CommentaryEuro 2012EuropeItalySpain

The Great American TV Tune-In

July 4, 2012 — by Rob Kirby


Expect to see more soccer on American TV.

The trend of increasing U.S. TV soccer viewership continued with the 2012 European Championship, with Americans tuning in throughout the tournament but particularly for Spain’s 4-0 mauling of 10-man Italy in the final. As such, even new viewers could probably repeat the super-over-reported stat that Spain became not only the first country to win consecutive Euros but also the first to win an unprecedented three major international tournaments in a row, factoring in the 2010 World Cup. But since the achievement really is pretty phenomenal, we’ll repeat it, too.

Overall, the U.S. audience jumped 51% over that of Euro 2008. The surge is particularly striking when you consider that the numbers include no big-four broadcast network coverage, but rather just ESPN. (ABC and ESPN partnered in 2008.)

Top Viewership Numbers in Euro 2008 and Euro 2012:

Sun, July 1, 2012          ESPN      Spain vs. Italy 4,068,000
Sun, June 29, 2008      ABC         Germany vs. Spain     3,761,000
Sun, June 24, 2012      ESPN      England vs. Italy     2,968,000
Sun, June 10, 2012      ESPN      Spain vs. Italy     2,113,000
Wed, June 27, 2012     ESPN      Spain vs. Portugal     1,952,000
Sun, June 22, 2008      ESPN       Spain vs. Italy     1,911,000
Thu, June 28, 2012      ESPN      Germany vs. Italy     1,851,000
Sat, June 21, 2008        ABC         Netherlands vs. Russia     1,838,000
Sat, June 9, 2012          ESPN       Germany vs. Portugal     1,798,000
Sat, June 23, 2012        ESPN2     Spain vs. France     1,758,000

Considering the final week of the tournament coincided with Wimbledon, the Tour de France and various golf tournaments, the numbers actually mean something. It’s not like there was nothing else on TV. Some speculate that England’s entry into the quarterfinals helped garner the attention of their American cousins, or perhaps new viewers tuned in to learn what all the fuss was about with regard to Spain. Hard to know. Regardless, the objective data will make broadcasters and advertisers take note.

Over the course of 31 matches in the three-week tournament, an average of 1,300,000 viewers tuned in, versus the 859,000 viewer average in 2008.

Incidentally, these numbers reflect English language broadcast only. On Spanish-language TV, the final posted a 28% uptick in viewers, for an ESPN Deportes total of 1,125,000 viewers, making it the second highest-rated European soccer match ever on a Spanish-language sports cable network.

CommentaryEuro 2012

Euro 2012: Quarterfinals Wrapup

June 30, 2012 — by Suman


After a tremendously fun twelve days of Euro2012 group stage matches, we found the knockout phase over the past week a bit of a letdown. Well, until the 2nd semifinal match on Thursday.

(This was originally going to be a wrapup of the quarters and semis, but got long enough with just the quarters. See here for some thoughts on the semifinals.)

The quarterfinals were all one-sided, at least in terms of possession and chances created. Indeed, they fell into the Manichean proactive/reactive divide that Jonathan Wilson identified early in the tournament, in a column about “the flaw of tiki-taka“:

A clear pattern has emerged from the first round of group games at Euro 2012. Holland against Denmark, Germany against Portugal, Spain against Italy, Ireland against Croatia, France against England, the first half of Poland against Greece: each have featured one proactive team taking the game to the opposition; one reactive team sitting deep with compact lines absorbing the pressure, trying to restrict the opposition and looking to score either from counter-attacks or set-plays.

That was also the pattern that emerged in the quarterfinal games: Portugal proactive against a reactive Czech Republic, Germany against Greece, Spain against France, and Italy against England.

But of the proactives, only Germany was able to finish their chances, lighting up Greece for 4 goals (reinforcing the then-growing conventional wisdom that der Nationalmannschaft were the clear favorites to win the whole thing).

The only drama in the first quarterfinal, a week ago Thursday, was waiting to see if Cristiano Ronaldo would finally score, which he finally did with an admittedly spectacular header late in the game (reinforcing the then-growing sense that just maybe he could carry them to the final).

Last Saturday night in Donetsk, Spain unlocked the l’autobus the French had garé, scoring an early goal, and then spent the 70 minutes playing the recently much-maligned tiki-taka, before adding a late PK score (oddly, Xabi Alonso scored both goals, in what was his 100th cap).

In the last quarterfinal match, Sunday in Kyiv, Italy bossed the match (especially the much-praised deep-lying midfield capo Andrea Pirlo), but Gli Azzurri  couldn’t find their way to a finish against Roy Hodgson’s English bus.  It was scoreless through 120 minutes, all the way to penalties, which at least made for a tense end to the quarterfinals–a shootout that will be remembered for Pirlo’s audacious Panenka.

From Daniel Taylor’s writeup in the Guardian:

Italy had 815 passes compared with England’s 320. The shot count was 35-9. Italy had 20 on target, one more than England managed in their four games. Andrea Pirlo put together more passes, 117, than England’s entire midfield quartet of Gerrard, Milner, Scott Parker and Ashley Young.

It was a peacock-like spreading of Pirlo’s feathers. What a player he is and what a moment when he ambled forward for his penalty and popped the ball into the back of the net. Hart had tried everything to put off Italy’s penalty-takers. He eyeballed them. He stuck out his tongue, pulled faces, made silly noises. He did everything but drop his shorts and squirt water from a flower. Pirlo talked afterwards of deliberately setting out to bring him down a peg or two. So he went for the Panenka chip, named in honour of Antonin Panenka’s decisive penalty for Czechoslovakia against West Germany in the 1976 final. Of all the moments that encapsulated Sunday’s quarter-final, it was this: the man in the England shirt acting the fool while the serial champion put him in his place and the rest of the football world sniggered behind their hands.

(Emphasis added, with a h/t to the English friend of ours who copied and pasted that last sentence to facebook midweek, prefaced with: “I know its ancient history now, but this sums up England’s lack of a game today.”)

The details of the quarterfinal results, with links to’s match reports/facts:

21 June 2012
Czech Republic Czech Republic 0-1 Portugal Portugal
Referee: Howard Webb (ENG) – Stadium: National Stadium Warsaw, Warsaw (POL)

22 June 2012
Germany Germany 4-2 Greece Greece
Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN) – Stadium: Arena Gdansk, Gdansk (POL)

23 June 2012
Spain Spain 2-0 France France
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA) – Stadium: Donbass Arena, Donetsk (UKR)

24 June 2012
England England 0-0 Italy Italy
Italy win 4-2 on penalties
Referee: Pedro Proença (POR) – Stadium: Olympic Stadium, Kyiv (UKR)

Euro 2012PreviewSchedule

Euro 2012: Quarterfinals Fixtures

June 21, 2012 — by Suman


The group stage is behind us–60 goals in 24 matches over 12 days–and now the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 are upon us. Four matches in four days, starting with the first kicking off in a few hours.  Here are your fixtures, along with a link for each:


Thursday, 21 June 2012
Czech Republic Czech Republic Portugal Portugal
Referee: Howard Webb (ENG) – Stadium: National Stadium Warsaw, Warsaw (POL)
  • Zonal Marking’s Czech Republic v Portugal preview: “The key battle is likely to be down the left flank. This is Portugal’s biggest strength going forward – they have the goalscoring potential of Ronaldo coming inside, and the overlapping threat of Fabio Coentrao bombing down the outside. But this means they’re also weak defensively down that side: all four goals they’ve conceded have originated from that side of the pitch, and Ronaldo’s non-tracking against Denmark was a problem Paulo Bento should have resolved earlier. As it happens, the right has been the strongest area of the Czech side…”
Friday, 22 June 2012
Germany Germany Greece Greece
Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN) – Stadium: Arena Gdansk, Gdansk (POL)


Saturday, 23 June 2012
Spain Spain France France
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA) – Stadium: Donbass Arena, Donetsk (UKR)
  • Jonathan Wilson poses The Question: position or possession?: “The flaw of Spain’s tiki-taka is that a team can control possession or it can control position, but it can’t do both.”
Sunday, 24 June 2012
England England Italy Italy
Referee: Pedro Proença (POR) – Stadium: Olympic Stadium, Kyiv (UKR)

Euro 2012PreviewSchedule

Euro 2012 Matchday 12: Last Day of the Group Stage – Sweden-France & England-Ukraine

June 19, 2012 — by Suman3


We’ve nearly reached the end of the Group Stage. Two matches to go in Group D today: Sweden-France and England-Ukraine, which will determine the final two quarterfinalists. Already in the final eight: Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Italy.

The latter two claimed first and second in Group C with tense victories yesterday. Spain beat upstart Croatia 1-0 off a 88′ tiki-taka type goal: Cesc Fábregas with a looping lofted ball over the defense to Andrés Iniesta, who was just barely onsides, and who then played a square ball to substitute Jesús Navas, allowing him to blast it home unopposed.  But there were tense moments for Spain before that–most memorably, Spanish captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas denying Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic when it was still scoreless.  It was a crucial save, since a Croatia win, combined with an Italy win, would have see Spain shockingly eliminated.  As it is, Croatia goes home, but they certainly impressed in this tournament.

Italy finally won a game, 2-0 over Ireland, though it was also a tight game. Mario Balotelli added a spectacular insurance goal in the 90′–after which he was spectacularly gagged by his teammate Leonardo Bonnucci.

On to Group D.  Sweden is out, so it’s France, England, or Ukraine for the final two spots in the last eight. France or England advance with at least a draw–hence, Ukraine need to win in order to advance.  I’ll be wearing my Shevchenko jersey and rooting for them to do so.

Today’s fixtures, current group standings, and scenario matrix:

19 June 2012
Sweden Sweden France France
Referee: Pedro Proença (POR) – Stadium: Olympic Stadium, Kyiv (UKR)
England England Ukraine Ukraine
Referee: Viktor Kassai (HUN) – Stadium: Donbass Arena, Donetsk (UKR)


Group D

Teams P W D L F A +/- Pts
France France 2 1 1 0 3 1 2 4
England England 2 1 1 0 4 3 1 4
Ukraine Ukraine 2 1 0 1 2 3 -1 3
Sweden Sweden 2 0 0 2 3 5 -2 0

Scenario matrix via wikipedia:

Sweden have been eliminated.

On the last match day (19 June) the teams advancing from this group (winner; runner-up) will be:

If: France win draw Sweden win
England win England and France1 England; France England; France
draw France; England France; England England; France
Ukraine win France; Ukraine Ukraine; France Ukraine; England or France2
  1. England win the group if either of the following (otherwise, France win the group)
    1. England’s winning margin is greater than France’s by at least 2 goals
    2. England’s winning margin is greater by 1 goal and France do not score at least 2 goals more than England
  2. England are runner-up if either of the following (otherwise, France are runner-up)
    1. England’s losing margin is less than France’s by at least 2 goals
    2. England’s losing margin is less by 1 goal and France do not score at least 2 goals more than England

Euro 2012PreviewSchedule

Matchday 9: Group Stage Enters Final Round–Greece-Russia & Czech Republic-Poland Today

June 15, 2012 — by Suman


The last round of group stage matches starts today, with the last two matches in Group A–meaning that we’ll have our first two quarterfinalists by the end of the day. It also means the day’s two matches are played simultaneously. So get your picture-in-picture ready–or put one on your TV and stream the other on your computer.  Or better yet, head to your local footy-friendly watering hole–we’ll try to watch at least one of the next few days at our local spot, WoodworkBK.

The match to watch today is Czech Republic-Poland. Poland will be playing in front of a partisan home crowd in Wroclaw, while Czech captain and playmaker (and GunnerTomáš Rosický (“the Little Mozart of football”, as we detailed in an extended postscript to this post) is doubtful following an Achilles tendon injury suffered against Greece.  So Poland are perhaps the favorites–but they have yet to win a match, and the pressure will be on them. For Poland the focus and onus will again be on the Dortmund trio–attacking right back Łukasz Piszczek, right-sided midfielder (and captain) Jakub (“Kuba”) Błaszczykowski, and striker Robert Lewandowski.  In addition, goalkeeper (and another Gunner) Wojciech Szczęsny returns after a one-game suspension for the red card he received in the opening match against Greece.

In the other match, Russia, a team that has impressed, should beat a Greece side that hasn’t. But the Russians have a reputation for losing interest and focus–and remarkably Greece would advance with a win.  For Russia the standout performers have been captain Andrei Arshavin (still on Arsenal’s books, but went back to Mother Russia in January on loan to his home club of Zenit St. Petersburg) and youngster Alan Dzagoev–who is, as Eastern European football expert Jonathan Wilson writes today, finally meeting Russia’s expectations.

See below for Group A standings and today’s fixtures (via, and below that a scenario analysis (via wikipedia) of which teams advances in each of the 9 outcomes (3 possible outcomes in each of the 2 matches implies 3^2 = 9 possible outcomes). Although it’s even more complicated than that, as certain of those scenarios bring into play goal differential (the first tie-breaker).

In fact, it appears that not only do all four teams have a chance to advance, but that each of the six 2-team combinations is still a possibility. No wonder writes: “I’m not too sure who will be more interested in the final round of group matches in Groups A and B: football fans or mathematicians. To say things are tight is an understatement. To say they’re complicated is a fair statement.”

Group A

Teams P W D L F A +/- Pts
Russia Russia 2 1 1 0 5 2 3 4
Czech Republic Czech Republic 2 1 0 1 3 5 -2 3
Poland Poland 2 0 2 0 2 2 0 2
Greece Greece 2 0 1 1 2 3 -1 1
16 June 2012
Greece Greece Russia Russia
Referee: Jonas Eriksson (SWE) – Stadium: National Stadium Warsaw, Warsaw (POL)
Czech Republic Czech Republic Poland Poland
Referee: Craig Thomson (SCO) – Stadium: Municipal Stadium Wroclaw, Wroclaw (POL)

Scenario analysis via UEFA Euro 2012 Group A – Wikipedia:

On the last match day (16 June) the teams advancing from this group (winner; runner-up) will be:[1][2][3]

If: Czech Republic win draw Poland win
Greece win Czech Republic; Greece Greece and Russia or Czech Republic1 Poland; Greece
draw Czech Republic; Russia Russia; Czech Republic Russia and Poland2
Russia win Russia; Czech Republic Russia; Czech Republic Russia; Poland
  1. Positions determined by score of Greece v Russia
    (a) Russia; Greece – if Greece win by 1 or 2 goals
    (b) Greece; Russia – if Greece win by 3 to 5 goals
    (c) Greece; Czech Republic – if Greece win by at least 6 goals
  2. Poland win the group if they win by at least 4 goals (3 if they score at least 4 more than Russia); otherwise Russia win the group



  1. ^ Peter Katsiris (13 June 2012). “UEFA EURO 2012: The Math behind Group A”. Football Hellas. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  2. ^ “Euro 2012 Diary: Mathematicians to work out who qualifies from Groups A and B”. Betfair. 14 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  3. ^ Johnson, Dale (13 June 2012). “Euro 2012 Group permutations”. ESPN. Retrieved 15 June 2012.

Euro 2012PreviewSchedule

Matchday 8: Ukraine-France & Sweden-England

June 15, 2012 — by Suman


The last day of the 2nd round of group stage games, with Group D in action today. Yesterday’s Group C matches were a contrast–a tight match between Italy and Croatia that ended in a 1-1 draw, followed by a blowout 4-0 win for Spain, eliminating Ireland.

On to today: France travels to far eastern Ukraine to take on the co-hosts (can Ukraine build on King Sheva’s fairytale first game, and continue his quixotic quest to the Kyiv final?); and Sweden plays in England in the Ukrainian capital (read Brian Philips’ new piece in Grantland–“Englands of the Mind: The sound. The fury. The mediocrity.” and BBC on Roy Hodgson – The Sweden Years; although the latter is available to UK users only, so instead read Hodgson’s own words about his Sweden years here)

The fixtures:

15 June 2012
Ukraine Ukraine France France
Referee: Björn Kuipers (NED) – Stadium: Donbass Arena, Donetsk (UKR)
Sweden Sweden England England
Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN) – Stadium: Olympic Stadium, Kyiv (UKR)

Hit us with some comments if/when you watch the matches:

Euro 2012PreviewSchedule

Matchday 6: Group of Death Round 2

June 13, 2012 — by Suman

Two good matches in Group A yesterday (Poland 1 – 1 Russia – see here, here and here); and Czech Republic 2 – 1 Greece).
But today it’s the Group of Death. Already an instant classic in the first match of the day, and a yet another huge match in perhaps the biggest intra-Euro rivalry in the 2nd match:
13 June 2012
Denmark Denmark 2-3 Portugal Portugal
Referee: Craig Thomson (SCO) – Stadium: Arena Lviv, Lviv (UKR)
Netherlands Netherlands Germany Germany
Referee: Jonas Eriksson (SWE) – Stadium: Metalist Stadium, Kharkiv (UKR)

In addition to our review of the history of this rivalry (“The Spit Hits the Fan“), a few additonal links about Netherlands-Germany:



Euro 2012 Matchday 5: Russia Invades Poland

June 12, 2012 — by Suman3


Yesterday’s match: France and England drew 1-1 in a desultory affair, while Ukraine beat Sweden in a thrilling match at Kyiv’s Olympic Stadium, in front of a delirious home crowd.

Today’s Group A action–the first time we’re seeing teams play their second set of matches: Greece-Czech Republic was the early match, with Czech Republic rebounding from their “Russian concussion” to win 2-1, and put themselves back in contention for 2nd at least.

But the big match of the day is between two nations with a lot of historical baggage that’s being brought to Warsaw today–Russia versus Poland.

Here are the fixtures–scroll down for some preview notes:

12 June 2012
Greece Greece 1-2 Czech Republic Czech Republic
Referee: Stéphane Lannoy (FRA) – Stadium: Municipal Stadium Wroclaw, Wroclaw (POL)
Poland Poland Russia Russia
Referee: Wolfgang Stark (GER) – Stadium: National Stadium Warsaw, Warsaw (POL)

The NYTimes provides some historical context to today’s tense match, in a article headlined “In Poland, Match With Russia Goes Far Beyond Soccer“:

Poland is enjoying its turn on the European stage, co-hosting the prestigious European soccer championship, which the country’s leaders hoped to use as a coming-out party for their newly confident nation. There is only one problem, and it is a familiar one: Russia.

Centuries of enmity have defined the relationship between Poland and Russia. Their history is filled with war, conquest and occupation. More recently, a significant minority of Poles have come to believe that the Russians were responsible for the plane crash in 2010 that killed President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and 94 others.


Add to the mix the plans that Russian fans, celebrating their national holiday, Russia Day, on Tuesday, have made to march to the stadium before the game. Some are said to be planning to wear T-shirts featuring the Soviet hammer and sickle.

“Let’s wait and see what happens on Tuesday, but if Russians decide to promote any Soviet symbols, it’ll be an unprecedented scandal and a real affront to Poland,” said Mariusz Kaminski, 46, a senior member of the opposition Law and Justice Party. “It would be as if Germans visited Tel Aviv sporting swastikas.”

The threat of an outburst from either side, or both, is all the more unfortunate to many Poles because the tournament, from its years of preparation to last week’s opening ceremony, has been such a point of pride.

The European championship was their moment to show off the highways and train stations built in anticipation of the event, as well as top-of-the-line soccer stadiums. Up to now, nearly all of the negative publicity has been directed at the other host country, Ukraine, and its imprisonment of a former prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko.

And from the Ukrainian press, “Битва за Варшаву. Анонс матча Польша vs Россия” (roughly: “The Battle of Warsaw: Russia vs Poland Match Preview”):

 …if the plans are fans of the Russian Federation, as reported by the media, with the emission of paper airplanes on the field with a hint of a plane crash with the Polish president Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Smolensk – the truth, the degree of control at the National Stadium in Warsaw will pass far beyond the mark of a boil.

Approximate composition:

Poland: Tyton – Pischek, Berkey, Wasilewski, Behnisch – Dudka, Murawski, Polanski – Blaschikovski, Obraniak – Lewandowski

Russia: Malafeev – Anyukov, Berezutsky, Ignashevich, Zhirkov – Denisov, Zyryanov, Shirokov – Arshavin, Dzagoev, Kerzhakov

We’re hearing reports now of violent clashes between the Russian and Polish fans within the last couple hours, with Warsaw police making 50+ arrests. Let’s hope things are calm within the stadium and on the pitch for the next couple hours.