EURO 2008: The Fever Pitch

Article by Pete Prinyaroje

Regarded around the world as the most prestigious tournament for European national teams, the UEFA European Cup football tournament has been held every four years since 1960. This year’s version, Euro 2008 is offering a total of 184 million Euros in prize money. The winner will hoist a newly designed 8 kg trophy and will represent UEFA at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa.

Austria and Switzerland won the rights to host Euro 2008 making it the second time that two nations have been successful in winning the right to co-host the tournament. The matches will be held at eight different stadiums located in various parts of the co-hosting countries. While the host nations were given automatic qualifications, the rest of Europe’s elite were forced to battle it out in the rigorous group stages that began in August 2006. 14 teams made it through to join the two co-hosts in the 16-team tournament. The games begin on June 7th at St. Jakob Park in Basel, where Switzerland will take on the Czech Republic.

The German team captained by Chelsea’s Michael Ballack is favored by bookmakers to make the short trip home as European champions. However, Portugal, with arguably the world’s best player Christiano Ronaldo of Manchester United in their lineup, can’t be ignored as they attempt to go one step further this time after finishing as runners-up at Euro 2004. The Spanish also have a star studded team which includes Liverpool’s Fernando Torres and will be looking to lose their under achievers’ tag by making an impact at the tournament.

The English team will be the most noticeable absence, with former manager Steve Mc Claren being fired shortly after they failed to qualify. Other noticeable absences include Ukraine, Serbia, Norway, Denmark, Bulgaria and Scotland.

Euro 2004 winners Greece made it through and will hope to cause as much of a shock as they did in the last competition, while 2006 World Cup champions Italy will be hunting for more glory.

With the likes of France, Holland, Portugal, Spain and Germany all keen to add another major trophy to their cabinets, this tournament could be the most hotly contested in years. However, fans are sure to witness a few surprises as Croatia, Turkey, Romania, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia and Sweden make up the rest of the teams who are all hoping to grab the world’s attention.

“Expect Emotions” is the official tournament slogan as fans are set to experience joy, disappointment, relief and high tension up until tournament concludes on June 29th. The final match will be played at the 53,000 seat capacity Ernst Happel Stadion in Vienna and will feature Enrique Iglesias performing the Euro 2008 tournament anthem “Can you hear me?” It’s guaranteed you will hear the fans throughout Vienna, as 53,000 rabid footballers cheer for their favorite.

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