Written by Jen Offord

In The News

A bluffer’s guide to… Euro 2016

As we prepare for a flood of football, Jen Offord offers a Euro-2016-branded umbrella of stuff which could help fuel footie chat wherever you may find it over the next month. Hint: It’ll be every-bloody-where.

Euro 16 logo
When’s it on?

Euro 2016 starts TONIGHT and lasts for a whole month. Don’t give a shit about football? Tough – it’s happening, and if you can’t beat them…

Where can I watch it?

Assuming you’re not joining the hordes of Kronenbourg-ed up shirtless, sunburned fans who’ve travelled across the Channel to throw some patio furniture through the windows of unsuspecting patisseries, don’t worry – you can watch it on the telly and you won’t even have to get a lion tattooed on your arse.

You’ll have no doubt by now spotted the rival BBC and ITV big-budget trailers for the competition, drawing on two iconic French historical and cultural happenings. For the Beeb it’s all highbrow ‘vive la revolution!’, while ITV is a bit more of a rustic ‘Allo ‘Allo! vibe, starring Eric Cantona as René, apparently. Don’t get too excited – Glenn Hoddle and Ian Wright are the missing RAF Flight Lieutenants.

Why should I care?

If you’re an England supporter, you shouldn’t. Seriously, turn around and start walking until you find a cave or other media-vacuum in which you can station yourself for the next month. No good can come of this, as history and the balance of improbability – according to made-up rankings – dictate.

“You can watch it on the telly and you won’t even have to get a lion tattooed on your arse.”

But, BUT, we do have an exciting-looking young squad – the youngest in the contest – which might give you reason enough to believe we could win our first major tournament in 50 years. It shouldn’t, but it might.

If you support any of the other home nations (not Scotland – sad face) or, to a lesser degree, the Republic of Ireland, just be grateful to be there. You’ll have your chance to celebrate when England whimper out of the competition at a similarly early stage after weeks of tentative optimism.

Groups (and associated odds)

Group A
Albania 500/1
France 3/1
Romania 200/1
Switzerland 66/1

Group B
England 17/2
Russia 66/1
Slovakia 150/1
Wales 80/1

Group C
Germany 7/2
Northern Ireland 350/1
Poland 50/1
Ukraine 100/1

Group D
Croatia 25/1
Czech Republic 125/1
Spain 11/2
Turkey 80/1

Group E
Belgium 11/1
Italy 16/1
Republic of Ireland 150/1
Sweden 100/1

Group F
Austria 40/1
Hungary 350/1
Iceland 100/1
Portugal 20/1

SQUAD GOALS

englandEngland

Last week I had a dream that Daniel Sturridge was my boyfriend. It was a really nice dream and in it, I was really glad he was selected for the final squad because I imagine I give him quite a hard time and it’d probably be nice for him to get away from me for a month (or, more likely, two weeks). In reality – a harder sphere to exist in – I just can’t help but dwell on his propensity for injury. Jurgen (Klopp, his boss at Liverpool) must be pissed.

We’re taking Wayne Rooney as well, a pointless endeavour given that Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy (the Premier League’s top two goal scorers last season) perform far better as a duo up front than having to play wide as a threesome, to accommodate Rooney and his dwindling ability.

No plausible explanation for his inclusion can be given, other than that it’s a young team and as he’s knocking on a bit in his career, he can offer the likes of wonder boys Dele Alli (bit hot-headed) and Marcus Rashford (do we actually know he’s any good?) guidance in their first major England tournament.

What to say: “To be perfectly honest, I’m still not convinced about Rashford [Manchester United] – we’ve seen this hyperbole before *coughs* Theo Walcott [Arsenal].”

walesWales

Yeah I know, I was surprised too, but under the tremendous stewardship of Chris Coleman, Wales are in their first major tournament in 58 years and – AND – they’re in the same group as England! They’ve got an OK team, too: Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey; Crystal Palace’s Wayne Hennessey; Swansea City’s Ashley Williams; and you might have heard of this geezer Gareth Bale who plays for Real Madrid…

England manager Roy Hodgson reckons an average team can win on the strength of one individual star – which, FYI, he doesn’t believe his own team has – and Bale is certainly that. One thing I will say is: have your tissues at the ready come 16 June, England fans, as I predict an upset (and possibly a riot).

What to say: “But surely Joe Ledley [Crystal Palace] is the bionic man? It’s amazing how quickly he’s come back from fracturing his fibula in May to be back on the bench already.”

“I don’t care what you tell me, if goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is 38, I’m 12 years old. If you’re lying to me about that, Italy, what else are you lying to me about?”

Northern Ireland

God love them, they’re going to be leaving early, let’s face it, but at the same time offer patronising pats on the back all round for qualifying, having not scored a single goal in their qualifying campaign for the 2004 competition.

Are they the Leicester City of the competition? Minnows with underrated players like Southampton man Steven Davis? Yes, but probably more like Leicester 2012 than Leicester 2016.

What to say: “They’re going to miss Chris Brunt [West Brom] in this competition – I wonder how Michael O’Neill [the boss] is going to plug that defensive gap in the left-back?”

ROIRepublic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland’s last Euro campaign in 2012, they left at the end of the group stage having won no points and scored only one goal, which was a shame since they’d not played in a major tournament since 2002. And 2002 wasn’t great for them either with then-player and now assistant manager Roy Keane jeffing off home after falling out with the boss.

It’s looking a little better for them this time round with loveable gaffe-maker Martin O’Neill at the helm. They’ve got some standout players like Shane Long (Southampton), though perhaps not THE ONE Hodgson reckons they’d need.

It’s not the easiest group either, but Belgium would be the only dead certs to go through, on my reckoning and, as you will hear nine squillion times in the next month, this is football, anything could happen.

What to say: “I wonder if Roy Keane still wants to kill them?”

Other teams of note…

Germany: the current world champions are lacking some of their more experienced players, but at least they had some good ones in the first place and they always bring their game face to a big tournament – good attitudes all round and a decent shout if you’re a gambling (wo)man.

Spain: undoubtedly a good side, but the game has progressed beyond their ‘pass the ball around forever and ever’ style to one much more attack focused. It’s a no from me.

France: the hosts always have the advantage, apparently – just look at Brazil in the last world cup. Oh, no wait. Regardless, they’ve got a very strong side this year, including the king of free-kicks Dimitri Payet (West Ham). Favourites to win.

Italy: I don’t care what you tell me, if Gianluigi Buffon (their goalkeeper) is 38, I’m 12 years old. If you’re lying to me about that, Italy, what else are you lying to me about? That Chelsea-bound manager Antonio Conte isn’t in actual fact a Monaco playboy from the 1960s or Bond Villain of the same era? Sorry, focus: even the gaffer Conte says they’re lacking talent this time round, with an aging squad and a dearth of fresh faces. Not a winner.

Portugal: Only worth paying attention to for the bare LOLZ undoubtedly about to unfold on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Instagram account. Expect to be blinded by the glare of his white briefs.

And finally… Barnet-watch.

It wouldn’t be a football tournament if players hadn’t done stupid things to their hair in the name of getting some attention.

Looks like Aaron Ramsey wasn’t sure about showing it when he tweeted this last week…

Aaron Ramsey has gone for what I think must be a Bieber-inspired option, bleaching his quiff bright white; France’s Paul Pogba (he’s very good by the way) has gone for a very modest ‘POGBOOM’ etching on the side of his head; but Belgium’s Marouane Feilani wins the best in show category for me by going full-on Lion-O, with his peroxide afro. He’ll never regret that.

@inspireajen

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Written by Jen Offord

Jen is a writer from Essex, which isn’t relevant because she lives in London, but she likes people to know it. As well as daft challenges, she likes cats, cheese and Beyonce. @inspireajen