Money, Power And Sport
July 3, 2004 7:08 PM   Subscribe

The New European Football Champion Will Be Greece Or Portugal: Sunday's Euro 2004 match is the first final ever between two national teams who've never made a final before, after dispatching the biggest, richest European powers like England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France. Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova, a 17-year old Russian from Siberia has won Wimbledon, defeating the mighty Serena Williams. Perhaps size and money, despite the multi-million contracts, still aren't everything in sport. Or does it depend on the sport? [More inside.]
posted by MiguelCardoso (53 comments total)
Apart from that, who do you think is going to win (I bet you guessed I was leading up to this!)?

In one of today's British newspapers alone, The Observer, apart from the two linked articles, there are no less than six more articles on the subject of the Euro 2004 Final: one by Paul Wilson on the match itself; another comparing the Portugal coach, Luis Felipe Scolari, to the England coach Sven- Goran Eriksson; Tom Humphries on the "New Europe" and why he rejoiced when England was eliminated; Jamie Jackson on Otto Rehhagel, the cool, intelligent German wizard behind Greece's triumph; the Brazilian sportswriter Pedro Redig on Portugal's coach Scolari, again with more Eriksson comparisons and, finally, a profile by Amy Lawrence of Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal and Manchester United's teenage sensation.

Please be sure to read all the articles carefully before you comment. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:09 PM on July 3, 2004


My Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup with the 18th payroll in the NHL, beating the Flames, who had the 21st payroll.

And my Tampa Bay Devil Rays are moving up towards the playoffs pretty precipitously...
posted by baylink at 7:24 PM on July 3, 2004

Before I read, I want to say that I wish that football* was as big in the US as it is in the rest of the world.

*I had to fight to not write "soccer."
posted by bitpart at 7:25 PM on July 3, 2004

I'm still rooting for the badgers.
posted by homunculus at 7:42 PM on July 3, 2004

Well I'll be cheering on the Portugese, they deserve it (on the basis of their being hosts and my having visited there 15 years ago). Also it will go nice with Porto's bauble. Short article from the BBC about how they're going nuts about it in Goa. And the Sharapova match was fantastic, especially that hug with her dad at the end, and Williams was very gracious.
posted by carter at 8:19 PM on July 3, 2004

With an 0430 local kick off here I am only certain of one thing.

Migs you wouldn't begrudge a boost for the Greeks prior to the Olympics ?
posted by johnny7 at 8:20 PM on July 3, 2004

Oh, and with regard to the question of money, another BBC article on how Portugal built all the new stadiums for Euro 2004 for less than half the cost of the new Wembley Stadium. 'Course, Wemberley's bigger, but still ...
posted by carter at 8:45 PM on July 3, 2004

The final is almost a replay of the porto v celtic uefa cup final , a creative side versus a defensive counterattacking unit.

greece won't have rab douglas in goal though.......

(fwiw I really hope the portugese limit the amount of mortal injuries they suffer in this final , it could be unwatchable if they start all that stuff)

Hunger seems to be the defining factor in this tournament.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:07 PM on July 3, 2004

I personally think it's nice to have the hottest girl in tennis actually win. I've never been interested in the sport before.
posted by MrAnonymous at 9:46 PM on July 3, 2004

My Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup with the 18th payroll in the NHL, beating the Flames, who had the 21st payroll.

So it was you... *glares evilly*
posted by arto at 10:09 PM on July 3, 2004

Greece? Portugal? The Berlin Thunder beat the Frankfurt Galaxy, like, a month ago.
posted by trharlan at 10:35 PM on July 3, 2004

I became interested in this championship with this thread. Any follow-ups on the Portugese High Hooligan plan?
posted by obloquy at 1:52 AM on July 4, 2004

The style that the Greek coach has instilled in his side has been called the "death of football" here in Spain. Most in this country would rather lose in the first round than win the Cup playing this horrible closed style of football where the only important thing is winning. Imagine what a beautiful final we could have had with Portugal and the Checzk Republic in the final with both teams playing absolutely gorgeous skillful attacking football. Now we are going to see another 0-0 torture fest (yellow cards, broken ankles, people taking dives, delay tactics, etc.)

Well it could have been worse, it could have been Italy versus Greece. Ack!

Anyway, Portugal is playing for more than their country, they are playing for the very soul of football!

Follow up on the "Portugese high hooligan plan": it didn't work, the hooligans went about their violent, alcohol-soaked business as usual.
posted by sic at 2:16 AM on July 4, 2004

My apologies to the "Czech" Republic.
posted by sic at 2:20 AM on July 4, 2004

Er, no they didn't, sic. Even England's fans were praised by UEFA. When was the last time that happened?

I'll be supporting Portugal today. But only so England can claim to be only a crap decision by a Swiss referee away from winning the competition!
posted by salmacis at 3:48 AM on July 4, 2004

Ha, England would have lost from Holland if they had gone through anyway.

As for the Swiss referee, the English tabloids are down to their lowest level in years.
posted by sebas at 4:45 AM on July 4, 2004

Come on Portugal!!!
I for one welcome my new Portugese overlords.
posted by seanyboy at 5:33 AM on July 4, 2004

England would have lost from Holland if they had gone through anyway.

I think that's probably false.
posted by ed\26h at 5:40 AM on July 4, 2004

The Sun covered Meier's house with an enormous Union Jack and published the referee's E-Mail address, home address and phonenumber. On top of that, readers were shown photos of his wife, house and car.

If true, that's pretty revolting.
posted by ed\26h at 5:41 AM on July 4, 2004

Gerard Houiller has a few nice things to say about the Greek team's presence:
Let's give Greece full credit, though, for a marvellous contribution. When I hear people say their presence in the final is a sign of the tournament's weakness, I think how silly an argument that is. It is one of football's eternal strengths, surely, that you get teams progressing farther than expected. The tournament has reached high standards of intensity, tempo and so on...
Here in Athens it's been a continuing party for the last couple of weeks. The atmosphere of jubilation is unbelievable. Regardless of what happens tonight (and I love that Portugal are the favourites), it has been a magnificent celebration out of nowhere... This holds especially for Greek immigrants the world over. I speak from experience: these wins count for much more when you're living abroad.

Also this guy is certainly backing Greece tonight...
posted by talos at 6:08 AM on July 4, 2004

Another Greek here (but not much of a soccer fan): what Miguel left out of the FPP is that, for Greece, this has been truly a Cinderella story. The national soccer team has never before won a single game in international competition (I believe the didn't score a single goal in the '94 World Cup in the US). Their book-making odds of wining the Cup ahead of the firt game were 80:1.

Yet, they beat Portugal itself in the opener, kicked out Spain, beat the defending champions (France) and then the favorite (Czech Republic). Unbelievable.

I can't believe I am stuck in the US for business...
posted by costas at 6:22 AM on July 4, 2004

ed\26, I meant to put a smiley next to that first sentence. Of course being Dutch I would not say anything else :)

More on the Urs Meier story.
posted by sebas at 6:32 AM on July 4, 2004

My neighborhood is around 1/3 Greek-American, mostly first & scond generation. Walking home on Friday everybody was waving Greek flags and honking horns and screaming and generally going bananas. They win today and it's gonna be pandemonium. I'll just run into the street yelling "Yassou! Opa! Malaka! Moussaka!" and hope someone hands me a beer.

Anyone know any Greek soccer chants so I can show solidarity with my landlady?
posted by jonmc at 6:36 AM on July 4, 2004

Talos, Costas and jonmc's landlady, I hope that no offense was taken at my criticism of the Greek side's style of play. I'm happy for the Greek people, it must be fun to celebrate this unexpected run and I do respect how hard the team works and how disciplined they are...

Still, winning isn't everything, there is something to be said for beauty and artistry. That is why I'm rooting for the Portugese, because when they play well it's joyful to watch. They make it attractive even if you aren't a fan of football. I feel the same way about the Brazilian national team. It feels more like art than sport.

The problem is that the Italian defensive, no-risk, grind it out style of football is very effective, it is a winning style, but for me it is horrible to watch. And when the Italians win, or if the Greeks win using a similar style, other teams are sure to emulate them because it seems like most people only care about winning.

Anybody remember the Champion's league final last year? Two Italian teams, dozens of brilliant footballers, some of the best in the world, and what is the result? An ugly 0-0 draw and penalty shoot out. Ugh.
posted by sic at 7:05 AM on July 4, 2004

jonmc, if you have the time, I'd find a Greek bar and go watch. It'll be a lot of fun.
posted by carter at 7:20 AM on July 4, 2004

Well I'll be cheering on the Portugese, they deserve it (on the basis of their being hosts and my having visited there 15 years ago).

We'll be cheering the Greeks, they deserve it on the basis that my sisters live in Greek town. (Peter Griffin type laugh follows)
posted by juiceCake at 7:55 AM on July 4, 2004

sic: no need to explain. I'm a fan of Brazil in every single World Cup for the exact same reasons... Yet I still think that Rehhagel has created the best team in this year's Euro, a team that never gives up, with players that are playing at over 100% (Zagorakis for example is playing at around 250% - he's always solid and strong but this is a vastly improved player from the guy I watch on TV every weekend!) Rehhagel had lots of defensive talent in his hands but not enough from the midfield up. He did the best (boy did he do the best!) with what he had.

Jon: Shouting "E-las, E-las" will do nicely. I guess that these were the celebrations you referred to. Apparently the same thing in Melbourne was even more surreal as Greeks came out in numbers at 7 am local time!
posted by talos at 8:29 AM on July 4, 2004

what Miguel left out of the FPP is that, for Greece, this has been truly a Cinderella story

Costas, you're quite right. But I did post a comment the day before yesterday, in another thread, in response to a comment by sgt serenity, which I think translates the mood here in Portugal:

Sarge - I am raging through the streets, as you may well imagine.

But, you being a Scot, will appreciate that already the Greeks have won. They'd never won a game in the European championship - and they're through to the final, after having beaten the hosts, fair and square. That's about seven notches up.

Portugal, on the other hand, are only one notch up: they've often reached the semi-finals. It's the first time we've got to the final - but the fact that the tournament is in Portugal, with massive support, detracts from that achievement.

Greece are, in more ways than one, the Portugal of this championship. If they win, second time in a row, how can we not take our hats off to them? If they lose, it's tit for tat. Either way, they win.

That's why most people here and in Greece regard the final as a flourish, more than a clincher. We're the two poorest countries in the European Union. We're also the oldest and among the tiniest, though our civilizations have changed the world - the Greeks with their philosophers; the Portuguese with their navigators.

We have sunshine. We have good food and friendly people. We enjoy our holidays in each other's countries.

The truth is that two tiny Southern countries dispatched all the richer, many times more populous European nations (Spain, Italy, France, England, Germany) and, on Sunday, will enjoy what amounts to a friendly match. Greece is managed by a very intelligent German; Portugal by a very passionate Brazilian.

Football, Sarge, is like gastronomy: the wealth and size of a country have nothing to do with their tastefulness. It's not about money: it's about joy and natural skill, bravado; fun. Fun is the single most important component. (And this is why Portugal will beat Greece, btw!)

Football is a great leveller and, in the deepest sense, Scotland is playing for both Greece and Portugal on Sunday.

Of course, if Portugal lose tomorrow there will be no fresh bread and no trains; fires will be left to rage; women will leave their husbands; cats and dogs will go hungry and the entire Argentinian Association of Psychotherapists will be flown over. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:38 AM on July 4, 2004

Miguel: indeed, I cannot get myself worked up against the Portuguese; we're far too much alike...
posted by costas at 8:45 AM on July 4, 2004

It's not just the tabloids that have sunk to despicable levels in publishing Urs Meier's e mail address, the Guardian has done so and so has the Observer, today. Mind you he has a website so it won't have been that difficult to find, for those so inclined.

Another Observer article today suggests that the success of Greece "...has done nothing for the game in general. Indeed, it has pointed a gun at the game's head.
posted by Fat Buddha at 9:52 AM on July 4, 2004

Is it just me or does anybody else think that if England was playing a defensive, disruptive game and they ended up in the Euro final the Brit papers would be filled with paeans to the "boys"?
posted by costas at 10:08 AM on July 4, 2004

Maria Sharapova seems to have gone uncelebrated here, so I wanted to say what an amazing final it was. She played with grace and looked pretty solid throughout. Serena had some excellent moves, but just wasn't strong enough on the day. Sharapova is not the next Kournikova.. indeed, Sharapova can actually play tennis well.. :-)
posted by wackybrit at 10:09 AM on July 4, 2004

Oh, and an underdog, Fabian Cancellara, wore the yellow jersey aftering coming first in the Tour De France prologue yesterday too.. He did pretty well in the first stage as well.
posted by wackybrit at 10:11 AM on July 4, 2004

Why smaller national teams are doing better: my 0.02 Euros.

It's not just in the European Championship: we saw the same effect in the World Cup.

Obvious factors:
1. There's been an explosion of fitness science recently, worldwide. It's much easier to get better training, better gyms, better fitness guidance now

2. More mobility, especially post-Bosman. Players from smaller countries get to go abroad and improve their skills by playing against the best.

More subtly...
3. The increased sponsorship and earnings of the star players. The income the David Beckams get from sponsorship deals dwarfs what they get from their team. So, they're less inclined to be team players. It's personal publicity that brings in the money.

So if you're a striker, why pass to someone in a better position if you can take a wild shot yourself? If you're a goalkeeper, why scoop the ball up undramatically when you can daringly flick it away with your fingertips?

Teams with more disciplined, less egostical players like Greece can therefore do better than the 11 prima donnas that flounce onto the pitch for England.

Which is where all the sour grapes about the "boring, defensive" football played by Greece comes from. They treat it as a sport, not an opportunity for showing off, and oddly enough that works for them.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:28 AM on July 4, 2004

Costas, England played dull, defensive, nasty football against France and again against Portugal. The English press was almost unanimous in praising the concentration and bloody mindedness of those defensive stalwarts, undone only by 2 moments of madness in the first game and an incompetent Swiss hairdressing model ref in the other.
posted by Fat Buddha at 10:37 AM on July 4, 2004

Football is a great leveller and, in the deepest sense, Scotland is playing for both Greece and Portugal on Sunday.

Then we're in for a truly uninspiring game.
posted by the cuban at 11:53 AM on July 4, 2004

And there it is, 1-0 for the Greeks. That team can really kick a fearsome corner. (half hour left in the game)
posted by thijsk at 1:04 PM on July 4, 2004

posted by i_cola at 1:39 PM on July 4, 2004

As Gary Lineker once put it, "Football is a game with 22 men and in the end the Germans always win."
posted by riviera at 1:44 PM on July 4, 2004

Congratulations to the brave Greeks. They were the better team and fully deserved to win. They played consistently throughout the whole tournament and showed the rest of us what real teamwork means.

It was an honour to lose (twice, even!) to such a team. They were the underdogs, the team all the big players joked about and their achievement is truly awesome.

We did our best - so no excuses.

*quietly takes the 50 Valiums, gulps down the bottle of vodka ouzo and puts the plastic bag over his head*

P.S. In the streets here, not a mile from the stadium, the Portuguese are celebrating with Greek flags! As I said, it was a nice final, played by two decent, olive-munchin' nations!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:46 PM on July 4, 2004

Surreal commiserations.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 2:25 PM on July 4, 2004

Sorry, Miguel. I was excited to see Portugal in the finals. (By the way, that stadium in Braga is nicely done. I took a tour of it when I was in Porto in May. Loved Porto, by the way…)
posted by Dick Paris at 2:27 PM on July 4, 2004

Congratulations to the Greek side, I do not like their style, but they certainly *deserved* to win it all. As Talos stated, the best *team* and the most hard working in the competition without a doubt. They played their game to perfection.
posted by sic at 3:23 PM on July 4, 2004

S???a??t???a ????da!
posted by Celery at 3:34 PM on July 4, 2004

Btw, I think another lesson from this Euro 2004, considering the improvements in the English, Portuguese and Greek sides is that it does pay to have a foreign manager, just as foreign players greatly enhanced club football. They were, as far as I know, the only national teams that did - despite all the usual xenophobic criticism.

Scolari is staying in Portugal and Erikkson in England for the 2006 World Cup - let's hope the great Otto won't be lured away from Greece by an under-achieving club with big bucks. It will be a much more exciting World Cup!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:37 PM on July 4, 2004

Miguel, I do have to feel sorry for the Portuguese fans... to play the final at home and lose it... At any rate, funniest comment from the Americans I watched the game with: "Olympic preparations are going to be set back at least a week!"... So true, noone is gonna show up for work tomorrow!
posted by costas at 4:04 PM on July 4, 2004

I can't agree with people who say Greece deserved it. They were an awfully boring team. The three most boring games that I watched in the tournament all included Greece; France-Greece, Checzh Republic-Greece and Portugal-Greece.

It's bad enough that the Germans always play boring football, but it's even worse when their coaches are exporting that type of football to other countries. As much as I didn't like Portugal during the tournament (I was rooting for Holland and the Chezch Republic), I wanted them to win the final, simply because they at least try to play football.

On another note, this appears to be the guy who ran onto the field and threw a Barcelona scarf at Luis Figo. I was pretty amazed the TV cameras showed that. Normally they don't pay attention to people who run onto the field.

His website has photos of him and Figo, and him and Figo's wife. Seems he didn't quite get over the fact that Figo moved from Barcelona to Real Madrid.
posted by einarorn at 4:08 PM on July 4, 2004

Update: the Greeks of astoria have been going apeshit for the past 7 hours, honking horns and screaming. Sadly I felt that shelling out $25 for pay-per-viw was kinda steep so I've been watching a Twilight Zone marathon and now the Rocky movies.

But congrats to my Grecian neighbors!
posted by jonmc at 5:54 PM on July 4, 2004

einarorn, good find... i was wondering what was up with that guy! His 'objective is to be famous'.
posted by chaz at 6:56 PM on July 4, 2004

Some interesting statistics from Reuters:

* Portugal became the first host nation to reach a European Championship final and lose. The previous three hosts that reached the final all won the trophy -- Spain in 1964, Italy in 1968 and France in 1984.

* Greece join England as the only nation to have scored at least once in each of their Euro 2004 matches.

* In all previous European Championship finals the winner had always scored at least two goals and Greece's 1-0 victory over Portugal broke the sequence.

* Greece became the first nation to win a major championship with a foreign coach. This had never happened in 11 previous European Championships and 17 World Cups.
posted by Ljubljana at 9:24 PM on July 4, 2004

Re: boring, defensive football; I don't know much about soccer/football, but I do know a fair bit about hockey, and suffocating defence and ugly, low-scoring games are absolutely killing the sport (well, the NHL, anyway) as a spectacle. I used to worship NHL hockey, but over the past five years I find it difficult to watch without falling asleep.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:09 AM on July 5, 2004

Back to the tennis for a minute here:

It's misleading to say that Maria Sharapova didn't benefit from money in her ascent-- while her family may not have had any to speak of, especially when they were in Russia, it was only after she moved to Florida to the infamous and lavishly funded Bollettieri Tennis Academy that she was able to mature into the talent she is today. Bollettieri's is known as perhaps the biggest and most successful hothouse of tennis talent in the world.

I'm certainly no advocate of Nick Bollettieri's methods, but without this 'serious coaching' that Martina Navratilova suggested she get, my hunch is that we'd never hear a single word about Sharapova.
posted by yellowcandy at 7:08 AM on July 5, 2004

I'm certainly no advocate of Nick Bollettieri's methods

Why? They seem to work. (Not a snark, an honest question; I don't know anything about him.) I don't watch a lot of tennis, but I saw that final, and it was thrilling -- Serena's no pushover, and she was outplayed throughout. (And I might add that she was unprecedentedly classy after she lost; both of them were models of how to behave. It was very nice to see.)

jonmc: I don't know whether to be glad or sorry I moved out of Astoria! (I remember when Brazil won the 1994 World Cup -- the place was going crazy then, and there are a lot more Greeks than Brazilians in Astoria!)

Oh, and condolences, Migs.
posted by languagehat at 9:34 AM on July 5, 2004

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