We've spoken to you about the importance of soccer in Europe before, but it ramped up several notches recently. This country pays attention to Formula One and the French Open, but it's passionate about soccer. And the Euro Cup 2008 was Portugal's chance to show the world that it's a country to be reckoned with. However, it didn't turn out that way, despite the fact that Portugal had one of the more talented teams in the tournament.
In the first round we watched the first game in town with some friends at a bar. Portugal beat Turkey 2-0 and you would have thought they had won the championship with the way the celebration was carried on in the street. There was flag waving and crowds gathered outside yelling, honking, and celebrating long after the game was over. With their second win over Czech Republic, Portugal ensured their group win and a place in the quarterfinals, so they played their B squad in a 0-2 loss to the Swiss in the final game of the pool play. They were expected to beat Germany in the quarter final game, so the 2-3 loss Thursday night was taken particularly hard.
We woke up Friday morning to a very depressed country. It is hard to imagine an entire country being so affected by a single game, but the last few weeks it has been all-consuming here. Nearly every house has a Portuguese flag hanging on it, and expectations were very high. We watched the game with friends at a local Brazilian restaurant and the blood drained out of their faces with each German goal. We've since learned that they don't care about Olympic soccer around here, so the 2010 World Cup will be Portugal's next chance to prove to the world that it can be among the elite.