European soccer is hot sports property in the United States, and the D.C. area regularly shows up in the top 10 and even top five when it comes to ratings for the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League.
ESPN will carry the entire tournament, starting with the opening game between Poland and Greece from the National Stadium in Warsaw. Coverage starts with a pregame show at 11:30 a.m. Friday. Ian Darke, who will handle the lead game coverage for the network with match analyst Steve McManaman, spoke recently about the event.
We know that Spain is the favorite. Who will be its biggest challenger?
"Well, I think Spain deserves the favorite's role with Germany and Holland close behind. Both the German and Holland teams have much more difficult draws than does Spain. If Spain loses in the knockout round, then whoever beats it wins Euro 2012. As for a dark horse, I spoke to France's manager, Laurent Blanc, and [the French] have won 20 straight games coming into the tournament. He told me that they want to put the disaster of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa behind them, so they could be on a mission."
What about the chances of the hosts, Poland and the Ukraine?
Darke » "[The Poles] have lost only three of their last 20-odd games, so they have a chance to surprise people in this tournament. Also, if they get off to a good start, then things can catch fire, and if they get past the quarterfinals, then anything can happen playing with the home crowd behind them. As for the Ukraine, I don't see [it] as a factor."
Do you sense there is excitement for Euro 2012 in the United States?
Darke » "We had that amazing Manchester City win, scoring two goals in stoppage time to capture the EPL title, followed by Chelsea's upset of Bayern Munich to win the UEFA Champions League. It has been a very exciting season, and ratings have reflected that excitement. So now we have Euro 2012, and that simply gives football fans even more to enjoy and to talk about."
Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Check out his blog, Watch this!, on washingtonexaminer.com.