The 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, which got underway last week, has our football-obsessed staffers and friends excited for purely sporting reasons (check out our new blog, Goal Post, for ample evidence.) For rest of us, however, the continental soccer tournament is fascinating for the way it intersects with the world’s most important pending economic and political drama: the slow-motion collapse of the European Union.
It got us thinking: What would the tournament bracket look like if, rather than facing each other on the pitch, these countries went toe to toe economically? After sorting out all of the non-EU countries (sorry Russia and Ukraine!), we ranked the contestants’ economic strength according to a highly scientific (read: not very scientific) formula that included GDP-per-capita, public debt, annual growth and unemployment. Then we ran through the tournament using economic strength as the decisive criterion: the strongest country from each of the four groups moved on to the winner-take-all tournament bracket. The results turned out to be very revealing.
Out of the two host countries, Ukraine and Poland, only EU-member Poland ascended to the knockout tournament bracket (and failed miserably in the first round). Spain and Greece, the past two winners of the Cup respectively, also failed to make it past the first round in our economic head-to-head. A semi-final tie between the Sweden and the Netherlands was determined by using the results from an October 2011 Euro qualifier match.
Endowed with high per-capita GDPs and low unemployment and debt-to-GDP ratios, our two finalists—the Czech Republic and Sweden—are conspicuously not members of the Eurozone; that is to say, they don’t use the euro currency. Untroubled by the rest of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, the two countries deftly outperformed the other contenders. Judging by the final outcome, it looks like the Eurozone is our tournament’s biggest loser.
Jose Del Real, Lane Kisonak, Meenakshi Krishnan, and Tonya Riley are interns at The New Republic.