As Group D kicks off with England-France having at it (and England leading 1-0 as we type this), we thought it best to conjure up a basic preview of Group D: Sweden and France (yep, we're stupid, but cannot not have any underdogs/insane picks) to advance.
In any case, let's review the story thus far:
Poland and Greece opened the tournament in a very weird way: two send-offs, Poland's keeper, Wojciech Szczesny being sent off and Greece clawing back after falling into an early 0-1 hole. "Funny" officiating also reared its head early and often and hopefully didn't set too scandalous a tone for the rest of the tourney.
Russia dominated the Czech Republic in a 4-1 thrashing to start things the right way for Putin's team and everyone became very familiar with the nascent talents of Alan Dzagoev (2 goals), while the tiniest Russian, Andrei Arshavin even got in on the fun with two assists. Russia vaulted themselves into the international consciousness and, in no small step, put the rest of the tournament on notice that this very well may be another "season of the Bear."
BREAKING: Samir Nasri (formerly of Arsenal, lately of Man City) just sent a blistering shot to the back of ENG's net. FRA 1, ENG 1.
Denmark stunned The Netherlands 1-0 in easily the nation's biggest win over the Dutch since their 1992 EuroCup victory over the Orange en route to that year's title. Considering that Holland has Germany and then Portugal up in the "Group of Death" it was shocking to see them respond so listlessly. Holland now needs a small miracle to advance past the group stage.
Nothing amazing from the German side in a 1-0 takedown of Portugal, but the win was what Joachim Low's squad needed to right the ship after listing and struggling over the past five weeks or so in friendlies and warm-ups.
Italy and Spain played to a 1-1 draw and the author's personal hero, went ahead and "expressed himself":
But if we're being honest, our protagonist has no one but himself to be angry with after abjectly whiffing/spoiling a perfect scoring opportunity after dekeing Spain squarely out of their 'tware. "Et tu, Brian?" "Yes, for this moment, I'm afraid so, Mario." Fashion aside? Puma's usage of that digitized font for the jersey numbers is very cool for all sides rocking the Puma this EuroCup. (.gif via mi amigo BSTO)
The heretofore stout, difficult to score upon Ireland defense surrendered a stunning 3 goals against the mighty Croatia (bias: we're Croat-American). But(!) in defense of Ireland's defense, two of the goals were patently absurd, one being a very funny bounce and, O.K., the keeper being out of position and the second being decidedly offsides, but thanks refs! The third goal? Equally absurd, but because of the devastating skills employed by Mario Mandzukic's header to give himself a brace for the game. Croatia (with Italy and Spain still to come) gave themselves a tremendous leg up in the standing with some thanks to the draw between the Iberians and the Boot. Speaking of a leg up, Croatian revelers who made the trip up from the Adriatic started the riotous celebrating even before the IRE-CRO score was determined.
Remember, Croatians stay gully, folks. This is the energy/fanaticism that comes from these people after not qualifying for a major international tourney since 2008. Helpful suggestion to future host nations? Always give Croatia an invite! (vid via Deadspin)
Meanwhile, On This Side of The Pond:
Not to be out down by the incredible play and sheer intensity of Euro 2012, Brasil and Argentina hosted a very well attended friendly on Saturday in New Jersey wherein Lionel Messi netted a hat trick and the game winner:
"Die Marke mit Den Drei Streifen," uhh, adidas for those non-native German speakers, in conjunction with the friendly also dropped a new, interactive social campaign to promote Messi's latest cleats via a giant building in Midtown and "ZOMG! TEH SOCIAL MEDIAZ!" In any case, it's a nice showing by adidas and the friendly itself was a Fun! 4-3 duel between two of the greatest soccer countries in the world. Oh! and not to be outdone, the US won their opening game on Friday night in their qualifying round for 2014's World Cup. All in all a soccer fan's wet dream as far as weekends go.