Yesterday I wrote about Cricket, Today it’s European Soccer.

Before you think the Sports Guru has completely gone off the deep end, I do realize that we are in the middle of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Sweet 16 and Opening Day for the 2011 Baseball season is only a week away. But today I’m fired up about the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship. You need to remember football in Europe is the same thing as soccer in America. The Finals of the Tournament will be held from June 8th until July 1st in 2012. Poland and Ukraine will be the host countries. Fifty one other nations are battling it out for fourteen other slots to join the host countries in the finals. The qualifying round began last August and it runs through November of 2011. The fifty one countries were divided into nine groups. Six groups contain six teams and three groups have five teams. They are lettered Groups A – I. How the groups were assembled is again one of those things American sports fans just don’t care about. I can tell you pots and ping pong balls (see What Happened to the Ping Pong Balls – May 21, 2008 were involved.

By now you must be asking why write about something that really won’t happen until next summer, and most American sports fans don’t care about? I have a real simple answer – it’s the National flags. In Group A two of the teams are Germany and Belgium. As you can see, not very creative. Yes the Belgium flag has vertical stripes and the Germany flag has horizontal ones. And yes, the red and yellow have been flipped. But basically it’s the same flag. I have no doubt that citizens of those countries that have eaten too much chocolate and had a few too many beers can’t tell them apart.

In Group C we have Italy and in Group E Hungary. I am not a world history buff, but I’m going with a bunch of Hungarians had a little too much goulosh and decided the Italian flag was really nice and instead of wasting time and money, lets just flip it around and call it a day. The same could be said for France and the Netherlands.

Look how fancy the Czech Republic, Russian and Luxembourg (I dare you to point it out on a map of Europe without looking first) flags are.

For some reason I thought Europeans were creative. They gave us Versace, Heidi Klum and gelato. What would a day be like without bratwurst, warm beer or Abba? OK, you got me on that one. To be honest with you, I am very disappointed with the “Old World Countries”. Another country you can’t find on a map (it wasn’t a country when we went to school) Macedonia has a really cool flag. They are currently in 5th place in Group B having only beaten Andorra. Everybody beats Andorra. The country only has 84,000 residents. One great fact you can impress your friends with at the water cooler later today – The people of Andorra have the 2nd highest human life expectancy in the world — 82 years at birth. You can research who is number one and get back to me.. Just in case you were interested, the Romanian flag looks like this. Those Andorran’s are so creative…

Two more flags of note. Kyrgyzstan and Kiribati. Neither one is in Europe, but I liked the flags.

A few quick sports notes. We are one step closer to Nuclear war as Pakistan will play India in the World Cup Cricket semifinal on March 30th. This morning New Zealand upset South Africa and they will play the winner of tomorrows match between Sri Lanka (my pick to win the whole tournament) and England. Here is a little video of Pakistan playing India in Cricket from a few years ago.

In the NFL, that hit will get you fined $250,000 and suspended for a game.

Four teams qualified for the Elite Eight in the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship (Florida, Connecticut, Butler and Arizona) yesterday. Four more teams will qualify tonight.

Opening Day in Baseball is only 6 days away. And yes the NFL owners and players still can’t figure out how to split nine billion dollars.

Have a great weekend.

Your Friend in Sports,

Sports Guru Dave