And, because of this new bloated format, the recent trend of holding this tournament in countries unable to host a World Cup is likely to come to an end, which is a bit of shame. So this time it’s off to Eastern Europe, and the lands of Gdansk and Chernobyl.
So what does that mean to NZ viewers?
Not a lot. It doest really matter if this competition is being played on Portugal or the Urals, the timezones remain the same. So the big games all start at the reasonably friendly time of 0645 for NZ viewers. That’s 2145 for the hosts; games that go to penalties in the latter stages will finish at 0100 local time.
But this isn’t being played in Mt Eden so that’s not a problem.
Poland, Russia, Czech Republic and Greece
So not the most glamorous of groups then. Three ex Warsaw Pact countries and Greece. And who’s got the money to spend now?
None of these sides are flooded with players from the rich, televised, Western Europe leagues so there will be an element of old-fashioned surprise about watching players you are not overly familiar with.
You’d have to back Poland to progress given home ground support.
The more watchable football in this group is likely to come from the Czech Republic, although no star has fallen quicker than the side that turned up at the 2006 World Cup, bolstered by a quirk of the FIFA rankings that saw them third, as everyone’s favourite Wild Card.
So the money is on Russia to progress alongside the vowel thieves to the knockout stage then.
And then there’s Greece; winners of the 2004 Euros. The fairytale from hell; a rogue result that still irks the football community. Perfectionists of anti-football years before Chelsea took it to new levels this year. 10 men behind the ball.
And once they got to the playoffs, a tournament won in binary.
Hopefully, for the sake of this tournament Greece’s involvement will be confined to Pool Play.
What about a soundtrack for this tournament? Italia 1990 was set to the backdrop of Pavarotti and Nessan Dorma; USA 1994 had Diana Ross, SA 2010 had vuvuzelas… Time to go classical again…
The greatest classical composer of the 20th century.