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Name: Euro 2016, formally known as the Uefa European Championships.
Age: 56; held every four years, slap-bang in between World Cups, Euro 2016 will be the 15th edition of the tournament.
Location: France is hosting the tournament for a (record) third time – following the first-ever staging in 1960 and Euro 1984, which they won.
When’s kick-off? The hosts get things under way against Romania on tonight (June 10) at 8pm BST in the Stade de France, just north of Paris.
Neatly, the final is on Sunday 10 July at the same time and in the same stadium. France will probably be there again, too.
What’s new? For the first time, 24 countries instead of 16 are taking part.
The teams are split into six groups of four, with the top two teams from each group going through to the knockout stage as usual. This time, though, the four best third-place teams will join them in a new-fangled Round of 16.
All kinds of permutations could come into play – but, never mind, it’s still simpler than the Eurovision Song Contest.
New teams: The expanded competition has made qualifying more feasible for a number of nations. Five sides are making their Euro debuts, including home nations Northern Ireland and Wales, along with Albania, Iceland and Slovakia.
Hungary can also be counted as novices at this level, since they are competing at their first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup.
Lest we forget, however, there are also notable absences in three former European champions who failed to qualify: Denmark, Greece and the Netherlands.
New rules: France 2016 is a big deal for the football rulebook as several updated laws come into effect. There can be no more fake shots before penalties or ‘triple punishments’, where the last defender concedes a red card, penalty and suspension – unless the foul was particularly brutal. And, tantalisingly, kick-offs can now go backwards.
New grounds: French authorities and investors have spent £1.3 billion on stadium construction ahead of the tournament. The Stade des Lumières in Lyon, Matmut Atlantique in Bordeaux, Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Villeneuve d’Ascq and Allianz Riviera in Nice were built with the Euros in mind, while the other five have all undergone renovation work.
Up to 2.5million spectators are expected to fill the grounds, with an extra 6.5m set to watch the games in designated fan-zones in host cities.
Who’s going to win? France are the slender favourites, despite a fractious build-up, thanks to their rich attacking options (from Antoine Griezmann to André-Pierre Gignac, as well as Manchester United’s Anthony Martial and Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud). Their straightforward group should offer the chance to find a solid defensive formula and turn home pressure into a positive.
Three-time winners Germany and Spain are their main challengers. Both have pedigree: Germany are looking to couple their 2014 World Cup win with the European crown, while Spain are competing for their third continental cup in a row. Neither have developed any major weaknesses in the intervening period, and they should not be disregarded in what really is a wide-open competition.
And what about England? Ah, it was all going so well. In theory, Roy Hodgson’s Lions have the talent to cruise through to the semi-finals. The reality, as always, could be a significant contrast.
Expect England to make it past Russia, Wales and Slovakia in the group stage and eventually succumb to another quarter-final against Portugal.
Yet, the feel of the side could be refreshingly different. England’s squad is the youngest of Euro 2016 and, at 18 years and 7 months, Marcus Rashford will be the youngest player at the tournament. If the rest of the team can be as adventurous and skilful as the Old Trafford sensation, it should be a wonderful watch.
TV Guide: You can see all of Euro 2016 live on the BBC and ITV, including England’s first game against Russia on Saturday (11 June).
(Adapted from metro.co.uk on 10 June 2016)
1 How many countries have hosted Euro three times? _________________________________
2 Which city is the venue of the first match of Euro 2016? _________________________
3 If a team comes third in their group, do they necessarily stay in the competition? _______________________
4 Name one country with a successful football history that will not participate in Euro 2016. _______________________
5 How many cities are hosting Euro 2016? ________________________
6 According to the author, does France have tough opponents in their group? ____________
7 In the author’s opinion, how far in the competition is England expected to get? _______________________