The beautiful game

As France prepares for Euro 2016, we hope that football is all we’ll be talking about this month

French soldiers patrol in the fan zone in Nice on June 8, 2016, two days before the start of the Euro 2016 football championship. Valery Hache / AFP
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Football’s European Championship begins this Friday when France take on Romania at the Stade de France in Paris. The tournament kick-offs amid a sense of feverish anticipation among French football fans and a certain trepidation in the international community.

Let’s deal with the anticipation first: France are fancied to win Euro 2016 at the expense of world champions Germany, European champions Spain, perennial heavyweights Italy and others, including a young England side, a strong Belgium team and a Portugal squad featuring Cristiano Ronaldo. Certainly, history is on the host nation’s side: France won the 1998 World Cup and the European Championship in 1984 when playing at home.

But there is trepidation too. France has suffered in the past year at the hands of extremists and has recently fallen prey to the damaging effects of extreme weather. Our greatest hope is that this will be a safe and peaceful tournament and that we will only be talking about the quality of the football when the action ends next month.