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EURO 2016: An Ode to Joy

There’s something about tournament football. There’s no quick fixes. No riches. There’s no team of stars. It’s nations facing nations. You don’t choose your nation. You are born to it. Deal with it. Live with it. Play with it.

EURO 2016

Source: Getty Images



This year’s tournament is the biggest ever. Can it be the best ever though? That's a tough call.

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Forgive the limited past, but Platini 84, the Dutch coming of age, Danish Delight, Czechs and football comes home, Zizou’s masterclass, a Greek Miracle, the start of an dynasty. The last 30 years of Euros have told quite a tale. 

So what can we expect from the 2016 event? In a country rocked by terrorism, stricken by nature’s volatility, and strikes.

But France is a country dripping in romance, and joie de vivre, and football has the chance to strike a blow for all that is good in the world. 

The expanded Euros bring multiple tribes together.



The top table of football has extra place settings for the exotic nations of Albania, Iceland, Hungary and Northern Ireland. Hitherto unknown quantities at the highest level.  But nations where the sheer joy of competing cannot be matched. To be amongst the chosen few is enough. 

For the favourites, it's a time of trouble. No one is in stellar form. Germany are the best on paper, but have been a rabble of experimentation and apathy. 

The French appear to be best served, however ageing full-backs and a suspect central pairing could be an Achilles Heel.

 

The Spanish grip on their successive EURO titles looks weaker than ever. A generation slipping away. Iniesta holding it all together in the face of adversity, circumstance and time itself. 

Outside of the three favourites, it becomes a cliche fest. England. Desperate to play down expectation yet the reality is they think they can win it. Kane, Vardy, Sturridge, Alli. Yes. Smalling, Cahill, Stones. No.

 

Italy - “a tournament team”. This Italy has a world class backline. Yet the likes of Rossi, Baggio, Vialli, Pirlo, Mancini, Totti and Del Piero must look at the current front third and weep. There is no vintage in 2016 to emerge from Italy.



Belgium - the “Dark Horse”. Rare for a world number one to claim that moniker, and hard to justify either position. Hazard has played in fits and starts. Kompany is missing and the best replacement is languishing at right back. Lukaku’s goals dried up. On paper, yes. 

Ronaldo can do for Portugal what he did for Madrid ... no. Portugal a perennial disappointment at this level, and no. 

Elsewhere we have one man shows, Bale, Ibra, Lewandowski. Or opportunities to surprise in Croatia, Austria, Slovakia. It’s a heady mix. 

It is truly wide open. 

Whatever may unfold over the next 4 weeks, this is a month to savour. A month to celebrate what is wonderful in football, and what makes it the sport that it is.

We can put aside petty club rivalries and the relentless grind. This is the best. Enjoy it.


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3 min read
Published 10 June 2016 at 10:24am
By Stuart Randall