Games make up for every other hassle

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

ZURICH -- The weather has been lousy, the travelling long, hard and many times odoriferous.

Imagine sitting with 60 fans on an eight-hour train ride, fans who have been yelling and screaming for six hours and turbo-charged by several litres of Carlsberg.

Throw the reporter from the train, please.

And if gets any more expensive, you may have to sell a kidney for a nice meal.

But when you take your wet, bruised, hungry body to the stadium, you'll get your reward.

The soccer has been terrific.

It wouldn't be unusual for a tournament like this to promise much but deliver little.

The 2004 Euro tournament, even though it produced a surprise winner in Greece, produced very little memorable soccer. The 2006 World Cup was memorable because it lacked memories and quality.

No one can predict what will happen over the rest of the tournament but it has so far produced a smorgasbord of delectable treats.

It's offered attacking soccer, eye-popping individual performances, surprises and drama.

All of it was kicked off with the Netherlands' classic demonstration of skill and speed in their 3-0 win over Italy. It made Italy weep, but the rest of the world marvelled at the quality of the game. The Dutch followed that up with the same type of performance against France.

There was an emotionally charged win by Croatia over Germany; La Furia Roja's 4-1 dismantling of Russia, a game in which Spain's David Villa, El Guaje (The Kid), scored three goals and increased his transfer value by millions of euros; and then Switzerland's broken heart, giving up a deflected goal to Turkey three minutes into injury time that led to the ouster of the Swiss.

Even if none of that had happened, witnessing Turkey's miraculous comeback against the Czech Republic would have remained stamped in one's memory.

Down 2-0 to the Czechs with 15 minutes to play, Turkey sent shock waves from Geneva to Istanbul. Three times the Turks scored, twice in the last three minutes.

At the end, the pitch was a pallet of ecstasy and despair, delirium and disbelief. Czech goaltender Peter Cech walked about like a survivor of an airplane crash, stunned, not knowing what happened, waiting for someone to tell him it was just a bad dream.

It was the kind of ending that makes tournaments.

It has been a spectacle with as much off the pitch as on it.

Euro tournament participants do not have long distances to travel to attend games. While large groups of fans travel to World Cups to support their teams, distances and expense make it difficult.

In Europe, cities are accessible by train or car. Thousands upon thousands of fans can attend the games.

Last night, when Germany played Austria, Vienna expected some 200,000 fans to come to the city (along with 3,500 police officers).

The small stadiums of Switzerland are a divided sea of colour. As many as 15,000 to18,0000 supporters, sing, chant, rhythmically clap or jump up and down in unison. The sound of all those fans whistling their displeasure or singing their national anthem sends a chill down your spine.

The tournament hasn't had everything, though.

If something is lacking so far from this tournament, it's been the great individual goal.

We've had masterful goals. Wesley Sneijder's goal for the Dutch against Italy and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's goal against Greece were gems.

And until last night, when Germany's Michael Ballack, ripped a long-range free kick against Austria, we lacked that kind of goal where someone rockets the ball it into the top of the net from real distance.

But we still have not yet had a player slalom his way through three or four others before finding the net. Of course, there's still 13 days left.


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