Euro 2016 in France

Euro 2016 is to be held in France from 10th June to 10th July 2016 with 24 teams contesting the finals for the first time. UEFA has broken with tradition by expanding the 16-team format and France will be the stage for a month of top European action.

Stadia

This will be the third time that France has hosted the event having done so at the inaugural European Championships in 1960 and again when victorious in 1984.

France was voted ahead of Italy and Turkey to host the finals on 28th May 2010. The matches will be played in ten stadia in ten cities across France: Bordeaux, Lens, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Paris, Saint-Denis, St-Etienne and Toulouse.

Twelve stadia were originally presented for the French bid which were eventually reduced to ten. France’s national stadium, the Stade de France, was an automatic choice. Four newly constructed stadia in Lille, Lyon, Nice and Bordeaux were commissioned to join the existing stadia of the biggest cities, Paris and Marseille. Toulouse and St-Étienne were originally reserves while Lens was used successfully in the 1998 World Cup and 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Each of the ten host cities will hold at least four matches with three from the group stages and one knockout tie. The quarter-finals and semi-finals will be held at the bigger capacity stadiums. The Stade de France will stage the opening match and the final at Euro 2016. France will play the traditional curtain raiser on Friday 10th June with the final taking place one month and fifty matches later.

Sport

France is a country rich in sporting traditions. Aside from their enthusiastic support for the national soccer team, the French are equally passionate about their rugby.

France also has a proud history of top basketball players, cyclists, tennis players and motorsport drivers. Alain Prost won the Formula One Drivers’ Championship four times between 1985 and 1993. Tennis champions include Amelie Mauresmo, Mary Pierce and 2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli. Their current crop of players includes Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, Gael Monfils and Alize Cornet.

The biggest annual sporting event is cycling’s Tour de France which attracts around 12 million spectators and a worldwide TV audience estimated to be in the region of 3.5 billion. The race has been won by French cyclists 36 times in its long history which dates back to 1903 when Maurice Garin claimed the inaugural race.

Football

France won their first major tournament in 1984 when Michel Platini’s nine goals in the finals took Les Bleus to UEFA European Championship glory. Zinédine Zidane became a National hero in 1998 when France won the World Cup and again at Euro 2000.

Platini won the Ballon d’Or three times and his European finals goal tally remains a record. France’s Fontaine also holds the record for goals in the World Cup finals with thirteen back in 1958.

Prospects for Les Bleus in 2016

The French team has not won the European Championship since 2000 but there is a growing belief that they can make a serious challenge as hosts in 2016.

Most of the stadiums are completed and the team’s progress is also encouraging. Without the pressure of qualification, “Les Bleus” are free to build on the foundations of a good World Cup. They were partnered with the five-team group for a series of friendlies to fill the gap in the fixtures list compared to those sides in six-team groups.

The French side suffered humiliation in major tournaments in 2010 and 2012 as the team disintegrated amid reports of in-fighting and dressing-room unrest. Former France Captain Didier Deschamps has overseen a dramatic improvement in the team’s fortunes based on firm discipline and a good team ethic.

Raphaël Varane and Eliaquim Mangala’s are developing an almost telepathic understanding in the central defence. The midfield trio of Yohan Cabaye, Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi are so strong that they are keeping out the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin and Moussa Sissoko. Up front, Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann offer a constant attacking threat.

There are plenty of other players vying for a place in the team and France are generally 5-1 second favourites behind Germany to win the tournament. There promises to be plenty for the home fans to cheer at Euro 2016.

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