Is There Some Large Soccer Tournament Starting This Weekend or Something?

I just watched live online coverage of the transit of Venus—a celestial event that won’t happen again in my lifetime. Such a rare occurrence, combined with my ability to watch an image of it beamed to me from space, the very space from which the image originated, should really put things in perspective, or at least summon visions of some kind of ominous augury (Did I just hear an owl? No, it couldn’t have been…). Yet, not being one to really believe in omens, I think the event is, like so many earthly things, simply a reminder about the passage of time as we experience it.

But speaking of omens, a lot has been written this week about what each team’s warm-up matches heading to Euro 2012 seem to portend. With Italy losing to Russia, Portugal losing to Hungary, and England essentially losing to Belgium (or was it a pyrrhic victory, vis-à-vis Gary Cahill?), some dark (or at least uncertain) futures have been forecasted for these perennial power players.

Although in England’s case, nobody really expects them to do much (a temperament that, refreshingly, is finally more British-sounding than the usual jingoistic and delusional hoopla), so if Venus’ passing in front of the sun is an omen of some kind of transition, then that could only be a good thing for Roy Hodgson and the three lions.

However, the doubters are out there, including John Nicholson at Football365, who wrote in his post about media cliché, “The first England game I ever saw was the 1966 World Cup Final and it’s been downhill since then.”  Well, so much for that, then.

So which teams seem to be cruising into the tournament? Well, Holland is riding a 6-0 thumping of Northern Ireland, and Germany has striker Miroslav Klose back after—strangely—not a very conspicuous absence, standings wise, since Germany has continued to roll over most opponents (except for France, notably) without him. He turns 34 on Saturday, and surely a win over Portugal would make as great a birthday present as any.

My belovèd France also comes in riding high after a 4-0 drubbing of Estonia (yes it’s Estonia, but still), with striker Karim Benzema looking like he hasn’t missed a step since his part in Real Madrid’s record-breaking season in La Liga. I’m not saying they’ll necessarily have an easy time against England in their opening match, considering the disciplined English defense, but let’s just say I have Benzema and Olivier Giroud starting on my fantasy team that day.

But in the end, it isn’t the run-up to the tournament that matters. There will be talk before and after, and unlike the aforementioned transit of Venus, I will see another one of these in four-years’ time. Still, no matter the expectations and chatter and everything I just wrote, the excitement really is in the matches; anything can and does happen.

Oh, Euro 2012, I can’t wait to take mornings and afternoons off to watch you!