What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
If you are a fan of European football and you live in America, I feel your pain. First of all, they call it “soccer” here, and for obvious reasons. But “soccer” conjures an image of that godawful game I’ve been forced to watch nieces and various other children playing; you know the version where we stick the slow fat kid in goal and then watch 20 pony-tails chase a ball around a field. Even the top American professional leagues don’t vary much from that formula.
Then, there’s the matter of finding coverage. Thanks to MSNBC and Fox Sports, I now can get all the English Premier League I want, a fair bit of the Bundesliga, and not enough of the Champions or Europa League. If I pony up a few extra bucks to the cable/satellite provider, I can get more of that, some Serie A and La Liga, and a fair amount of the English Championship. that’s a damn sight better than it was just a few years ago. no longer is being a fan of European football in America an exercise in sporting onanism. That all speaks to the growth of the popularity of soccer in America.
However, therein lies the rub. If you want to watch an American NFL go completely apeshit, just tell them the Champions League Final has passed the Super Bowl in terms of the largest single-event televised sporting program on the planet. For some reason, Americans seem to think the growth of soccer comes at a cost to the NFL. Nothing could be further from the truth because many sports are on the rise in America.
If you follow this blog, you know I’m espousing the virtues of many sports. That’s really what the Dubsism Champions League Challenge is all about. The NFL, the league that fills up my weekends with toilet sludge like Tennessee at Jacksonville and who can’t figure out what the fuck a catch is, doesn’t need any help killing it’s own audience. Rather, we’re here to add to the enjoyment of sports in general, and there’s really no better way to do that than with a bit of friendly competition.
That brings us to the whole point of this piece. Just because you’re an American who may not get what the Champions League is all about doesn’t mean you can’t play in the European football “reindeer games.” You can’t use the excuse “I don’t know about it” because a) I’m about to tell you about it and b) that never stopped you from filling out a “March Madness” bracket.
What Its All About:
The Champions League is actually a function of the regional world football associations. There’s a Champions League here in North America, but Europe’s is the cream of the crop. In the Group Stage, it is 32 teams from various European countries broken into eight groups of four, all of whom play each other in a “home-and-home” format. The two teams in each groups with the most points (3 points for a win 1 point for a draw) advance to the Knockout Round.
The important part to remember is that the bigger/”better” league get more teams in, and many of them are automatic qualifiers for the Group Stage by virtue of finishing in the top spots . For example, the English Premier League gets four teams in; three of them qualify automatically, while the fourth place team has to win a play-off series.
Think of it this way. If you stick with the college basketball tournament analogy, the Big Ten gets more teams in the “Big Dance” than does the Big Sky Conference.
How To Know Who To Pick:
For a full list of the Groups, go to our Preview article…Otherwise, here’s a few simple tips for picking winners.
1) Follow the National Hierarchy
Simply stated, this means picking clubs from nations whose leagues are better than others. Right now, the nation food chain woks like this:
There’s a couple of stragglers here. English clubs almost always under perform, but one of them always makes it at least to the quarterfinals. Going back to the college basketball comparison, this makes England the “B1G Ten” of European football. Also, there’s almost always a Russian team that makes a run in this tournament. My usual suspect for this is Zenit St. Petersburg, but since they are in the Europa League this season, your choices are CSKA Moscow or newcomer Rostov.
2) Big Clubs Over Little Clubs
Having just mentioned the National Hierarchy rule, there’s also a guideline which says big clubs will usually beat smaller ones, and this trumps that first rule. For example, a big French club like Paris Saint-Germain will usually beat a small Spanish side such as Sevilla. However, Sevilla has won three straight Europa League finals, and this is the first year that means an automatic berth in the top European competition. But, that’s why they call it gambling, because the “catch” to this is there’s always a small club which makes a run through the Group Stage and goes farther in the Knockout Round than anybody expects, like APOEL Nicosia a few years back. Think George Mason in the NCAA Basketball Tournament back in 2006 and you get the idea.
ASIDE: Manchester City is the European football version of the Chicago Cubs until further notice. They’ve been ghastly for decades, but a few years back they got new ownership who flooded the club with money. However, over the past few years, they’ve become the poster child for underachieving with a high-payroll All-Star roster. Will the addition of uber-manager Pep Guardiola make the difference? We’ll see.
3) Different Styles of Play in Different Leagues
Unlike the NFL where everybody copies everybody, the various European leagues feature very different approaches to the “beautiful game.” The Spanish and Portuguese leagues are prone to a wide-open attacking style, kind of like the 1980’s “Air Coryell” San Diego Chargers who scored 45 points a game. In comparison, you can watch a 60-minute recap show of the week’s action for all 20 teams in the Italian league, and the discussion will center on who scored the goal.
4) Don’t Pick a Lot of Draws
Not only is this an option foreign to Americans, but we tend to think all soccer games end in ties. That is more common in domestic league competitions, but not so much in international matches. That’s why you should limit the picking or draw outcomes. The most likely times draws occur is in the first match between a big club and a small club when the small club is at home and is going to play an ultra-defensive style, or in the second match between two teams when one side already has a huge lead in aggregate goals.
5) Have Fun With It
Even the most ardent American follower of European football doesn’t know all there is to know about all 32 of these teams, but that doesn’t you won’t find some stuff you’ll really like. For example, I’m not going to bullshit you by saying I can tell you anything about the Bulgarian side Ludogorets Razgrad’s tyle of play, but I can tell you their mascot is a giant eagle which they allow to dive-bomb the opponent’s bench before matches.
Even the most anti-soccer American has to appreciate that.
Click here to join the Dubsism Champions League Challenge. The deadline for entry is when the matches begin Tuesday, September 13th, 2016, 2:45 p.m. Eastern (U.S.) Time.