Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The European Sojourn: UEFA Euro 2016

By: Nimisha Acharya

24 nations, 6 groups, 30 days, 51 matches, 1 winner…You might be wondering what I am talking about, right?! One of the biggest sporting events of the year, the Euro ’16 is here to enthrall us all. After all the hype over the underdogs Leicester City winning EPL and Real Madrid winning the Champions League for the 11th time, it’s that time of the year when our beloved footballers step aside from their club duties, don their national colours and set forth on an arduous path to bring ultimate glory to their nations.

Now, I remember watching European Football at its peak when stalwarts like Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Michael Ballack and Ruud van Nisterlooy ruled the roost. They justified the epithet “The Beautiful Game” completely. Of course we have the EPL, La Liga and Bundesliga year after year, but nothing makes my heart swell with pride as much as seeing players decked up in their national colours, striving to bring glory to their countries. Just a few weeks ago, Ronaldo and Gareth Bale  were on the same side, winning the La UnDecima for Real Madrid, and now we’ll see friends becoming foes as they fight battles and try to win the war.

The nation hosting this glorious extravaganza is none other than the vibrant France. This is their 3rd tryst with hosting after 1960 and 1984. And they went all out to showcase their beautiful culture at the opening ceremony, which also featured one of the world’s best DJs David Guetta, playing the crowd favourites, “Play Hard, Titanium”, and of course the Euro ’16 anthem “This One’s for You” featuring Zara Larrson, while displaying France’s biggest landmark, the Eiffel Tower. Then the entire crowd goose bumps as the Romanians and the French, the teams opening the Euro, lined up to sing their respective national anthems!! 

The Opening Ceremony

Among the 24 teams, we have all the usual suspects such as France, Spain, Germany and Italy while we also have the rank outsiders like Wales, Romania, Slovakia and Iceland. Numerous pundits have made their predictions, but I believe two-time defending champions Spain have a good chance to make it a hat-trick. The team has some of the finest players of Europe and one of the best goal keepers in the world. My second choice would be world champions Germany, and Belgium, the dark horses of the tournament. Of course, the hosts France cannot be ruled out. But after seeing a relatively obscure team like Leicester City winning the EPL, I believe anything is possible in football. There is also the shocking absence of the Netherlands and 2004 champions Greece to contend with. But yes, a Euro like 2004 would be quite intriguing which had two unexpected teams, Greece and Portugal, contesting the finals, and led to the rise of a superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The players to watch out for would definitely be Iker Casillas, Robert Lewandowski, Paul Pogba, Mesut Ozil, Wayne Rooney, Gianluigi Buffon and the eternal favourite, Ronaldo. The possible break-out stars include Arkadiusz Milik, Kingsley Coman and Leroy Sane.

For the next 30 days, the excellence of football will be unparalleled, and by the looks of it, Euro ’16 is going to be legendary!! Stop everything you are doing, grab some snacks and stay glued to your TV sets as 24 nations battle it out for victory. Be prepared to see some sweat, tears and drama!! Le Rendezvous!!

David Guetta at the Opening Ceremony

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