For sports, summer is hit or miss. It really depends on the year. Some years, it's just baseball. That is a sport, not sports. Singular sport.
Don't get me wrong, baseball is great and fun to watch (and we have top-notch baseball coverage from Matt Whitener and the gang). But, if you want multiple sports, some summers are just going to let you down.
But this summer? This summer is a sports buffet. We got all the sports going on — Copa America, the Euros and Summer Olympics.
So, come look at five games you shouldn't miss out on in the Euros 2016 tournament.
Wait, What Are The Euros?
The 2016 Union of European Football Associations European tournament, or the UEFA Euros for short, is the continental soccer tournament between the top men's senior national teams across Europe. From Spain all the way over through Russia and everywhere in between, all the best soccer players in Europe play every four years for bragging rights.
It's a big deal over there. And it's fun if you're a soccer watcher throughout the rest of the year, whether it's the Premier League or La Liga or the Bundesliga, because you get to see the players from your favorite club representing their national teams. It's a dream realized and quite an honor for the players.
The tournament starts with group stages. There are eight groups with four teams in each group. Each team in the group plays all the others, and the top two teams from each group move on. Then, it's a regular knockout tournament. Loser goes home, except for the third-place game.
It makes for a month of soccer — opening with two to three games a day then closing with fewer but more competitive games.
And on top of all that, it spices up the transfer market for all the European leagues.
All in all, it's a damn a good tournament.
So Who Should Win?
That's the cool things — NOBODY KNOWS.
France is the host this year, and the French team is strong. But so is Germany. As is Belgium. And Wales and Portugal could make things interesting.
Just don't bet on England. Ever.
Any Other Cool Stories?
I know, I know, bad pun. But Iceland really is one of the best stories going in this tournament.
Iceland is a tiny, volcanic crag with less than half the population of Charlotte, N.C., with just north of 300,000 people.
Iceland is in this tournament, the smallest nation to ever even reach a major tournament.
Iceland could make it out of its group.
So, Which Group Stage Games Should I Watch?
Watch the opening game, France vs. Romania, on Friday, June 10, at 3 p.m. EST. France is really good, and as a rule of thumb, you should watch any game with Paul Pogba in it. This game holds a little more significance for France as a whole because it's the same stadium the French were playing in during the terrorist attacks in 2015. This game should be a celebration of the nation and this national team, which is a joy to watch.
Watch Belgium vs. Italy on Monday, June 13, at 3 p.m. EST. Belgium has a very strong national team, and Italy, a more traditional powerhouse full of the worst kind of soccer players, is ripe for a big old loss here. The Italians have a reputation for diving, for time wasting, for complaining, and Belgium is too good for them. Eden Hazard should be interesting to watch in this game. Just don't root for Italy.
Watch Portugal vs. Iceland on Tuesday, June 14, at 3 p.m. EST. Iceland gets a rude introduction to the Euros against Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best player in the world. If scientists got together and programmed a robot to be a perfect attack-minded soccer player, the result wouldn't be too far from Ronaldo. He's a joy to watch until he rips his shirt off — it's not a question of if, it's a question of when.
Watch England vs. Wales on Thursday, June 16, at 9 a.m. EST. A morning game is going to be tough, especially for you West Coasters, but this is a guaranteed rivalry game. Wales squeaked into the tournament, and England always has massive expectations that it never lives up to, a horrible coach in Roy Hodgson and a frail squad. And this could be a must-win for England, if the English drop their opener to Russia. If Wales is going to have a chance in this game, it'll fall to Gareth Bale, the most expensive soccer player in the world.
Also on June 16, but at a more reasonable hour at 3 p.m. EST, watch Germany vs. Poland. Germany is among the favorites to win the tournament, and what's better than a good, old-fashioned World War II rivalry?! In soccer, not much. Poland has a strong spine to its team too, but I think Germany has too many options. Mesut Ozil will be orchestrating the attack from the midfield and should be fun to watch.
Just watch or listen to the games. TuneIn Radio usually has these games, and it's easy to pull up on your phone at work. This is like the soccer version of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, where you're going to have a solid month of great games. Enjoy it while it lasts.
"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very
disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more
important than that."
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