Euro 2008 has been a fantastic tournament so far. So many games coming down to the wire, the Dutch spanking of the Group of Death, Russia’s rise, Spain finally making serious noise in an international tournament, and especially Turkey’s miracle run. But as fans watch in admiration of the teams that made it to Euro, keep in mind that this tournament could have looked much different.
Seven teams in five groups were within three points or less of second place in the final standings, and a berth in this month’s tournament. England’s missteps are infamously well documented, and ultimately led to the dismissal of Steve McClaren. However six much smaller teams had an equal or easier opportunity to get within reach of Euro 2008, had they taken care of games that they should have won.
Norway would have been in Group A instead of Turkey had they not drawn at home to Bosnia. With a win instead of a draw at home, you would have seen the likes of Serbia’s Nemanja Vidic or Finland’s Jari Litmanen instead of Cristiano Ronaldo in Switzerland. (Jari Litmanen?) Bulgaria and Scotland would have entered the Group of Death instead of the Netherlands and France had they won games against Albania and Georgia, respectively. And Isreal would have entered Euro for the first time with a win at Macedonia.
So what did we learn from this little exercise? First, don’t mess with Caucasus or the Balkans. Nearly all of the national teams to play spoiler were from these regions. Second, many of the teams in Euro 2008 owe their berth to a bit of luck. And by luck, I mean someone else had to screw up.