Sunday, June 10, 12 p.m.
Spain vs. Italy
The defending champions, Spain, take on the country that always believes it has a divine right to the crown. Unfortunately for the Italians, it may take more than mere praying to dethrone the No. 1 team in the world, and before someone suggests opening up a wallet – allegedly how they get things done in Serie A these days – it should be noted that international soccer’s moral standing is beyond reproach. Oh, wait …
Italian fans’ recommended venue:
Café Diplomatico (594 College St., 416-534-4637)
Owner Rocco Mastrangelo has branded The Dip “soccer headquarters” and it’s hard to dispute that. He’s put eight televisions on the patio alone, and inside diners will watch on a 100-inch screen. Get there early and bring a buddy – a pitcher or half-litre of wine and a pizza or antipasto for two will only put you back $25. Mr. Mastrangelo is also taking reservations for a private room that holds thirty, though he says it will likely already be half-filled by his family. Can’t get more Italian than that.
Spanish fans’ recommended venue:
El Rancho (430 College St., 416-921-2752)
A truly pan-Latin establishment, El Rancho was opened by owner Alexandro Calero’s parents when they arrived from Ecuador twenty years ago, but the cuisine is a mashup of Spanish, Mexican, and South American. Mr. Calero will open the doors at 11 a.m. on game day and fans of Spain can watch their champs on one of the two giant projection screens while scarfing down $1 empanadas. El Rancho will afterwards screen World Cup qualifying matches, so stick around for dinner and share a paella for two.
Monday, June 11, 12 p.m.
France vs. England
The Hundred Years War ended more than 5 1/2 centuries ago, but on the fields of sporting endeavour, the battle continues to rage, with eerily similar results. While Englanders everywhere still cling to 1966 – their lone World Cup win – the truth of the matter is that France has not just drawn level, but dramatically overtaken its one-time rival. And with a cast of thirtysomethings forming the spine of the team, England may dream of Agincourt, but its aging core may be closer to the truth.
English fans’ recommended venue:
Queen and Beaver Public (35 Elm St., 647-347-2712)
A favourite among English fans after only two years in business, the Queen and Beaver opens early to start pouring the London Pride bitter and serving its usual pub fare for those gathered around its four screens. If you’re late and can’t find a spot, owner Jamieson Kerr suggests a short trip to the Oxley in Yorkville, which he opened a month ago and where the fifth television of his expanding trendy-pub empire will be tuned into the match. Either way, you can bet it’ll be “brilliant.”
French fans’ recommended venue:
Didier Restaurant (1496 Yonge St., 416-925-8588)
What’s more French than watching the match in a café? Chef Didier Leroy will open the front section of his chic establishment for Les Bleus fans, though he doesn’t expect a crush. “We had about twenty come out for each World Cup game in 2010,” he says, though that might change if France makes it past the first round this time. For the noon crowd, Mr. Leroy will serve up plenty of croque monsieurs and Kronenbourg 1664 will be on tap.
Wednesday, June 13, 2:45 p.m.
Netherlands vs. Germany
Both teams are considered among the favourites to win Euro 2012 – one of the few things they have in common – although frankly the only thing they’ve ever shared, other than mutual disdain, is a border. Grounded in the Nazi occupation of Holland during the Second World War, the rivalry exploded in the wake of the Dutch defeat to the host West Germany in the 1974 World Cup final, and has grown ever since, to the point that a museum in Middelburg went as far as honouring it with a permanent exhibit.
Netherlands fans’ recommended venue:
Betty’s (240 King St. E, 416-368-1300)
As legend has it, some time in 2008 a Dutch friend of this east-side joint’s owner stood on top of the bar on Dutch Liberation Day and sang the national anthem. Ever since then, says manager Anne-Marie Andersen, Betty’s has been one of the city’s regular gathering spots for footy fans dressed in orange. “We’ve ordered cases and cases of Grolsch,” she assures, but says as much as she loves her patrons, she hopes the Netherlands places second at best. Why? “My husband is Irish,” she says.
German fans’ recommended venue:
The Musket (40 Advance Rd., 416-231-6488)
Opened 32 years ago by Munich native Helmut Enzer and named after his hobby of collecting antique guns – five of which are displayed on the walls – The Musket can pack in hundreds and it can get rowdy. For efficiency’s sake, wienerschnitzel will be the only food item served and you can wash it down with a Hacker-Pschorr weisse bier. For Euro 2012, Mr. Enzer will unveil a brand new projector and a screen that’s 16 feet wide.
Monday, June 18, 2:45 p.m.
Italy vs. Ireland
Italy will be hoping the past does not come back to haunt it, with Giovanni Trapattoni, the one-time Italy coach and Godfather of Italian soccer, bringing his men in green to do battle with Cesare Prandelli, the current Italy coach who played under his predecessor at Juventus. After missing out on the World Cup two years ago – they fell at the hand of a certain Frenchman, you might remember – the Irish will certainly want to revel in their first major tournament appearance in 10 years. Then again, since when do the Irish need an excuse for revelry?
Italian fans’ recommended venue:
Il Gatto Nero (720 College St., 416-536-3132)
In business since 1960, Il Gatto Nero is the best place for footy fans who are also foodies. In fact, one of “The Cat’s” sixteen pizzas and a couple Morettis will make anyone root for the Tricolore. In the heart of Little Italy on College, the restaurant draws natives but also a very international crowd, something that the owner’s son Michael Raviele says is how his family likes it. “Just because we’re Italian doesn’t mean we’ll throw the Irish out,” he promised.
Irish fans’ recommended venue:
Irish Embassy (49 Yonge St., 416-866-8282)
With a copper-top bar, twenty-five-foot ceilings and marble columns and floors, the Irish Embassy may be the most gorgeous setting to view a match. General manager Rory Kowdrysh says food specials will be Guinness beef stew, black pudding, corned beef and cabbage. For a whisky, he recommends the Greenore eight-year-old, three times fermented. “Or, if someone is really feeling Irish, we have Jameson rare vintage,” says Mr. Kowdrysh. “But that’s if they’re in a really happy mood. It’s $42 a shot.”