In only a week and a half's time, Euro 2008 will begin. It is one of the toughest tournaments to win, since it is nearly all great teams (the only bad one is a host).
Additionally, World Cup qualifying resume in Africa, Asia, the Americas. For most of Asia, Africa, and North America's best teams, it will be their first matches on the way to the World Cup.
When we think about international soccer, there are always comparisons being made between teams. As I see it, there are certain levels of world soccer. I find it easier to group teams into categories. I have been working through this for a few months now, and would like to share it with the AGM public.
Thecrookedcap's Levels of World Soccer
Class A – World Superpowers
These teams are the creme de la creme of FIFA. Not only are these teams the ones you expect to make every tournament, but without too much trouble. They're also the ones you expect to go deep into tournaments (provided, of course, they don't play another Class A side).
Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Germany, and France are the very few in this class. Note they're the last five World Cup champions, and not by coincidence. Only two non Class A teams have won the World Cup, by the way.
Class B – Marquee Idols
Like teams in Class A, you expect these sides to do well. Qualifying is usually done, and when they failed it is a major disaster (see England, Euro 2008). What separates a Class A and a Class B side is a level of success in the tournament itself. A Class B side might look fantastic on paper, but it tends to never go right. They win their group only to be eliminated in the first knockout round (on penalties often too). They have star power that never quite gels as a team. If it makes it easier, these teams can be seen as Class A talent without Class A results.
England, Spain, and the Netherlands are the prototypes of this group. The way the current roster looks I’d also put Portugal in this group. As far as other continents go, Nigeria and Cameroon tend to fit this one, although they could be Class D's as well.
Class C – Silent Assassins
Silent assassins are the teams that make Groups of Death such. They're never favored, nor make as many magazines as the A's and B's. But they have the ability to challenge anyone. In qualifying, they are usually dead on. Once the tournament final rolls around, they may remain silent. Or, they could get to a semi-final with people scratching their heads as to how it was done.
Sweden, Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, Uruguay, Ecuador and Paraguay are part of this group. You could also make an argument for Mexico, although it is a dead ringer for Class D.
Class D – Big Fish of the Small Ponds
These countries have hardware and rarely ever missed out on major international tournaments. Only problem? You never know what will happen when they get into the oceans of intercontinental competition. These teams are the "continental powers" stuck when they face the Brazils and Italys. They can make a run, but usually if the tournament is in their backyard (or at least in the U.S.’s case, not in Europe). They may also crash out with a single point.
The dictionary definition for this group are countries like the United States, Mexico, Iran, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Australia. Although they are absolute nothings on the world stage, New Zealand fit the definition too after Australia's departure from Oceania for footballing purposes. Aside from Cameroon and Nigeria you cannot put many African sides in this group, since there seems to be more parity in CAF than elsewhere.
Class E – Continental Contenders
These teams don't always get the opportunity to play in every major tournament, but every once a while the stars align: a talented generation hits their stride, a great qualification draw (Liechtenstein and Luxembourg!), and they're on their way. Otherwise they are the spoilers, stealing points at home matches.
While they're also silent assassins, the South American Class C's Paraguay, Uruguay, and Ecuador along with Columbia fit this description aside from the lucky draw part (Copa America has no qualification!). Ditto Costa Rica. In its confederation, China (and since they just won the Asian Cup, I guess Iraq too) fits the bill. The best continents for this are Africa and Europe though. African sides that lurk in this class include just about most recent African Cup of Nations winners or World Cup qualifiers: Cote D'Ivoire, Ghana, Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Senegal, and Morocco.
Europe has plenty of E's: Greece, Denmark (both prior Euro champs), Turkey, Russia, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Scotland, Belgium, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Serbia.
Class F – Super Spoilers
Most of the teams in Class F are very unlikely to make World Cups, and continental championships may be difficult depending on which continent they're in. They are not teams you want to mess with, and tend to be the ones who separate the wheat from the chaff. They may play in “fortresses”, or maybe just really crappy weather. They’ll beat a really good team at home, but they’ll probably lose to a lousy one on the road too. On the off chance they do make a World Cup, it's highly unlikely they'll ever match it. Still, enjoy the national holiday the day after qualifying!
Central American teams (Guatemala and Honduras especially), the remainder of South America, the Middle Eastern teams, Israel, former Yugoslav countries like Bosnia and Slovenia all fit this class.
Class G – The Minnows
Finally, the crap de la crap. Minnows exist in every confederation other than CONMEBOL, and that's because South America’s minnows are CONCACAF sides (that’s Guyana and Suriname for the geographically challenged). They exist for a number of reasons. One, they might be tiny, with populations suitable for Old Trafford sell-outs. But not all minnows are Andorra, since technically India, the world's second most populous nation, is also one. Which brings us to reason two: they're more interested in baseball, cricket, and rugby. The third reason is that the nation is super poor.
Everybody else tends to belong here.
Euro 2008 by Class
Here's where the teams in Euro 2008 lay in my estimation:
- Template:Team Greece
- Template:Team Poland
- Template:Team Romania
- Template:Team Russia
- Template:Team Switzerland
- Template:Team Turkey
- Template:Team Austria - if they get points in the tournament, it'll be because they're hosting.