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Switzerland have already bowed out and Austria are only just clinging on after a stoppage time penalty equaliser against Poland on Thursday. But the Euro 2008 organisers are insisting that no hosts equals no problem.
As soon as the Swiss made their early exit, Switzerland’s sports minister, national team coach Koebi Kuhn and UEFA spokesman William Gaillard were quick to weigh in with assurances that the party would continue even if Austria follow Switzerland’s disappointing example.
Some may have been surprised to hear that the party had even begun. A mixed bag of weather, including the deluge that nearly drowned those of us ‘fortunate’ enough to have front row seats for the Switzerland v Turkey game, and the two local teams’ early results had already put a sometimes literal dampener on the first few days.
Sat with my anorak on in Vienna in the Reuters Euro 2008 office I spent much of the week in the build-up to Euro 2008 buried in weird and wonderful statistics … and a lot of them point to Germany winning.
For example, the last time the Germans played on the second day of a European Championship final tournament was at Euro 96 in England. They beat the Czech Republic 2-0 at Old Trafford, Manchester and went on to lift the trophy for the third time.
Football fans all love to hate referees … but getting close up and personal with them would change a lot of people’s opinions.
Meeting the refs and other match officials for Euro 2008 at their media open day at Regensdorf just north of Zurich was an illuminating experience.
Up until a few weeks ago you’d have been fined in Austria for flying a flag on your car. Only ambassadors and government officials were allowed to that. But bureaucracy is slipping and passions are stirring, albeit slowly, as Euro 2008 approaches.
In the last few days Austrian flags have been fluttering from cars in the capital after the government lifted the ban for the duration of the tournament to help drum up some atmosphere. Some of Austria’s cheap supermarket chains will sell tournament merchandise half-price this weekend, and at last the Austrians, whose first sporting love will always be skiing, are starting to show an interest.
If Wednesday’s friendlies involving the 16 Euro 2008 finalists are anything to go by, the June event should be a real treat for the fans, with plenty of goals, near-misses and desperate defending, and the chance of a few shocks too.
Written off by most pundits as little more than a punching bag, the Austrians showed in the first 30 minutes of their astonishing 4-3 defeat to the Netherlands that they might be a tough nut to crack playing at home after all.