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armchair centre back :: it begins...

in romania, liberty is yellow
much though i dislike doing two posts in a row on the same subject, i can't deny that i have been looking forward to the start of the uefa euro tomorrow. earlier this week, dom and i puzzled over the schedule and came up with some predictions. based on our world cup predictions, dom is pretty good at this. i'm more inclined to take chances and predict upsets, which is the nicest possible way of saying that i'm not nearly as accurate as he is. [it's a sad fact that, in major competitions, international football tends to yield few surprises. so if you're a betting person, you're best off betting on the favourite.]

as is tradition, the sole game tomorrow will feature the home team, france, against minnows romania. since france are increasingly favoured to win the whole shebang, this one is probably going to be a pretty easy three points for les bleus. that said, romania got through their entire qualification allowing only two goals [although they conceded four in a recent friendly match], so it might not be quite as much of a blowout as you'd think. [and may i add, france being in a group with romania, albania and switzerland does absolutely nothing to dispel the rumour that the draw is fixed so that france always gets an easy ride in the first round.]

first game fun fact :: most people know that the three stripes in the french flag stand for liberty, equality and fraternity. but did you know that the stripes of the romanian flag were originally designed with the same three things in mind? when romanian nationalism first started to take hold [when the country was still split between the ottoman and austro-hungarian empires], the french were held up as an inspiration. indeed, romania's legal system borrows heavily from that of france, so the influence isn't merely symbolic. 

other similarities between the two seemingly dissimilar countries include the fact that they both took shape as provinces of the roman empire. for both, the roman legacy includes their modern-day language, both of which are part of the romance group. [romanian is the only romance language in eastern europe.]

and both countries rather famously marked their transition to democracy by brutally killing their former head of state. albeit two hundred years apart.] 

and both are soccer-mad countries, even though their teams are on very different levels. don't fret, romania. as one of europe's only rapidly growing economies, you'll have the last laugh. 

and here are a couple of our other overall predictions for the tournament :: 

winner

germany. we both picked the mannschaft to repeat their world cup success. they're strong in every area and they know it, which always helps. in fact, i'd say that the only thing working against them is that they can get a little too complacent. 

... or maybe...

dom :: he's pretty convinced it's germany or bust, but if somehow the mannschaft crumbles, he thinks that the euro cup will return to title holders spain. and truly, after their abysmal performance at the world cup, no one will be more desperate to prove their abilities than the spanish. 

me :: assuming that a german exit throws all of my predictions out of whack, i'm going to say that the prize goes to the home team. france have phenomenal players and somehow they do seem to pull together when it counts.  

dark horse [the guys you think will do better than expected]

dom :: england! yes, their perfect record in qualification was helped by the fact that they were in the weakest group, but come on- the firepower. england's biggest obstacle may be their manager. 

me :: i desperately want to say wales. so desperately. but as a sleeper candidate, i'd say poland. remember, this is the team that came within a hair of finishing above germany in qualifications [and in the "group of death", no less].

underperformer

portugal. we both chose it because we both snarl every time we hear the name of cristiano ronaldo, but let's face it, their if man hasn't shown up for an international tournament since 2006. and beyond him, it's getting increasingly difficult to see why they're considered such a big deal. [if i must give another option, i'm skeptical of belgium's ability to live up to their potential with their team captain out injured. they didn't look all that cohesive at the world cup when he was there.]

best man candy

strangely, dom has no opinion on this one.

the gods of sculpted bodies and chiseled faces have once again smiled on us and while an all-european tournament doesn't offer quite the range of a worldwide one, there's still plenty of sweets in the offing.

if you're looking for the best visual bang for your buck, you should be following belgium. even though i feel compelled to give a demerit point because marouane fellaini plays for them, toby alderweireld, laurent ciman, jason denayer, the lukaku brothers, yannick ferreira carrasco, divock origi and dries mertens are all extremely easy on the eyes. so here's hoping i'm wrong about them not lasting in the competition.

in the meantime, here's how things stack up tomorrow:

team france

benoit costil
sadly, we're unlikely to see benoit in action, as he's the backup keeper to huge lloris, but he'll be there, cheering his blue brothers along, so hopefully, we'll catch a glimpse.

olivier giroud
i'm still refusing to admit that the beard is a reality. this is as far as i can go.

team romania

florin andone
meet giroud's romanian opposite number. kind of a nice match-up, if you ask me.

alexandru matel
i can't figure out if i want to stare more at the eyes or the lips...

finally, because national cuisines are not sharply different among a lot of european countries [and there are a lot of countries this time around whose cuisine is decidedly oriented towards the hearty and warming], i've opted not to "eat the cup", for this particular tournament. dom has suggested, however, that we "drink the cup". because every country has their own special alcohol. if you don't see posts from me in the near future, please consider coming to check if we're still alive.

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