Soccer (or, more aptly, “football”) fans around the world are rejoicing today as the 2012 UEFA Euro Cup got underway.
The opening match of the 16-team tournament pitting the top soccer teams in Europe against one another resulted in a 1-1 tie between Greece and Poland. It was a fittingly unsatisfying result for a tournament involving teams from such a troubled region.
This year’s Euro Cup – an event held every four years, much like the World Cup – is littered with some of the most deeply indebted countries on the planet. Perhaps a more appropriate name for this year’s tournament would be the “Debt Crisis Cup.”
As a continent, Europe is united both by its passion for the beautiful game and its share in the world’s most beaten-down currency. Some of the top soccer teams in the world take center stage over the next three weeks – and many of the best soccer nations double as the most notorious offenders in the ongoing sovereign debt crisis.
The list of this year’s Euro Cup participants reads like a who’s who of debt-ridden countries. Here’s a list of the most indebted nations in this year’s Euro Cup in order of their debt as a percentage of GDP (as of February 2012):
World Soccer Ranking: 15
World Debt Ranking: 2
Debt as percentage of GDP: 168%
Government debt: $498 billion
Unemployment rate: 21.9%
World Soccer Ranking: 12
World Debt Ranking: 3
Debt as percentage of GDP: 120%
Government debt: $2.54 trillion
Unemployment rate: 9.8%
World Soccer Ranking: 18
World Debt Ranking: 1
Debt as percentage of GDP: 1,239%
Government debt: $225 billion
Unemployment rate: 14.8%
World Soccer Ranking: 10
World Debt Ranking: 5
Debt as percentage of GDP: 101.6%
Government debt: $257 billion
Unemployment rate: 15.5%
World Soccer Ranking: 14
World Debt Ranking: 8
Debt as percentage of GDP: 85.4%
Government debt: $2.26 trillion
Unemployment rate: 10%
World Soccer Ranking: 3
World Debt Ranking: 9
Debt as percentage of GDP: 82%
Government debt: $2.79 trillion
Unemployment rate: 6.7%
And that list doesn’t even include Spain, which is the top-ranked soccer nation in the world and is rapidly becoming one of the most indebted countries. The Netherlands has also had its share of struggles.
All of them share a common currency and a massive debt load. But for at least a few weeks, they’ll all have a welcome distraction.