With Euro 2012 starting today, there are a few ways you can tie it into videogames – but perhaps not in the way we've done here. We've taken a look at the sixteen teams competing in this year's European Football Championship, and attempted to liken each of them to a gaming series of the sport, past or present. Kick off!
We'll be looking at each national side both generally, rather their current side though. Some of these are painfully tenuous, but some do work – if you're willing to go with some slight odd logic at least. So if you enjoy a bit of virtual ball kicking action – but know next to nothing about the real-life side of the beautiful game – let us be your guide…
Croatia – Olympic Soccer: Atlanta 1996 (3DO/PlayStation/Saturn)
They may not be the most attractive distraction on paper - but they manage to entertain despite this.
Olympic Soccer may not been blessed with the best of visuals (it hasn't aged too well either), but it has still managed to build up a solid fan base due to its interesting touches (such as a variety of perspectives) and solid gameplay.
Croatia can be considered in much the same way, possessing some talented individuals over the years and an organised approach – even if they don't seem to be a glamorous or attractive side on paper. Underestimate them at your peril.
Czech Republic – Actua Soccer series (Multiformat)
An ever present force – a few years aside – but have never quite fulfilled their potential.
The Actua Soccer series spawned three titles, and despite being considered to be as good - if not better - than FIFA, it never quite became as popular as EA's football juggernaut.
As for the Czech Republic, they too were considered contenders for much of their (short) history, boasting both the talent (and world ranking) to make an impact. Sadly their recent golden generation never quite managed to win a major tournament, and it could be years before they could have as talented a group of players again.
Denmark – Nintendo World Cup (Nintendo NES/Game Boy)
Both the team and game came out of nowhere for one almighty hurrah against the odds.
Nintendo World Cup somehow managed to be a fun and zany take on football - despite Nintendo having little experience developing games based on the sport.
Denmark, however, arrived at the 1992 tournament outsiders (only qualifying as Yugoslavia dropped out) - but somehow managed to go and win the thing.
England – Pele's Soccer (Atari 2600)
Laid down the foundations, but has long since been surpassed.
Pele's Soccer was the first ever videogame to attempt to simulate the beautiful game, and was an incredibly basic - but ambitious - take on the sport.
The English however, can claim to have invented the sport as we know it now, with a group of Englishmen at Cambridge University set up the Football Association in 1863. Nowadays though, nobody considers England major contenders at the very thing they helped form in the first place.
France – Mario Strikers series (Nintendo Gamecube/Wii)
Unpredictable and divisive. They can irresistible, but they can be truly terrible.
The Mario Strikers series is one that splits people down the middle. Many enjoy its manic, unpredictable and OTT slant on football, whereas others simply can't take its more random elements – such as the fact you can score a goal which somehow counts as two.
France divide people as well, and can be both enjoyed and pitied. When the stars align (insert joke about Domenech and astrology here) they can be one of the very best in the world, but it's not a pretty sight when it all starts to go wrong.
Germany – ISS/Pro Evolution series (Multiformat)
Always present, and often considered to be the best.
Konami's football titles, be they ISS or Pro Evolution, have always had much to enjoy – boasting a slick take on the sport that has often had no equal over years.
The German national side have a similar take on the game, and always seem to be well structured yet still hugely exciting – and rarely fail to disappoint year on year. Only in recent years have they been beaten off by the same foe – Spain (or FIFA for ISS).
Greece – Soccer Kid (Multiformat)
Seemingly a breath of fresh air, but after a while its basic nature does start to wear a little thin.
Soccer Kid was something new when it was released, having you control a player with a football in 2D stages. You used a ball as a projectile against/enemies and helping you overcome obstacles. Despite this, it got fairly repetitive after a while – and perhaps wasn't as entertaining as its concept promised it to be.
Greece's football team also came out of leftfield, as back in Euro 2004 - where despite the odds of them winning the tournament being 150/1 - went home with the trophy. Despite this incredible triumph, most people do tend to recall that they won it by grinding out opponents with dull and defensive 1-0 victories – a strategy that has now been long since rumbled.
Italy - Football Manager series (PC)
Often accused of being slow paced and obsessed with detail – but it's these qualities that make both of them successful.
Football Manager is a time sink of epic proportions, with its in-depth match AI and network options – and can be considered to be the best in the football management field.
Italy can also lay claim to be a quality outfit, with the attention to detail given on its (sometimes over defensive) tactics meaning they are a threat to anyone – and can often be considered one of the favourites in any major tournament.
Netherlands – Red Card (Nintendo Gamecube/Xbox)
Technically sound, and can be considered to be up there with the best – but they both possess a darker side.
Developer Midway's light hearted take on football with Red Card – which allowed you to deck the referee and commit horrendous fouls – was a breath of fresh air, and could play an attractive game of the sport too.
The Dutch national side are great fun (to watch) for the most part as well, although there can be a darker side to them – like when they fouled its way through the 2010 World Cup final.
Poland – Anstoss series (PC)
Only well known in its home country, despite having some admirable elements.
Anstoss is a little known German developed management series (it's called On the Ball in the UK), but is actually a reasonably enjoyable experience thanks to its light-hearted tone.
Poland too, aren't the most famous entity in world football - rarely making major tournaments, let alone winning the things.
Portugal – Libero Grande (Arcade/PlayStation)
Both seem to focus on one player – for better or worse.
Libero Grande was an interesting take on the game, having you play as just one player. Sadly Konami and EA plundered this idea in its football games, robbing Libero Grande of any unique selling point.
Portugal however, are often perceived to have a focus on one player too – Cristiano Ronaldo nowadays, and Eusébio in the past - but in a team game this isn't a sound strategy.
Republic of Ireland – Championship Manager series (PC)
Organised and spirited, but ultimately lacks strength in depth.
Championship Manager has often been seen as the poorer management series compared to Sport's Interactive's superlative Football Manager, but still has some promising elements – and generally isn't a bad game on its own terms.
The Republic of Ireland national side are much the same, possessing a similar set up to larger international force (being managed by an experienced Italian, Giovanni Trapattoni), but are arguably lacking the quality of its main inspiration.
Russia – Sensible Soccer (Multiformat)
Best days are behind them, and not a stranger to a name change either.
The Sensible Soccer series was highly popular back in the early 90's, and rightly so – its fast paced action and arcade sensibilities were, and still are, irresistible. It couldn't seem to decide on a definitive title though, with Sensible Soccer, Sensible World of Soccer, Sensible Soccer International Edition all thrown around. Sadly there's little signs of serious life in the series nowadays, ill advised 3D iteration in 2006 aside.
Russia as a national side also saw its best days occur years ago, but under different titles – the Soviet Union from 1930 to 1990, and even CIS for Euro 1992. Despite this, they are many people's dark horses for Euro 2012.
Spain – FIFA Soccer (Multiformat)
Both have always been brilliant technically, but only in recent years have they managed to fulfil this potential.
EA's football series has always been a major presence in the videogame scene, and turned out several solid iterations down the years – but has arguably been at its best recently, mixing both style and substance into a potent mix.
Spain is the same, always promising to be the best with its almost unmatched level of technical brilliance. Only lately, with its Euro 2008 and World Cup 2012 triumphs has it finally managed to see any sustained success though.
Sweden – Virtua Striker (Arcade)
Both are solid, and nearly always present, but neither end up leaving an impression on anyone whatsoever.
Virtua Soccer has been around a while, but you won't find many that enthuse about Sega's arcade effort at the game – and is often looked upon as a poor man's alternative to FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer.
Sweden as a football side are similar, being at most major tournaments but rarely reaching the latter stages. They are expected to carry on this trend at Euro 2012.
Ukraine – Calcio Bit (Game Boy Advance Import)
Not too well known outside its home country, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Calcio Bit is a game only released in Japan, and has been criticised for being a bit of a mess and not the most inspiring of effects. Ukraine too, are considered to be solid but largely unspectacular to watch in this year's Euro 2012.
Are you Croatian and aren't happy to have your national side likened to an ancient Saturn title from 1996? Or do you think we missed out a game series that was an obvious fit for one of the 16 sides? Let us know below.
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