." Granted, there's a lot of scamming and price-fixing going on in the host cities, foreign fan numbers are way down thanks to the ongoing economic strife across the Eurozone and, again, the fear of hate crimes being committed against minorities and non-white foreigners. SIGH.

On the field Poland will likely have a devil of a time keeping up with their Group A neighbors and face a very likely loss in their tournament-opening match against Greece in Warsaw on Friday.

8_ball_face_medium

"Very Doubtful"

Russia

What You Need to Know:
  • Contrary to popular hearsay, Mikhail Prokhorov and Roman Abramovich do not "Indian Wrestle" every weekend to determine which one will govern over their respective professional sports franchises for the next week (Prohkorov's Brooklyn Nets and Abramovich's Chelsea F.C.). However Abramovich did send Prokhorov a genetically modified tiger cub with "Where's Your Title" spelled out in the cub's stripes after Abramovich's Chelsea squad won the Champions League last month.
  • Post-unification Russia's greatest football feat came in 2008's EuroCup, wherein they advanced all the way to the semis before being ousted 3-0 by eventual champion Spain. This is Russia's first trip back to the EuroCup since '08 and much like the recently returned to power Vladimir Putin, Russia is looking for a return to the 2008 form that saw them upset a heavily favored Dutch squad. Unlike Putin the team will have to do things the old-fashioned way as there's no real soccer-based analogue to Dmitry Medvedev "stepping down."
Rootability?
Like a bizarro-USA where the rich are even richer and the poor even poorer, Russia keeps bringing the madness and hilarity to epic and international scales. "You want a crazy millionaire quite literally throwing "Fuck You Money" out of a window in the form of ruples folded up as paper airplanes?" "Here you go." And of course, who could forget that in Russia, everyone is a hipster upon entering Burger King:

Additionally? Andrei Arshavin, famed Arsenal bust, quasi-savior of the 2008 Russia team, is totally out of shapethus meaning he's due to do something insanely incredible or die on the pitch.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Likelihood of Winning?

In the words of Bubbles? "Decent!" Russia could very likely make a run to the next round and, escpecially, if they win Group A could face a depleted Group B runner-up, because of this the Magic 8-Ball says:

8_ball_face_medium

"Reply Hazy, Try Again"

Greece

What You Need to Know

  • Greece's economy is a running punchline that very well may bring down the Euro as the dominant pan-Europe currency. Additionally? Greece's national team is very, very, very good. You would like a metaphor to maybe hammer this home? Greece = continually defaulting on everything and anything. Moody's loves downgrading Greece's credit and capping their credit ceiling. Greece's soccer team? AA credit rating. Good and very close to great.
  • Greece won the EuroCup in 2004. The team knows this and knows that their fans back home could really use some inspiring, Cinderella story to buoy the national consciousness. Aging, but still very nasty/capable striker, Theofanis Gekas needs to show up as he's capable of if the Greeks would like to make any real noise. Advancing past the group stage for them won't be much of an accomplishment.
Rootability?

Surely not an underdog on the pitch, Greece as a country is truly struggling and, well, yeah, if you're not backing any horse in particular you could do far worse than root on Greece. Be the first on your block to unlock the "Bandwagon Badge" on Foursquare after Greece advances and you explore Greektown for the first time or visit the National Helenic Museum after eating a gyro.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Likelihood of Winning?

A narrative that unfolds like a Greek tragedy, and one that accurately reflects the economic reality of today, Greece advances to the next round only to be ousted by ferocious Germany, akin to Germany calling for the Greeks to employ more economic austerity, et cetera...

8_ball_face_medium

"My Reply Is No"

Czech Republic

What You Need to Know

  • Their defense is pretty terrible. But the Czech's do have an electric player named Theodor Gebre Selassi who, aside from being the first black player to represent the Czech Republic, is one of the more unheralded players in the tourney and is their backfield's only hope. He, at times, is a one-man wrecking crew and is wholly worthy of your attention.
  • Midfielder, Tomas Rosicky is the pivot man. To wit (and to borrow a phrase from Kelly Dwyer), he's "the straw that stirs the drink" for the Czech offense and if he is neutralized so too shall the offense be stalled.
Rootability

Meh. Unless you've got fam from Czech Republic, this is a fairly middle-of-the-road team without a whole lot to love or hate. Bonus points if you silkscreen a tee that reads "Czech Me Out" and send it to us at SB Chicago.

2 stars out of 5.

Likelihood of Winning?
I'm maybe a bit too bullish on Russia and Greece, but Czech Republic stands very near the same chance as those two at advancing. #Hedging, I know.

8_ball_face_medium

"Cannot Predict Now"

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