Isn't football just great? Just go and find the highlights of the Holland-France game the other night. Yeah baby, that's what I'm talking about. Which is an entire sentence containing no actual new information at all. Why on earth do people talk like that?
You may remember that with the technical assistance of my good friend xoorx I made an entire blog about the 2006 World Cup. Unfortunately I haven't been able to take time off work for Euro 2008, which means I've had to choose between watching it and writing about it.
I'm sure this can't be right. Whenever it's bloody Christmas or something we get paid holidays, yet we're expected to work right through major international tournaments. I've given up complaining because whenever I bring the subject up people think they have the right to be scathing, but it's yet more evidence that football never gets the level of attention that it so clearly deserves. I'm just glad I've got you to discuss it with, because I know you'll understand.
And just to show I still care, here's a halfway roundup, group by group.
Portugal are the winners, after seeing off Turkey and the Czech Republic. They play the already eliminated co-hosts Switzerland in the last game in the group, while Turkey and the Czechs compete for second place.
In the event that teams have the same number of points after three games, placings are decided by results between those teams, then by goal difference. This means that Portugal are guaranteed to finish top, because Turkey and the Czechs can only equal them on points, and they've already beaten both of them.
Incidntally, this method is another thing that surely can't be right. Apart from anything, it reduces the drama. If goal difference was considered before results between teams, then no team in this group would be sure of their place. Portugal would still be facing the possibility that they might lose to Switzerland, in which case the other teams could still beat them by winning their last game by a hatful.
If Turkey and the Czechs draw their game, they will have the same number of points. Because the game between them was a draw, the decision would be on goal difference, but they've both scored 2 goals and conceded 3 so far, so they'd be equal on those grounds as well. This means that the placing would be decided by penalties - the first time this has happened in the group phase of an international tournament. Isn't that exciting? Well if that's your attitude your life must be very dull.
Croatia are guaranteed to finish top after beating tournament favourites Germany 2-1 the other night. Germany just need a draw against Austria in their last game to take second place, but if they lose they're out. In that case, Austria go through unless Poland beat Croatia, in which case it would go to goal difference.
Holland are the winners, no matter what. If they beat Romania, and France and Italy draw, then the second place team would go through on two points. Unless Holland score a hatful, this would probably be Romania. It is a remarkable fact about four-team groups that it's possible to go through on two points, and also possible to be eliminated on six. Yes it is remarkable, which I have of course demonstrated simply by remarking on it.
If Romania beat Holland, and remember this would be a weak Dutch team because they're already the winners no matter what, then they finish second and go through.
If Romania lose or draw and the other game isn't a draw, whoever wins, France or Italy, go through. If both games are drawn, Romania go through.
Spain have definitely won, and Greece are definitely out. Second place goes to the winners of the Sweden-Russia game. If they draw, Russia go through on goal difference.
So now you're properly informed on the permutations, but I can see other gaps in your knowledge, and I know how desperate you are to have them filled in. What's the history of the groups? Which ancient rivalries are being played out? Who were the empire builders and who had empires built on them? Whose roads echoed to the hobnailed sandals of Roman legionaries, and where did the janissaries of the Ottoman Sultan pass? Coming soon, the stories the mainstream media didn't dare touch.
Incidentally, if each game has three possible outcomes, win lose or draw, and there are six games, that means there are 729 possible permutations in the four-team group format. Which means it really is interesting. So there.