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The Alternative Guide to Euro 2012

The Alternative Guide to Euro 2012

So the European football championships are underway, minus the usual over expectations on calamity-prone England.

One way of sidestepping the inevitable stress and disappointment of following Roy Hodgson's men, is to pick out another random European nation just as unlikely to walk off with the trophy as our own.

After all, one of the most important aspects of international football tournaments is the atmosphere created by passionate, loyal and often heavily intoxicated fans.

Here's how to make the most of the first round games:

 

Czech Republic v Russia, June 8

Who to support: The Czech Coach, Michal Bílek, believes in hard work, getting forward and using the flanks - not just a good philosophy for football, but for life. Czech Republic teams of the past have been, quite rightly, accused of overachieving. A record of twelve goals in eight matches in a group that contained the all conquering Spaniards is not particularly outstanding. Still there is quality in this side Tomáš Rosický, Petr Čech and Milan Baroš all have the ability and experience to shock any team.
Where to watch it: The Czechoslovak Restaurant, 74 West Lane, West Hampstead London, NW6 2LX. Steeped in history, located in an unassuming, three story, Edwardian Villa, this establishment can trace its roots back to 1939.
What to drink: Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser Budvar (and yes, if you didn't know already, Budweiser is from the Czech Republic and not Missouri).
What to eat: Hovězí guláš s knedlíky (Beef goulash). Remember to ask for the appropriate accompanying beer like any civilised central European would.
Trivia to fool the real supporters: "Centre back Michal Kadlec was both the only player to take to the pitch for every one of the Czech’s qualifying matches including the play offs and the top scorer with four goals."

 

Ireland v Croatia, June 10

Who to support: It seems only fair that if there is another team equally incapable of possession football and built around hard graft we should probably show our support/sympathy for them too. Ireland will be looking to Veterans Robbie Keane scorer of seven qualifying goals, Damian Duff, Richard Dunne and Shay Given to surprise the Croats who seem to come to life at major tournaments. Expect a flat four, four, two with Keane running menacingly between the lines - until his legs give up. Don’t expect fireworks from this team, nonetheless the Irish fans will be up for this one and we suggest you be amongst them.
Where to watch it: The Liffy bar, 43 Renshaw Street, Liverpool, L1 2SF, offers karaoke, live music but most importantly sport in a relaxed, friendly and partisan atmosphere. Surround yourself with the locals as you ride this emotional roller-coaster to the very end.
What to drink: Guiness of course then Jamieson's when things don't go to plan.
Trivia to fool the real supporters: During qualification Ireland committed the most fouls - 176 in all, next in the bad boy charts comes Croatia with 157, all this in just 12 games of football. This match is going to be old school. Just don't mention Thierry Henry.

 

Ukraine v Sweden, June 11

Who to support: Sweden did it the hard way, finishing second in their group, which included Finland and Hungary, to the Dutch but scoring an impressive 31 goals in the process. The Swedes will be again looking for goals from enigmatic big man up front Zlatan Ibrahimović who has obliged so far with five in eight qualifying games. What of the man in charge of Sweden? Erik Hamrén, his credentials though impressive are not outstanding, perhaps his hour has come.
Where to watch it: The Northern Lights, 6 Little Street Brighton BN1 1HT, stocks over two dozen flavours of vodka, as well as a selection of Scandinavian and local beers and ales.
What to drink: Sweet Swedish cider, six varieties in all or attempt to traverse the dangerous grounds of Vodka tasting either way driving and operating heavy machinery will be inadvisable.
What to eat: Traditional Swedish meatballs in creamy pepper sauce.
What to say to fit in: "Sweden’s midfield is crucial, their progress in this tournament relies on how well they can push forward to support Ibrahimovic."

 

Czech Republic v Greece, June 12

Who to support: Let's be honest, the Greeks could do with a bit of international goodwill at the moment. Greece comes in to this tournament as winners of their group, a feat made more surprising by the fact they hit the back of the net just fourteen times in qualifiers, but rather impressively they conceded only five. By all accounts this team seem to be the draw specialists of the tournament - where the goals will come from is anyone’s guess.
Where to watch it: Bar Kick, 127 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JE in Londons East end is not particularly Greek, but it is a shining beacon of a promise for all things football. The premises boast two finely crafted table football tables to while away the time waiting and hoping for a goal, plus all the games will be screened in glorious 3D.
What to drink:. Rather conveniently this game just happens to fall within happy hour, half price cocktails all round “…something with Ouzo in it if you will Bar Keep”
What to eat: Kick platter cured chorizo piccante, salami, manchego Diaz Miguel, marinated feta, olives, sundried and fresh tomatoes, carta di musica and bread. (Something in there should be Greek.)
Trivia to fool the real fans: Only one member of the Greek team has a surname that doesn’t end in the letter S. Not great, but definitely better than bringing up the economy.

 

Portugal v Netherlands, June 17

Who to support: This game has the potential to be either the best game of the first round or the dullest depending on whether the Germans have already knocked one of them out. Both these teams have exciting players capable of winning any match, but put aside your feelings toward Cristiano Ronaldo and go for underdogs Portugal.
Where to watch it: Bar Estrela, 111 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1UZ, is located in area known as little Portugal (unofficially). Expect the celebrations to be rampant and spill out onto the street and into the unnerving hours.
What to drink: Super Bock Classic; a strong Portuguese pale lager.
What to eat: The menu is extensive and authentic. In the impossible event of this bar being empty on game day, they have a tasty fish soup and a squid stew but we recommend an uncomplicated custard tart.
Trivia to fool the real fans: Proclaim out loud (possibly standing on some sort of podium) that Eusébio (The Black Panther) is the greatest footballer in history and that scoring four goals, in a single game, in the World Cup, on English soil, against a productive Korea DPR in 1966 was an unrivalled feat of footballing genius. Then take a moment to soak up all the inevitable applause and looks of admiration for your astounding knowledge of the game.

 

Words by Troy Da Costa