The Euro 2016 is soon to start in France. I must admit that I have a hard time getting excited about a tournament that comes in the background of political crisis in Europe and all the nerves it implies.
In football terms, the expansion of the tournament into 24 teams has in my view watered down the quality and excitement of the tournament; there are simply too many mediocre teams and too many matches before the excitement starts to get there in the quarterfinals. I predict that, as in the World Cup, the first round will be full of defensive careful teams who are more afraid to lose than wanting to take the risk of winning.
That said, in my continuing attempts at getting excited about the tournament I have reflected of some of the good memories of this tournament, based on the top 10 matches that have stuck to my memories. It is purely a subjective list, based not on the matches themselves, but on the circumstances under which I watched them (friends, place, time...);
10. Germany-Turkey 2008: This was the early build-up of a Germany that would take the world with storm and a Turkey side that took Europe with charm. This semifinal, won by Germany 3-2, I watched on a boat between Denmark and Iceland, with friends in a ship-bar where one could not help by get excited about what was a fantastic match.
9. Netherlands-USSR 1988: My first Euro memories are from the 1988 tournament. The 1988 final was an exhibition of a historic Dutch side with the fantastic Marco Van Basten scoring a fantastic winner.
8. Denmark-Sweden 2004: I watched this match full of dilemmas in a bar in Copenhagen. The problem was that 2-2 would put both teams through instead of one of the least charming Italy sides in history. And this was also how it ended after Denmark had tried to defeat their arch-rivals. So it was in many ways a great but bitter-sweet tie. On top of this I should mention that I started this blog right after the Italy-Denmark match in this tournament with the most boring post ever.
7. Spain-Yugoslavia 2000: I was in Spain for this match that Spain won 4-3. I watched it with a bunch of Spanish friends and one Yugoslav friend, and the taunting and good atmosphere of a fantastic and legendary match makes the day and the match specially memorable.
6. England-Germany 1996: In 1996 I was biking around the Danish island of Bornholm with two friends from High School. We watched the match in a bar in a small town. The bar was full of Germans, but all Danes in the bar supported England. The Germans in the end won on penalties to the delight of the Germans and disappointment of the Danes (who were not very gracious losers).
5. Spain-Germany 2008: This was the start of Spanish World football dominance, being their first victory since their meager 1964 Euro win, and I watched the match in a restaurant called "Matstofan" in Borgarness in Iceland, during a great road-boat-trip of the northern Atlantic, where football was constantly in the background (see 10 above).
4. Denmark-Netherlands 1992: I was actually in a hotel in Sweden, alongside my uncle and cousin, for this match. I had just returned from one year in the USA, where it had been difficult to follow football, and could not believe Denmark had made it to the semifinals. In the end Denmark won an incredibly dramatic match against the defending champions, and we were delighted.
3. Sweden-England 2012: I was there, in the beautiful Stadium in Kiev, for a great match won 3-2 by England. The Euro 2012 is the first and only time I have traveled to a tournament, alongside a great friend, and it was great.
2. Portugal-Denmark 2012: This match was won 3-2 by Portugal, and I was also there at the stadium in Lviv. Of course it was a bit disappointing to lose, but this was only secondary to the fun day in the beautiful and welcoming city of Lviv alongside many fans, and even ending the day in a karaoke bar after the match, singing alongside drunken Portuguese fans.
1. Denmark-Germany 1992: Every Dane alive in 1992 remembers what they were doing when Denmark won the European Championship. This was one of the miracles in footballing history. I had just returned from one year in the US, and was one week in Denmark before joining my parents in Spain. By the time I returned to Spain, Denmark were European champions, and I had watched the semifinal in Sweden (see 4 above) and I was in the small town of Ikast for the final. Ikast is not a city that is memorable for anything, but that day was an incredible party that I will never forget (just like everywhere in Denmark).