Across the world, there are major soccer tournaments underway:
Here in the states, we're enjoying the Copa America Centenario, a 16 team tournament featuring the top national teams from throughout the New World:
- North America
- United States
- South America
- Central America
- Costa Rica
- and the Caribbean
The Copa America is being hosted by the United States this year, so I think we may have automatically qualified as the host country, but the United States team is strong enough that we would have qualified on our merits as well.
Meanwhile, in France, the European Championship launched on Friday and has had a full slate of games this weekend. This is a larger tournament, featuring 24 teams from across Europe:
- Czech Republic
- Northern Ireland
- Republic of Ireland
Between the two tournaments, this is pretty much all the strongest teams in the world, so it's close to Nirvana for a footie fan.
Of course, they are two separate tournaments, so if you're longing for a re-match of the 2014 World Cup's 7-1 thrashing of hosts Brazil by eventual champions Germany, you are out of luck, but except for that minor disadvantage, the quality and quantity of soccer available during the month of June is astounding.
So, on to the results so far:
In the Copa America, the obvious favorites were Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico, and they have all played up to expectations. Other strong teams in the early going have been Colombia and early surprise Venezuela. The United States, who have a distinctive advantage by being the host country and thus playing all their matches "at home", lost the tournament opener to Colombia, but bounced back well and are through to the next round of the tournament. Due to the complex tie-breaking rules of the tournament, the United States are counted as first in their group and so the privilege of facing Brazil will likely fall to Colombia, probably ending their otherwise promising start, unless something remarkable happens in the upcoming Brazil-Peru match.
The European Championship is only in its third day, so it's hard to tell what to expect. Hosts France will be extremely strong, of course, but there are a number of other strong favorites, including Germany, England, and Italy. I would like to see Poland progress deeply into the tournament, as I enjoy their style of play and they have fielded an exciting team. Belgium should also be threatening, even though they under-performed at the 2014 World Cup; their extremely young team is sure to have benefited substantially from the intervening two years of seasoning.
So, if you happen to be passing a pub, and hear a mighty roar, or if you are wondering through a town square and see a screen set up in the plaza with lots of people intently watching the action, it might actually not be the Warriors this time; it might be a bunch of footie fans taking in the international action!