I know many of you are looking forward to the start of the European Football Championship this weekend. I have to admit I’m not the biggest fan of football (or soccer as the American in me calls it :)), so I’ve brought in a friend to help me out with a preview. Thanks to Conor for guest posting today and his recommendations on some of the best places to watch games in Brussels. I’ve thrown in a couple of extra tips as well!
Over to you Conor…
From this Friday on there will be plenty of distracted people around Brussels. For twenty-four days and thirty-one matches, Europe’s attention will be on Poland and Ukraine. The European Football Championships kick off with Poland playing Greece and culminate just over three weeks later with the final in Kiev.
Brussels is a great place to catch a big sporting event. Pretty much everyone will know someone who will have a vested interest in every match. A bit of national fervour usually spices up the viewing experience and most of the expats tend to get more rabidly patriotic than usual when the big football matches are taking place.
So where best to check it all out? The various Irish pubs will be showing the majority of the matches which conveniently kick off at 6pm and 8:45pm. (Check out my previous post on some of the best pubs here.) The usual sports bars such as Fatboys will be predictably popular. In fact most of the bars around Place Luxembourg will have screens inside and out and will be even busier than usual.
There is normally a big screen put up on Place Flagey as the tournament enters the knockout stages. However if you want something different try some of the Portuguese bars in the Flagey area for a real partisan experience. Similarly ask one of the Polish people you know where they’ll be watching.
Who are the favourites? Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, in that order, look much better than the rest. Spain are World and European champions and are aiming to become the first national team to win three major international tournaments on the bounce. They have the best players, play the best football and have the best squad. They’re tired though and most of their stars have been playing more or less non-stop for the last four years. Nonetheless, it’ll be a surprise if they don’t make the final.
The Germans are the up-and-coming team, losing to Spain in the final of the 2008 European Championships and the semi-final of the World Cup in South Africa. They are one of the youngest squads with options in most positions and a very direct and exciting style of play. They do however have a slight weakness in the centre of defence. The Dutch were runners-up at the World Cup and have maintained their form since. Slight doubts persist about the depth of the squad and some of their best players are notoriously injury prone.
Of the other major teams Italy and England seem to be in relative turmoil, France are trying to rebuild their reputation after a calamitous World Cup, Portugal are a one-man show and Russia are the perennial dark horses.France have some talented attackers and could end up surprising people. Sit back and enjoy the show. I know I will, starting with the pick of the first matches, Germany against Portugal this Saturday evening.
Thanks so much Conor for that great run down on the teams!
For some of us (hint, hint me) where to watch the game is just as important as the game itself. Besides the many pubs around Brussels, there are a couple of other unique places to watch the Championship.
There is a special Euro 2012 Village set up in the newly renovated Autoworld Brasserie (formerly Espace53) in Park du Cinquantenaire during the tournament. The venue boasts both an indoor bar and restaurant with two maxi-screens and a large terrace with several more TV screens and outdoor bar. Join for the opening night party on Friday 8 June as of 6pm (VIP event in the afternoon including Parliament and Commission officials and staff) or visit the website to reserve a table or make a corporate booking for one of the matches.
May the best team win!
Images via Flagey, Euro 2012 Village and Aloft Hotel.