Euro bring back Spotlight on the pitch in France

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Biggerthanever,theEuropeanChampionshipkicksoffinParisonFridaywithafour-weekfeastoffootballthatpromisestoelevatethegameabovethecorruptionscandalsandsecurityfearsthathaveovershadoweditsbuild-up。

AlleyeswillbeonhostsFrancewhentheygettheballrollingagainstRomaniaintheStadedeFrance210daysaftersuicidebombersatthesamevenuetriggeredanightofhorroracrossthecapitalwhichkilled130people。

ItshouldhavebeenaproudmomentforformerUefapresidentMichelPlatini。

PredictEuroonNaijabet。

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TheFrancegreat,whoinspiredhiscountrys1984titleonhomesoil,achievedhiswishofexpandingthetournamenttoarecord24nations。

Butafour-yearban,handeddownafterbecomingengulfedbytheFifacorruptionscandalthathasrockedthesport,meanshispresenceatthetournamentwillbeinapurelyunofficialcapacity。

Againstsuchabackdropitcanonlybehopedthatthetournament,thefirstsincethesleazehitthefanlastsummerandthelastwithasinglehostbeforeitgoescontinent-widein2020,candeliversomememorablemomentsonthepitch。

Itcertainlyhasthepotentialtodosowith51matchesin31daysspreadacrossFrancefromthecoal-miningcountryofLensinthenorthtotheMediterraneanportofMarseille。

UnfamiliarqualifierswillbehopingtoshowtheybelongandvindicatePlatinisbrainchild,criticisedbysomeassubstitutingqualityforquantity。

Theestablishmentshouldproveagain,however,thatthecreaminevitablyrisestothetopandthatGreecessurprisetriumphin2004wasananomaly。

SpainretainedthetitlefouryearsagoinPolandandUkraine,atournamentcomprisingonly16nations,andwillbeamongthefavouritestomakeitahat-trick,althoughthree-timeschampionsGermany,2012runners-upItaly,FranceandaresurgentEnglandwillallfancytheirchances。

NorthernIreland,Albania,Iceland,SlovakiaandWalesareallappearingforthefirsttimeinthetournamentwhichissecondonlytotheWorldCupintermsofprestigeandnottoofarbehindinquality。

ForSpainsoldguard,playerssuchasAndresIniesta,SergioBusquets,GerardPiqueandSergioRamos,Euro2016couldbetheirlasthurrahafterthedisappointmentoftheBrazilWorldCuptwoyearsago,andwitholdsageVicentedelBosqueatthehelm,theywilltakesomestopping。

France,winnersin1984and2000,willcarrythehopesofanationstillcomingtotermswithlastyearsmilitantattacks。

ManagerDidierDeschampshassomeenviablequalityathisdisposalinJuventusmidfielderPaulPogbaandforwardsKingsleyComanandAntoineGriezmann。

WorldchampionsGermanywillbetargetingafirstEurotitlein20yearswhileEnglandseektheirfirstinternationalsuccesssincetheWorldCupof1966。

RoyHodgsonsyouthfulsidewentthroughqualifyingwitha100percentrecordandhaverealgoalthreatintheformofJamieVardy,oneofthestarsforunlikelychampionsLeicesterCity,andTottenhamHotspursHarryKane。

Oneconsequenceofthefatterformatmeansonlyeightteamswillbeeliminatedfromthesixinitialgroupsoffour,witheventhirdplacelikelytosealalast-16spot。

Spainsgrouplooksthetoughestonpaper,withtheCzechRepublic,TurkeyandCroatia,whileFranceshouldcomfortablytopasectionincludingAlbania,RomaniaandSwitzerland。

Italywillalsohavetobeontheirguardagainstadangerous-lookingBelgiumsquad,IrelandandSwedenwhoinZlatanIbrahimovichaveoneofthetournamentsA-listers。

OthersvyingforthelimelightincludePortugalsCristianoRonaldowhoenduredadisappointingWorldCupandisrunningoutoftimetoclaimafirsttitleforhiscountry。

Ofthedebutants,IcelandsappearancewilladdnoveltyvaluealthoughhavingfinishedabovetheNetherlandsinqualifyingtheywillneedtobetakenseriouslybygrouprivalsPortugal,AustriaandHungary。