Did you know the best international soccer tournament on the planet is starting on June 8th? “But Scarecrow,” you’re thinking, “the World Cup isn’t until 2016.” I hate to break it to you, but the 2016 World Cup is being played in Brazil. Do you think, with the fans that they have, that the Brazilian team will win any game by less than 30 goals? I didn’t think so. Like no other time, the 2016 World Cup is a competition where 31 teams are playing for second place.
No, friends, the tournament in question is Euro 2012. Starting in just over a week, it promises to be a solid month of excellent soccer, played by the world’s best players. Granted, this IS European soccer we are talking about, so the flopping might be out of control (consequently, Mike Smith is SUPER excited for this…not that I’m still bitter or anything), but the tactical skill will be off the charts.
Euro is better than the World Cup because the teams are better. There are no North Korean, South African, or New Zealand teams to kick around. There also won’t be as many beautiful Brazilian and Argentinian women in the stands, but nothing is perfect.
How do I know the teams are better? SImple. Math. I’m a mild mannered data analyst by day, and a devilishly mediocre looking blogger by night, let’s look at some numbers, shall we? The average ranking of the 32 teams in the World Cup two years ago was 26. The average ranking of the Euro 2012 teams? 15. Doesn’t seem like much, but when 14 of the worlds top 18 teams are in the same tournament (with co-hosts Ukraine and Poland thrown in for cordiality), the soccer is going to be off the charts competitive.
Here is each pool, with predictions for each (as with the World Cup, the top 2 move on).
Pool A: Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic
Despite my saying that this tournament is great, this is by FAR the worst group. Poland is in because they are hosting. Russia choked in their World Cup play in games against Slovenia, and has a big history of disappearing in big spots. The Czech Republic is frustratingly inconsistent in international play, despite one of the world’s best goal keepers in Peter Cech, and Greece somehow won this tournament in 2004, but has not done anything remotely as impressive since, or before for that matter.
Russia and Greece are the smart bets here, and I like Greece to advance since they somehow do well in this tournament, but I think the Czechs steal a match, and win the group, with Greece advancing as the runners up.
Pool B: Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Portugal
Holy. Shit. This is the definition of a group of death. The Netherlands arguably should have one the World Cup two years ago, and would have if Arjen Robben puts that breakaway home in the chapionship match. Germany is always a juggernaut, and looked like the best team in the last world cup until they ran into Spain in the semi-finals. Portugal has Cristiano Ronaldo, who will instantly turn into the Lebron James of international play if he doesn’t carry this strong team home, and Denmark? Oh, poor Denmark. When you are the 7th ranked team in your zone, and the 10th best team in the world, you are not supposed to be the worst team in your own group. These games will be the best of the tournament.
Germany wins the group, Portugal advances over Netherlands based on goal differential, the Danes cry at their fate
Pool C: Spain, Italy, Ireland, Croatia
Croatia is the Atlanta Hawks of international soccer. They are always good, they always make it whatever playoff they can, but no one remembers why they are good exactly. Being put into a group with juggernauts Spain and Italy doesn’t help. Ireland is a sentimental favorite because they got SCREWED in 2010 because FIFA wanted France in the World Cup. Qualifying is nice, but Spain wins the group and Italy easily advances here.
Pool D: Ukraine, Sweden, France, England
Ukraine is just happy to be at the table. England will follow its usual course of dominating the group stage then completely disappearing in the knockout round. Sweden is a lot better than people care to admit, and France is secretly not very good anymore. England wins the group, and Sweden barely squeak by the French to secure the final spot.
If the above scenarios happen, the knockout matchups would be:
Czech Republic vs. Portugal (Portugal wins)
Spain vs. Sweden (Spain wins)
Germany vs. Greece (Germany wins)
England vs. Italy (England wins)
Spain definitely advances over Portugal, and Germany would be my pick if I had forgiven them for WWII, which I HAVEN’T…so England is the pick.
Everyone and their dad will be picking Spain to win, and they almost certainly will. But my gut is saying England, and 60% of the time, my gut is right every time.
England to win. Wayne Rooney gets knighted, no fewer than 30,000 pub windows will be smashed.
God save the Queen.
Editor’s Note: So Podcast Guy sent me a text yesterday saying that he was going to do a Euro 2012 preview blog. I thought “Hey that’s great. I love it when other people want to contribute because that means one less blog I have to do“. Then I read his predictions and I am left right back where I started. Scarecrow is basically forcing me to do a rebuttal blog because these picks are absurd. I can’t have the first real soccer post on the blog making the site look like we don’t know shit about soccer. England? ENGLAND?!?! Official Windy Citizen Sports Euro 2012 predictions coming later today.–The Chief.
(Washington Post)–New Jersey will defy a federal ban and let people bet on the outcomes of football, basketball and other games this fall, Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday. Speaking at a news conference highlighting efforts to reinvigorate Atlantic City, Christie said the regulations his administration will issue next week make no attempt to overturn a 1992 federal law that limits sports betting to four states. “We intend to go forward,” the Republican governor said. “If someone wants to stop us, then let them try to stop us. We want to work with the casinos and horse racing industry to get it implemented. “Am I expecting there may be legal action taken against us to try to prevent it? Yes,” the governor said. “But I have every confidence we’re going to be successful.” The U.S. Justice Department did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Thursday afternoon. A federal law called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act limits sports betting to four states that approved it by a 1991 deadline: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. At the time, New Jersey was given the chance to become the fifth but failed to act during a prescribed window.
I. LOVE. THE. FAT MAN!!! Chris Christie is hands down the best politician in the game right now and it’s not even close. Yes, this sports gambling pledge pulls at my heart-strings, but it is more than that. Christie is just Mr. Common Sense, this legalizing of sports gambling just happens to be the latest example. It’s something that is illegal for no reason. Every other country in the world has it. Nevada has it. It is just one of those stupid government red tape laws that slows America down. Christie realizes that because he is a normal guy. He realizes that adults should be free to spend their money however they wish and that this will be a HUGE revenue generator for his state. Christie was probably too green to run for the Presidency at the start of the 2012 cycle, but I wish we could just tell Romney to go kick rocks and appoint Christie. Christie fixed New Jersey and he will fix America if given the chance.
In honor of Christie here are the way too early Chief Locks of the Century College Football Win Totals predictions:
Lines by 5Dimes
LSU: Over/Under 10.5 wins
I fully expect LSU to win the National Championship this year. They have the best stable of running backs in the country and I also expect their passing game to be improved this year as well. The schedule is somewhat favorable as well(if you can say that about an SEC team) as the Tigers will get both South Carolina and Alabama at home and they don’t play Georgia. The Pick: Over
Notre Dame: Over/Under 8.5 wins
Anyone who reads this space with regularity knows that I love the Irish. I think they are definitely moving the right direction and may actually surprise some people. Having said that, you’d have to be an absolute moron to take the over here. Notre Dame schedule is the most difficult in the country. The Irish will face Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, Oklahoma, and USC who are all preseason top 15 teams. Then ND also has to play talented teams like BYU and Miami. If the Irish get to 9 wins with an inexperienced QB then Notre Dame should build a statue of Brian Kelly. The Pick: Under
Georgia: Over/Under 9.5 wins
I don’t know what or who Georgia had to do to avoid playing LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas for the second year in a row, but the Dawgs are sitting pretty with their schedule. They should run away and hide with the SEC East crown. Georgia should be favored in just about every game they play this year. The Pick: Over
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Covers.com released Cantor Gaming’s 2012 win total lines and there is some real easy money out there. Let’s just get right to it.
The “So easy it’s practically stealing” Division:
New England Patriots: Over 12 wins -120. Under 12 wins -110
Ask yourself this question: Is 19 wins more than 12? If you answered yes to that question then you should bet on the Pats. The Pats won 13 games last year with one of the NFL’s worst defenses and virtually no vertical passing game. Both of those problem areas have been addressed. While I don’t put a ton of stock into this because the NFL changes so much year to year, I can’t completely ignore that the Patriots have the easiest schedule in the NFL based on the winning percentages of opponents from last season. The Pick: Over -120
Chicago Bears: Over 8.5 wins -135. Under 8.5 wins +105
The Bears finished last season with 8 wins and they reached that total without having Jay Cutler and Matt Forte playing down the stretch. The Bears booted Mike Martz which should help keep Jay Cutler upright more often and they also added a legitimate receiving weapon in Brandon Marshall. The Bears further strengthened the WR corps by drafting Alshon Jeffery in the draft. If the defense can continue to play at a high level and the Bears are a little luckier with their health they should absolutely get more than 8.5 wins and head back to the playoffs. The Pick: Over -135
The “I love it, but I’m not in love with it” Division:
Cincinnati Bengals: Over 7.5 wins -130. Under 7.5 wins even
I think the Bengals are a team that is trending upwards. Dalton and AJ Green are the real deal and the running game should improve given the improvements made to the offensive line. I would look for the Bengals to move to a two-TE set much like the Patriots. Gresham and 4th round pick Orsen Charles of Georgia will be tough covers on the inside and Green will threaten the opposition vertically. A sophomore slump is possible and the Bengals are never what you expect them to be, but I think this is a team trending upwards. Soft schedule in the first half of 2012 will allow the to gain some momentum. The Pick: Over -130
Buffalo Bills: Over 7 wins -110. Under 7 wins -120
The Bills were big spenders in the offseason adding DE/OLBs Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. The Bills’ front four will be as scary. Williams and Anderson speed rushing on the outside, and Marcel Dareus blowing shit up in the middle will cause big time havoc. The Bills also added maybe my favorite player in the draft when they selected CB Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina. The Bills have weapons on offense and should have a vastly improved defense. The Bills finished last season with 6 wins, if they can keep their heads above water in the first 1o weeks of the season, it should be cake walk city down the stretch. Bills are going to be relevant for the first time since the early 1990s. The Pick: Over -110
Tennessee Titans: Over 7 wins -130. Under 7 wins even
Somehow the Titans got to 9 wins last season and were in contention for the playoffs until the last week of the season. The offense has to improve this year. I think Chris Johnson has a bounce back season. Kenny Britt returns from injury and the he should see less double teams because the Titans added WR Kendall Wright in the draft. The two biggest question marks surrounding the Titans are a) Who is going to be their QB and b) can they survive a murderer’s row of a schedule. I think the QB thing will work itself out. Either Jake Locker needs another year to develop and veteran Matt Hasselback leads the offense. Or Jake Locker wins the job outright and his big arm opens up the offense a little more. Tough schedule, but I like what the Titans have cooking. The Pick: Over -130
The “60% of the time I’m right every time” Division:
Kansas City Chiefs: Over 8 wins -120. Under 8 wins -110
The Chiefs are only a year removed from the playoffs and managed 7 wins last season despite basically all of their best players being out with injuries. Now those players return, but I still don’t think the Chiefs will have enough to get to 8 wins. Tough schedule on paper and the rest of the division continues to improve. Denver should be better with the addition of Manning, Carson Palmer showed signs of life at times last year in Oakland and a full offseason will only help the Raiders, and the Chargers can’t possibly be that bad again. The division alone will make it tough to get to 8 wins, and their other games aren’t picnics either. The Pick: Under -110
New York Jets: Over 8.5 wins -115. Under 8.5 wins -115
I think this is the year where everything finally implodes on Rex Ryan and the Jets. An absolute head scratcher of a draft and offseason. I like Tebow as much as the next guy, but that just isn’t going to work out. I feel like the Jets made that trade thinking that they could take Tebow’s heart and leadership ability and put them into Mark Sanchez’s body. It seems like a week doesn’t go by where a player on the Jets is saying Mark Sanchez isn’t a leader and doesn’t work hard enough. If Sanchez had 1/10th the heart of Tebow he coulda made All-American. The Jets are about to fail as miserably and spectacularly as any team in history and I literally can’t wait. The Pick: Under 8.5 -115
So it was written, so let it be done. The Chief is wise.
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Big NBA night as four different teams face elimination on the same day since 2003. While it is obvious that it is a must-win game for the teams down 3-1, a couple of the other teams need to close things out tonight to give themselves the best possible preparation and rest for the 2nd round. Games picked in chronological order.
Orlando Magic +10.5 at Indiana Pacers
I wouldn’t touch this game with a ten-foot pole. 10.5 points is just too big of a spread on which to gamble. It doesn’t matter that the Orlando Magic team is the biggest collection of quitters in pro sports. Having said that…gun to my head I like Indiana to cover at home. The Pacers have blown the doors off of the Magic twice in this series and Orlando doesn’t have the ability to rebound from a tough OT loss at home in Game 4. The Pick: Indiana Pacers -10.5
Boston Celtics +1.5 at Atlanta Hawks
This is the easiest game on the board. No idea why the Celtics are underdogs in this one. Yeah, Atlanta is the home team, but it took every bounce and call to fend off the Celtics in game 1. Then they couldn’t beat the Celtics without Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo in Game 2. The Celtics just decimated the Hawks in Game 4 to put a stranglehold on the series. Game 5 on the road for a team up 3-1 can often be a trap game, but the Celtics know that they need to close out the Hawks now so they can rest their aging stars. Just as much of a must-win for Boston as it is for the Hawks in many ways. The Pick: Boston Celtics +1.5
Philadelphia 76ers +5 at Chicago Bulls
No Rose and no Noah has the Bulls down 3-1 in the series heading home. They had chances to win both games in Philly, but faded down the stretch. I feel like the Bulls will try to make a statement tonight and defend home court, but 5 points seems like a huge spread coming off of 3 straight losses. This is another game that I wouldn’t touch, but with a gun to my head I am going with Philly. The injuries are too much for the Bulls to overcome and the Sixers have the closers needed to finish in the 4th. The Pick: Philadelphia 76ers +5.
Denver Nuggets +5.5 at Los Angeles Lakers
If Andrew Bynum is mentally ready to go(which is apparently a big if) then the Nuggets are dead. They have battled hard in this series and have a bright future, but much like the Celtics, the Lakers will be pushing hard to close this out so they can have a little vacation before their series with the Thunder. Only one of the three Lakers’ wins has been by more than 5.5 points, but I think they surpass the spread with free throws down the stretch. The Pick: Los Angeles Lakers -5.5
So it was written, so let it be done. 60% of the time I am right every time.
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