Another soccer championship is over, and in the end Euro 2012 was satisfying in several ways. Sure, I was disappointed that the German Golden Generation, so determined and entertaining until the semi-final, once again stumbled when things started to get really serious. Just like in 2010, Holland did little to convince me that they have a team in the vein of the legendary Johann Cruyff, and the Swedes were mostly awful. However, there was also the unusual sensation of seeing Italy playing a beautiful game, and when it mattered most, Spain dispatched them by playing what very well could be the best game of the championship.
Returning readers will nonetheless know that when I write about soccer in this place, it is most often not to make a point about tactics or which teams I root for. For the third championship in a row, I will instead do a little write-up of one underreported delight of the proceedings; the steady supply of sexiness that was on the pitch, if only you knew where to look, or were attentive enough to let yourself be surprised and delighted by players you might never have thought about in this way before, or perhaps you’d never even heard of them?
Let’s get some of the obvious ones out of the way first. An international championship is an excellent venue for me to reconsider old Sexiest Males Alive flames independent of what I think of their clubs, and unsurprisingly, my interest in Spain’s Fernando Torres and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo was rekindled. Moving on to 20 over 30 edition of 2010, I don’t need any occasion to profess my love for Steven Gerrard, but he’s still beautiful in his own, slightly unconventional way.
Spain and England had other treasures as well. Spain offered several recurring characters, but their stock of eye candy is impressive, even after several tournaments; from Iker Cassilas to Sergio Ramos and the aforementioned Torres. In addition there was newcomer Jordi Alba. The England squad, on their part, featured watchable players like (in no particular order) Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Martin Kelly, Danny Welbeck and Glen Johnson, in addition to former friends of the SMA, Andy Carroll (who needs a shave and a haircut in order to regain his star power) and Gerrard. Granted, players like Downing and Kelly didn’t play even one minute throughout the tournament, and Henderson played only slightly more, but it is still very satisfying to be a Liverpool fan.
Rounding out the establishment teams (of which I, for the sake of argumentative flow will consider England one), both the good and the bad brought the goods. For abysmal Holland, they only clicked with me on a visual level. I’ve long appreciated Robin van Persie, and he delivered in that sense, even though he was generally awful. Other honorable mentions on this level from a dishonorable team, were midfielder Ibrahim Afellay, striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, and the defender Gregory van der Wiel. Representing “the good”, both in a substantial and a more shallow sense, I give you Germany, and Lukas Podolski, above all. He is, however, joined by Jerome Boateng, Lars Bender, Mario Götze and Holger Badstuber. The German team is young enough to have several great tournaments left in them, and as you can see, there’s absolutely no reason not to keep an eye on them. That said, I would really love to see them succeed next time. At the moment, it looks like Germany Golden Generation will end up like a more entertaining version of the similar moment in English soccer in the mid-aughts.
So, who stood out during the tournament, from a purely gay male gaze standpoint. One was Sweden’s feisty defender Martin Olsson. Another, surprisingly, was Ukraine’s Denys Garmash. Topping off the honorable mentions list, I nominate two members of the unruly French squad, Hatem Ben Arfa and Samir Nasri, and as for one who won me over, I’d say the England goalkeeper Joe Hart. I’m still not one hundred percent sold on him, but during this tournament I nonetheless started looking at him with renewed interest.
In two years, all eyes will be on Brazil 2014.