When we decided to give you a preview of the upcoming year in soccer, we realized that you had probably already read a thousand or more of those. Undaunted, we came up with a uniquely O87-nsian way of going about it. Instead of a straight-forward “here’s-what-to-expect-yadda-yadda” piece, we formed our thoughts into four lists that combine non-soccer important 2012 events with soccer-soccer important 2012 events. Yeah, we found it as hard to explain as you found understanding it.
1. Things in 2012 less likely to happen (in general*) than a Venus Transit.
-England will win the European Championship.
-A team other than Barcelona or Real Madrid win La Liga.
-Blackburn aren’t relegated.
-Alessandro Del Piero, David Beckham, Pippo Inzaghi, or Ryan Giggs retires.
-Arjen Robben will be fit for the Euro Championships.
-The highest Aston Villa get on the Premier League table is second, which will occur before any games of the 2012-2013 season are played.
-Anyone pays attention to who wins Ligue 1.
-Qatar builds a single air conditioned stadium.
-Sepp Blatter humbly admits he took several bribes for the selection of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and calls for a re-do of the whole process.
-John Harkes finds a job as a soccer commentator.
-Rafa Marquez doesn’t bitch about his teammates a single time.
*Obviously the chance of a Venus Transit in 2012 is 100%. But, if you look at the Wikipedia page, Venus Transits in general are super rare. So, as I’m sure you surmised, we meant to imply that each of those list items has a very small chance of happening.
2. If the second half of the 2011/12 EPL were the Republican primary.
–Newt Gingrich: Manchester United. The ultra establishment candidate. Been an icon forever. And yet no one can understand it’s gameplan. Look for United to make it close (unlike Gingrich), but inevitably fail.
–Mitt Romney: Manchester City. Despite the occasional wobble, the most consistent presence in the league. Has all the tools needed to win the league, but not capable of making it’s mark on the European scene in this season anyway.
–Michelle Bachman: Blackburn. The laughingstock of the league. More comedy than a really good episode of 30 Rock. With apologies to all for the snark, it’s true and has to be said.
–Ron Paul: Tottenham. With two seasons ago as an exception, always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Technically solid, but just can’t get it done consistently in the big matches.
–Rick Santorum: Newcastle. Nobody saw it coming and it probably won’t end well.
–Herman Cain—Bolton. So promising heading into this season, a series of stunning gaffes and results sees Bolton take a leave of absence already.
–Rick Perry: Wigan Athletic. Will anyone who ever took them seriously please stand up? We thought so.
–Donald Trump: QPR. A giant bankroll isn’t enough to guarantee legitimacy.
–Tim Pawlenty: Aston Villa. Has basically becoming just another pretty name languishing in mediocrity. Everyone will forget where Villa places this season.
3. If the Euro Championship previews were classified in terms of MLS teams.
–Portugal – New York Red Bulls: Overstocked in some areas, next to no depth in others, they’ll have to ride their stars to find success.
–England – Seattle Sounders: Well-supported, but likely to have trouble in the knockout stages.
–Germany – Los Angeles Galaxy: Well-drilled, with the weapons to destroy you on the counter or in possession.
–Italy – Philadelphia Union: Solid defensively, over-reliant on one or two players for creativity.
–Russia – Dallas: A little old in some key positions, especially if you consider they might be losing some of their young talent.
–Sweden – DC United: They’ve both got that one forward guy…
–Poland – Portland Timbers: Poland, Portland, same difference. They’re hoping to ride their home-field advantage to success.
–Croatia – Houston: Awesome midfield playmaker? Check. Talented coach? Check. Recent history of success? Check.
–Ireland – Colorado: Hoping their organization and countering will allow them to punch above their weight.
–Spain – Real Salt Lake: Possession game, belief in the system above all else, yadda yadda yadda.
–Ukraine – Montreal: Completely new to the game (or the tournament), so who knows how they’ll fair?
–Netherlands – Sporting Kansas City: They both play 4-5-1?
–France – Chicago: Showing enough promise of late to be a possible sleeper.
–Denmark – Toronto: Pity poor Denmark, they probably deserve better than this.
–Czech Republic – Columbus: Did anyone notice how they ended up with such a solid looking but unspectacular group?
–Greece – Chivas USA: Relatively solid defense likely not enough to give them a chance…though of course, we would have said that last time too.
–Montenegro – San Jose: Existed, then they didn’t, now they’re back. Can they threaten…probably not.
–Bosnia – Vancouver: They’ve both got that one forward guy…
–Turkey – New England: I’ve always said that Gokhan Inler was the Shalrie Joseph of the Arab world.
–Estonia – Second New York team: Both are very nearly a figment of my imagination.
4. Why you should watch the Olympics.
Fact: the Olympics, as a whole, are wildly overrated. The Olympic Men’s Soccer Tournament, on the other hand, is wildly underrated. Here are four reasons why we’re looking forward to that tournament more than the European Championships:
a. Parity (or something close to it) of play. With the exception of Spain, Germany, Brazil and Lionel Messi, there aren’t a lot of countries who’d be favored to win a major international tournament right now. But the Olympics, with its age limits and exceptions to those age limits and the possibility that David Beckham might be available in a major international tournament again, throws all that out the window. It creates, if not a level playing field, then certainly a resurfaced one. Just ask Hungary (three Olympic titles), Nigeria or Cameroon (1996 and 2000 winners) and Argentina, who have won the last two running how things have worked out in the big one.
b. Parity (or something close to it) of structure. Three Asian teams, three African teams, three European teams, two from North and South America, one from Oceania, the host nation, and a play-in. It’s…kind of wonderful really.
c. The future! Well, sure, it isn’t always all its cracked up to be (Just ask Hungary, Nigeria, or Cameroon). But it’s exciting to see what the kids are capable of, and the kids who come to this tournament are closer than any of the others to contributing for real, less rough cut and more sneak preview.
d. At least one of us is an unapologetic homer. USA! USA! USA! (We hope. If not, disregard all this. Euros rule.)