Are the Euros off-center again?
BERN, Switzerland -- OK, I could have made this point before the tournament, but it's worth making again, because something isn't quite right here. Arrigo Sacchi, who led AC Milan to two European Cups said he'd love to see "Marco and Roberto meet in the final."
He was referring to van Basten and Donadoni, his two former players who have graduated to leading Holland and Italy, respectively. A nice thought, except it can't happen.
Because those two countries are on the same side of the draw. As is France. And Spain. And Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden. And Adrian Mutu's Romania. And Russia, a dark horse. And of course, Greece which, lest we forget, is the defending European champion.
So what's on the other side of the draw? Well, Germany. And Portugal. And Croatia, which could pull off a surprise, I guess. The Czech Republic is always tricky ... and that's about it.
With all due respect, this is about as lopsided a draw as you can get. The whole point of seeding teams is to ensure that the better ones -- the ones people actually want to watch -- don't knock each other out early. And to ensure that teams are rewarded for what they did before.
Yes, some will point out that on the French side of the draw (the good one) there are six teams ranked in FIFA's top 20, while there are five on Germany's side, which isn't much of a difference, is it?
Possibly. Except for the fact that FIFA rankings are silly, unrepresentative mathematical exercises. And, if you're going to play the FIFA ranking game, please tell me in what parallel universe does it make sense to have No. 3 (Italy), No. 7 (France), No. 10 (Holland) and No. 12 (Romania) in the same group?
But the real absurdity is the tournament's structure and the fact that the two sides of the draw are kept apart until the final. Which could mean that, for example, France, which plays Italy on June 17, could end up facing the Italians again a few days later in the semifinal.
Does that make any sense? No. Especially when the strength and depth of the two halves is so lopsided. Use whatever metric you like. The German half has won seven international tournaments (six of them -- three World Cups and three Euros -- courtesy of the Germans). The other half has won 12.
The German half has five players who made the European Footballer of the Year Top 50 in 2007. The other half has 20.
I just hope that, whatever happens, we get a clear-cut winner and that this column is the last thing you have to read about the controversy over the tournament's structure. It would be a real shame if Euro 2008 were ruined by something as avoidable as this.
You would have to be really cruel not to feel sorry for Alexander Frei, whose Euros ended after just 44 minutes. Four years ago, he left the tournament under a cloud after being caught spitting at Steven Gerrard. Now, as Swiss skipper, this would have been his chance for a modicum of redemption.
Yep, Portugal has been the best team I've seen so far (but then, we've only seen half of them). For me, the story thus far isn't Cristiano Ronaldo or Deco, it's Joćo Moutinho. We knew he was good, we knew he was supposedly Deco's heir-apparent; what we didn't know is how well he would adapt to a deeper role in this tournament.
The police blotter from Klagenfurt, Austria, tells of 157 arrests at the Poland vs. Germany game. So much for those who believed crowd trouble would be a "non-issue" with the English fans staying home.
SI.com's Gabriele Marcotti will report twice a week from the 2008 European Championship.