SO. I have been holding out on all TRF followers and supporters … my last blog post was on July 13th, 2014, the morning of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final between my mighty Germans and the persistent Argentinians. What happened that afternoon and evening is now part of global footballing and World Cup history.
Mario Goetze’s epic strike in the 113th minute earned Die Mannschaft it’s 4th world cup star and provided the icing to the sweetest German Fussball chocolate cake any team could whip up. Why so sweet? On its way to the WC trophy, Germany accomplished notable ‘firsts’ and ‘mosts’ … most goals scored 18; best goal difference +14; most goals scored in a match by one team: Germany 7 v Brazil 1 (in the WC semis!), most passes by a team: 4,157 passes, with a 82% completion rate, and first European team to win a WC in a South American host nation.
A lot has happened to the German National Team since that magical night at the Maracanã: Match winner Mario Goetze went from national team hero to club (Bayern Muenchen) bench-warmer and sometimes goat; Captain Philip Lahm, defender Per Mertesacker and goal-getter extraordinaire Miro Klose retired from Die Mannschaft; country and Bayen hero Basti Schweinsteiger left for not greener pastures at Manchester United; and overall the team has had a less than impressive showing since Brazil, with 10 wins, 7 losses and 2 ties in various friendlies and Euro 2016 qualifiers. On a positive note: NT regular Mesut Oesil had a sensational season with Arsenal (19 assists, 6 goals) and was voted the team’s MVP; Mario ‘9 Lives’ Gomez resurrected his career once again and won golden boot (26 goals) honors with Turkish side Beşiktaş (he’s back as Germany’s striker); and a new crop of German Young-stars (including Kimmich, Sane, Brandt and Weigl) are all poised to make their Euro 2016 or Rio Olympics NT debuts.
Let’s talk Euros. For the first time, the European Championship final tournament (Euro 2016) in France will be contested by 24 teams, having been expanded from the 16-team format used since 1996. The group stage consists of six groups, four teams, followed by a knockout stage (sweet 16, quarter-final and semis) and the final.
The June 10th France v Romania game kicks- off a 51 match, 10 venue celebration of Europe’s finest culminating in the July 10th Euro final at Stade de France located in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis. If all goes well, Die Mannschaft will be competing for a fourth European title , and the last since 1996. Also, according to my match-up math, if all tournament favorites hold serve, Germany will face German-killer Italy (Germany has never beaten Italy in an international tournament including a loss in the 2012 Euro quarters) in the Quarter-Finals on Saturday, July 2nd and Euro host and co-favorite France in the Semis on Thursday, July 7th.
For those of you who can’t sit tight for the Euros to begin in a mere 12 days, you can exhale and set your sights on the Copa America Centenario. The centennial Copa will be held in the U.S. starting June 3rd and marks the first Copa América hosted outside of South America. It will be held as part of an agreement between CONMEBOL (the South American football confederation) and CONCACAF (the football confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean) as a special edition between the usual four-year cycle, and features an expanded field of 16 teams (an increase from the usual 12), with ten teams from CONMEBOL and six teams from CONCACAF.
This is your chance to watch all the South American stars as well as the US and Mexican favorites including 32 matches culminating with the Copa Final at Citi Field in Queens on Sunday, June 26th. The U.S. National Team just completed an impressive 3 match tune-up tour and silenced the critics with victories over Puerto Rico, Ecuador (also in the Copa) and Bolivia (also in the Copa). The U.S. kicks-off the Copa on Friday night (9:30PM Eastern) vs. Columbia. Other countries they’ll face in Group A include Costa Rica and Paraguay.
Consider TRF open for business once again and stay tuned for periodic updates and features on all things Euro 2016 and Copa America. And oh yeah, the Rio Olympics including a world-class soccer competition start August 5th.