The Euro Cup 2016 has a lot of similarities with the world famous HBO series Game of Thrones (GoT). Both events started with a number of different teams (or houses). They have battled each other down to the moment the last one standing gets the ultimate prize: a very uncomfortable chair made of melted swords or a cup made of sterling silver.
True, there are important differences. For one, the Euro Cup can be watched with the entire family, while GoT is only apt for adults with an unhealthy tolerance for medieval politics, violence and nudity. However, there are some interesting parallels to draw between GoT and the games of European football.
Respect for the Free Folk and awaiting The Great War
For starters, Iceland are the Free Folk or “wildlings” of GoT. They came from the Cold North, and nobody gave them a fighting chance against the big boys from the Warmer South. But they sure proved everyone wrong as they played with great teamwork and pure passion!
GoT’s Free Folk had giants, the Icelanders had the coolest war chant to cheer their team up! It was not enough to beat mighty France in the quarterfinals, but the achievement of this island nation, which has a population smaller than Leipzig’s, was enough to earn the respect of the football world.
France has a really, really good team and they have home advantage, which is why they are the Lannisters. If anybody wants the Silver Cup, theyâ€™ll have to go through them and take it from Le Kingâ€™s Landing. In the Euro Cupâ€™s case, the “season finale” will be in Saint-Denis on Sunday, 10 June, at 21:00 CET. You can catch it live on ARD.
But first things first. In the semifinal, France will face Germany, which I see as the Starks of football (Thursday, 7 June, at 21:00 CET; live on either ARD or ZDF). They have always had a good team, but they have been without a trophy for a long while, until recently. They donâ€™t have as many overpaid superstars as other teams, and they rely on teamwork to overcome their opponents, hence, Die Mannschaft.
This is why I think the upcoming semifinal will be the Great War! It promises to be a high intensity, high quality game where betting on either side can be equally risky…
The challenge of the newcomers
Also, both GoT and the Euro Cup have been agonizingly thrilling (though not always), with many big shots going down early (for example, Spain, Italy and England). It is far from settled who is going to take the throne.
In the Euro Cup, however, this is not due to great story writing, but to a crazy knock-out stage bracket. The system to qualify for the knock-out rounds from the groups is complicated because this Euro Cup is played by 24 national teams, in six groups. Meaning that to complete the match-ups for the round of sixteen, the four best teams in third place went through.
The main problem here is that some of the runner-ups are matched with some best third place teams. For example, Portugal finished third in Group F and they played Croatia in the round of 16; barely beating them 1-0. In other football tournaments, like the World Cup, a third place finish in the group stage earns you a ticket to go back home, but in this Euro Cup they reached the semifinals (after beating Poland in the penalty shoot-out).
Hence, for me Portugal are the White Walkers because they both have a very arrogant and self-aggrandizing leader who is hard to beat (Cristiano Ronaldo = Night King). Also, they reached this late stage of the tournament without facing the big armies, but still inspiring fear.
Portugal will face Wales in the first semifinal next Wednesday (6 June, at 21:00 CET, live on either ARD or ZDF). For their part, Wales are Daenerys’s Dragons. They started out as small and harmless, but have grown to become a force to reckon with. They might be the ones to stop the White Walkers and reach Le Kingâ€™s Landing on Sunday, or the other way aroundâ€¦
I am not going to make a prediction on who will take the Silver Cup. I am rooting for Team Stark (Die Mannschaft!), but will let you place your bets. But like in GoT, this Euro Cup can surprise people and your favorite team can get slaughtered at any stage.