Over here in Europe it’s football time! The European Cup is going on, held in Ukraine and Poland, a sort of mini-World Cup for European nations. Tonight, the group stages ended, and out of sixteen original teams competing, eight go through to the quarterfinals. Here are some songs from each of their countries.
We’ll kick off (har!) with France, who tragically lost the World Cup to Italy in 2006 in a very nasty game. This side has been in trouble recently – strikes by the players in 2010 saw them exit the World Cup early, which is just so French, and tonight they lost to Sweden 2-0. (They still advance due to the weird mathematics that are a hallmark of every football tournament.)
This song by FÃ©fÃ© is my new jam, guys. The title VPC stands for “vilain petit canard,” the French for “ugly duckling.”
England also advanced tonight, beating Ukraine 1-0 in a game that was both boring and excruciatingly low-skill. Typical England: they always manage to scrape through the group stages, but never have a chance in the knockout rounds. Noted racist John Terry managed to clear what should have been the tying goal out of England’s net without anyone noticing that Ukraine had actually scored, which is also very English. They always seem to live right on that goalline.
Top of the charts in England right now is Cheryl Cole, ex- Girls Aloud member and ex-wife of English defender Ashley Cole. People are divided as to whether or not she’s really singing when she performs these days, but the song itself is pretty good.
Spain won the last World Cup and the last Euro Cup, so odds are pretty good that they’ll last through Euro 2012 as well. They’re well known for a style of football that manages to combine Teutonic precision with Mediterranean flair, so they’re fun to watch and sweep the carpet with everyone else, mostly.
This is David Bisbal, who won Spanish Idol in 2005, and is my new favorite guy because every video of his is SO DRAMATIC. “Buleria” is a type of flamenco that translates roughly as “boasting,” because it’s technically difficult and requires lots of skill, but is full of excitement and individual expression as well. Just like the Spanish game!
I will support anyone playing against Italy, because they are thugs. Last night’s game against Ireland turned into a barroom brawl in the second half, although this gem happened about thirty minutes in:
Yeah, that’s not allowed. Italy are notorious for having a team full of enormous egos, but they still manage to make things happen on the field.
Italy also created a minor stir this year at Eurovision when they picked Dead Amy Winehouse to represent them. The song is great, but”¦ that’s not right.
Portugal, of course, have Cristiano Ronaldo. For those who don’t follow football, Cristiano is the A-Rod of football: he’s a showoff, he has way too much money, he’s sulky and selfish when he doesn’t get his way, and”¦ we all hate him, not least because he is actually that good when he cares to be. I long for the days when “Ronaldo” meant a happy-go-lucky dude from Brazil (this was in the “˜90s, my dad had the jersey and everything).
Most of my Portuguese-language music is Brazilian, like the incredible Tom ZÃ©, but this song is possibly one of the only pop tunes to ever be actively involved in a political coup. “E Depois do Adeus,” first sung by Paulo de Carvalho in 1974, was chosen as the secret signal to begin the Carnation Revolution, which ousted the Estado Novo regime of Marcelo Caetano in 1974. The Carnation Revolution is also notable in that it was completely bloodless and no shots were fired, either by the army or by civilians.
Oh, Germany. You always play so well and yet look like you’re having so much fun. German football is effortless and gorgeous, and really international: alongside players named Schweinsteiger and Muller are lads with last names like Gomez, Ã–zil and Klose. Germany is, of course, the only thing holding Europe together right now financially – Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, and especially Greece are all holding their breath economically – so no one really wants to beat them lest it endanger their bailout.
Did you think I was going to play Kraftwerk? YOU WERE RIGHT
I, um, did not watch the Czech Republic play either time, as I assumed they would be relegated pretty quickly and that the games wouldn’t be exciting. I was wrong. In a group made up of Russia, Poland, Czech Republic and Greece, the two countries that made it through are not the ones anybody would have bet on.
I also don’t know anything about Czech music – they rarely enter Eurovision and their pop doesn’t exactly top the charts in English speaking countries. So here’s the closest they’ve ever gotten to the Eurovision finals: a song called “Aven Romale” featuring the lead singer dressed as a character called Super Gypsy. Really.
Greece should not be here at all. Greece loses every game they play in international competitions – except, against all odds, in 2004, when they won their first match, said “Well fuck it!” and promptly swept the tournament. To secure this spot, Greece knocked out Russia in a nailbiter game. Russia had previously beat host nation Poland 4-1 in the opening match of the cup, so this is a big deal. Who do Greece play next? Germany. So many jokes.
Greece also has hilarious pop music. This is my favorite Greek pop song ever.
So there you go, football fans and non-fans alike! Enjoy, and have fun cheering the matches! Except not for Italy.