The UEFA Euro 2004 tournament, being held this year in Portugal, is starting Saturday. It's sort of a mini-World Cup - which means it's still a BIG deal. Top teams. Good competition. Nice.
Don't forget that the US MNT (Men's National Team) has a game against Grenada on Sunday - it's a WCQ (World Cup Qualifier). The US should rout - but you never know.
And if you're fortunate enough to be a geek *and* a soccer fan, then definitely check out the RoboCup. Named after the FIFA World Cup, this event's end 'goal' is to:
By 2050, develop a team of fully autonomous humanoid robots
that can win against the human world champion team in soccer.
It's a tall order, but the atmosphere at this event is super-cool. Geeks, schools, soccer fans, reporters - all competing and having a good time, and all sharing the vision of furthering their collective knowledge of robotics, artificial intelligence, and other related fields. Intellectual curiosity - people representing many nations - international cooperation and coordination - just good stuff all around. Check it out. I managed to see the 2000 RoboCup in Melbourne, and it was definitely off the hizzle.
UPDATE: Wow. First, the U.S. Men had a solid 3-0 showing against the upstart 'Spice Boys' of Granada. Could have been better, but we'll take it. Damarcus Beasley had an awesome game with two goals - one of which he didn't get enough credit for - slotting home a one-timer after making a brilliant run down left-center field. The kid is money.
Apart from that, France beat England 2-1 in one of the best soccer finishes I've ever seen - and that's a lot of soccer finishes. I was between a British group and a French group at the bar, and the 90-pounds-soaking-wet English hooligans wanted to fight after they got their asses handed to them on the pitch. Typical. Zinedine Zidane scored two goals in injury time - unreal. Serves the Brits right for packing the box. Eventually your luck runs out. Maybe they'll decide to play next time.
Props to ESPN for finally doing some soccer coverage - even a special section for Euro 2004. Couldn't come at a better time with hockey falling off the U.S. radar.
UPDATE: Oops. Forgot. Allez Le Blue! ('The Blue' is what they call the French National Team.) I was able to figure out what the chanting French meant because I'd recently been bike shopping and checked out the entry level road bike, the Specialized Allez (a-lay). Figured 'Allez' had to mean 'go', or 'first', or 'race', or 'onward' or something. Blue is the primary color worn by the French National Team. I'm so smart. Or something.
UPDATE: Just read a bizzarro article about how England seem to think they actually outplayed France, and that even if they didn't deserve the win, they certainly didn't deserve the loss. Now, I've heard some excuse-making and delusions of grandeur in the past - after all, the Bush Administration keeps us well supplied these days - but this article just goes to show how incredibly arrogant the English are. They packed the box and played unimpressive, defensive, and unimaginative football for the better part of 90 minutes, yet Beckham says 'I don't think I could have struck the penalty any better...'. In reality, his kick looked sloppy. Fortunately, we were treated to what a penalty kick should look like - the one that Zouzou (the nickname of Zinedine Zidane) converted in extra time. Zidane's website is here.
And, to remember the joyousness of the occasion appropriately, with people shaking their beers to explode them, and others just throwing their beer over the bar - I guess not to hit any already-depressed-looking English - here's a little pic of Zouzou and Pires, compliments of Le Monde:
UPDATE: England lose again and are crying again. Pathetic.
UPDATE: I also have some Euro 2004 stuff up in a more recent post.