Baseball is my absolute favorite sport on earth.  Soccer, however, causes great excitement for me every two years or so.  The World Cup is held every four years.

FIFA World Cup

The UEFA European Championship is held ever four years as well.  Thankfully these are staggered so that the world can have a great soccer tournament every two years.

UEFA Trophy

I never really cared about soccer all that much until my second trip to Germany.  I played soccer when I was a kid, but I hardly got to do anything. I was a goalie, and I spent most of my time during games trying to talk to my fellow defensive players, because kids’ soccer is boring.  I was in Germany for 10 days in the summer of 2006, the year Germany hosted the World Cup.  I was unable to go to any of the World Cup games, but the enthusiasm was ubiquitous and contagious.  I immediately became a fan of soccer as we all watched games throughout the day in a big courtyard in the city.

World Cup 2006

I had the ins and outs of the game explained to me by some German friends (thanks Stefan, Dirk, Thomas, and Lukas), and I grew to appreciate the German style of soccer.  When I returned to Germany in 2007, I had the pleasure of attending my first professional soccer game between Carl Zeiss Jena and FC Schalke.

Carl Zeiss Jena

Largely, the United States could care less about soccer.  We’ve never had a great American soccer team.  Alexi Lalas was cool (and he responded to a letter I sent him as a kid with an autographed 5 x 7, so he will always be one of my favorites).  Cobi Jones was entertaining.  But US Soccer has never been truly great.  We just seem to be the odd-man out in international  competition. I mean, we’re the only country in the world that doesn’t call it football.  Don’t get me wrong. I cheer for Team USA. I think they have a chance to become a real contender.  With a coach like Jürgen Klinsmann, a goalie like Tim Howard, and a goal-scorer like Clint Dempsey, I think that Team USA has a bright future.

Clint Dempsey scores a goal

Since, however, the USA usually makes an early exit in the World Cup, I need another team to cheer for.  Naturally the choice for me was Germany.  I have a lot of love for Germany, and that is where my love for soccer was cultivated.  Plus, Germany invariably does well in the World Cup and the UEFA European Championship.  Another great aspect of cheering for Germany is getting to cheer for incredibly manly-named players like Schweinsteiger and Mertesacker.

German National Soccer Team UEFA 2012

So, my International soccer cheering depth chart goes something like this:

1. USA

2. Germany

3. Anyone playing against Italy (explained in video below)

As you may know, the UEFA European Championship 2012 (aka Euro 12) is going on right now.  It is a very exciting time for soccer fans.  My beloved Germany is in the “Group of Death,” which means that there are no two clear favorites out of the four teams in the group.  Germany has taken a commanding lead in their group with 6 points (Teams get 3 points for wins, 1 point for ties), and they only need to tie Denmark on Sunday to advance.  I was able to watch Germany defeat Portugal on Saturday.  I was unable to watch them win yesterday, because of that whole “work” thing.  I hope to watch Germany smash Denmark on Sunday as part of my first Father’s Day.

I unwittingly began a bit of a rivalry with some friends here in Louisville on Facebook.  I made a pro-Germany comment on their pro-Portugal post, and I have been receiving much friendly banter since.  One of these recent posts stated “Michael Ballack = Lame Euro 2012 Soccer Analyst.”  This was the first time that I heard Michael Ballack was a Euro 12 analyst alongside Alexi Lalas.  Michael Ballack is a German soccer superstar that is in the twilight of his career (think Joe Montana with the Kansas City Chiefs).  I have not been able to watch any of Ballack’s analysis, except for this particularly amusing clip.

I found this interaction between my boy Alexi Lalas and Ballack to be quite entertaining. What do you think? Is Ballack a lame analyst?  One thing I know for sure, the German National Soccer team is definitely not lame (even if that is the captain’s name).

Until later friends…