Monday, 6 June 2016
Welcome to the French Connection (aka Euro 2016)
Welcome back everyone, is it already two years since the World Cup final ? Obviously the answer is yes, or we wouldn't be here looking forward to the second largest football tournament in the world, the European Championships, which this year are being held in the La Belle France.
The mascot pictured below is the cute little figure known as Super Victor. (This is possibly one may think a reference to Victor Hugo who is best known for writing Les Miserables, but will he still have his smile if France don't win?)
I would have gone for Super Charlie, but that may have offended, the many followers of the Prophet who live in Europe and especially France, so I suppose Victor was a safer bet.
Of course this is meant with no disrespect to the Copa America which is currently taking place in the US of A. The Copa is a tournament usually consisting of the 10 South American teams and two guests (usually Mexico and A N other) but this year is celebrating a 100 years of existence. As such it has expanded to 16 teams with the addition of well known football power houses such as Haiti and Jamaica and of course the host USA.
In what could be one of world sports great ironies, Mexico are one of the favourites to win. This would be a nice way to end their playing in Yankee land as once Donald Trump becomes President, one of his first acts will be to ban international football matches involving Hispanics taking place in Trump-land.
Trump has claimed he will build a wall to keep the Mexicans out as they only want to steal jobs and damage the American economy. I suggest he hires Jurgen Klinsmann, the German ex international footballer and current manger of the USA to help him. On the one hand he was very good at getting round walls and on the other, being German, has first hand experience of how to police one effectively.
However, not many people outside of the Americas and in reality probably not many within are really interested in what happens there, Euro 2016 is where it is at.
But I digress, over the next few weeks, from June 10th through to the final on July 10th, we shall hopefully enjoy a culinary feast of football, in a country where one of the only things it has going for it, is its Cordon Bleu.
I start today by giving an overview of the tournament, its format, etc and then from Thursday the 9th I will start posting group by group previews.
Once we reach the knock out stages which are due to start on June 25th, I will endeavour to provide a short preview for every game.
As ever, there may not be much to do with football here but hopefully it will be informative, provocative, slightly witty and certainly not PC, for that is a concept which is an anathema to me. Comment away as ever, we all enjoy some good banter.
So to business, this year the tournament in line with the ever growing European super state has expanded to 24 teams from 16. There are pros and cons to this, from a footballing point of view it may dilute the quality on show, and makes the tournament longer.
But I am happy, it enables us to talk about places that never usually get a mention such as Albania or that well known part of Europe, Iceland,(10 points to any American who knows which European country Iceland is closest to geographically speaking, 5 points to any European, please post your answers in the comments section)
The 24 nations have been divided up into six groups of four. So in a group of four teams, each team will face the others once in a mini league format, with 3 points for a win and one for a draw.
The top two teams from each group plus the four third placed teams with the best record will qualify for the last 16. The competition then follows the standard knock out format until we are left with two teams to battle it out for the title.
We don't use fancy titles, such as "Sweet 16" or "Elite 8" or "Final four", so as too avoid any confusion, those are known respectively as the last 16, quarter-finals and semi finals.
For those who want to watch, the matches are being played at 13.00, 16.00 and 19.00 hours GMT respectively.
If you don't have access to a TV the following is a good link to watch on http://www.cricfree.sx/
I end this intro on a series note, with the hope that we are able to concentrate on the matter in hand and not be distracted by other events that have plagued France and Belgium over the past eighteen months. Next up will be previews of Groups A, B and C.
Until then Au Revoir.