Saturday, July 5, 2008

EURO 2008 - Goodnight Vienna

Euro 2008.
With the final game of EURO 2008 now over, it is time to breathe in the Alpine air and take stock.

Overall, it has been one of the better tournaments of recent years. The football has for the most part been attacking and open, an improvement on Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup and broadly as exciting as Euro 2000, although the final's denouement will colour the final analysis.

I found only France v Romania a turn-off, although Croatia v Turkey would have had me switching channels if I had not been there in person.

Euro 2008 has certainly been a huge improvement on the last European Championships I experienced in person, the 1996 edition in England, which was memorable for too many defensive games and swathes of empty seats in the stadia.

Austria and Switzerland were good, if not perfect hosts. Their transportation was excellent and the fan information next to faultless. As far as I know, no left luggage facilities closed early like Kaiserslautern's at the last World Cup. The accommodation ran out in and around Basel, but anyone armed with a train pass like me could zip to somewhere much nicer like Interlaken, where hotel beds were easy to find.

The size of the stadia was not ideal - six of the eight holding only the UEFA minimum of 30,000 seats, but there will never be stadia big enough to satisfy today's ticket demand, while a rectangular 30,000-seater is the perfect capacity for an excitingly intimate atmosphere, far more fan-friendly than an 80,000-seat bowl could ever be.

Unless every European championship ever after is held in one of Spain, Italy, France, Germany or England, fans will have to accept 30,000 capacity arenas.

Joint hosting might not be ideal in terms of travel - Geneva to Vienna was a 10-hour hike, but take a look at Gdansk to Odessa on the map for Euro 2012 before you throw stones. Or how about Foxboro to Pasadena at the 1994 World Cup.

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