The Euro 2016 is upon us with France not only hosting – for the third time – the 15th edition of the tournament, but are being backed as the favourites to lift the title. This edition will see 24 countries vying for the coveted trophy for the first time rather than 16, which has been the norm since England hosted the championships in 1996.
Spain come into the tournament as defending champions having won the last two editions, but do not seem to be in great form to retain their title. England are the youngest team in the tournament this time, with Roy Hodgson putting faith in younger players.
Format and Groups
There are 24 teams for the first time in the history of the tournament, which makes it tricky to understand the permutations and combinations going into the later part of the tournament.
There are six groups with four teams each and the top two teams from each group will qualify for the round of 16 along with four of the best third placed teams. Eight teams will be initially eliminated in the group stage, with the outcome unlikely to be clear until the final round of group stage matches.
There are 10 stadiums contracted to host the Euro 2016 matches with Stade de France set to host the finals on 10 July. The two semi-finals will be hosted at the Stade Velodrome – the home of Marseille football club and Stade de Lyon.
Live TV Coverage in the UK will be available on ITV 1 and BBC One. The matches kick-off at 2pm, 5pm and 8pm BST.
Triple Punishment Ban: A professional foul inside the area will not see the player being handed a red card, but only a yellow. This is to avoid the so-called triple punishment which a red card will illicit – a penalty, dismissal and a ban. There are exceptions however, when related to physical and violent conduct.
Pre-match Red Cards: A player can be sent off prior to a match, although the team will be allowed to add a member from the substitutes to the playing squad.
On-pitch Treatment: The player can now receive treatment for a knock from the medical staff on the pitch and then remain on the pitch rather than step out to wait for the referee to recall him into the game. This is being done to avoid disadvantaging a team, who will be temporarily down to 10 men.
Kick-off: Earlier the ball had to travel forward with the first touch during kick-off, but the rules have now been changed to allow the ball to travel in any direction.
France – 16/5
Germany – 4
Spain – 5
England – 9
Belgium – 11
Italy – 18
Portugal – 12
Wales – The Welsh are making their first appearance in a major tournament after 57 years. They are paired with rivals England in Group B.
Northern Ireland – This is the first time they have qualified for the Euros and did so by topping their qualifying group. They are in group C along with Germany, Poland and Ukraine.
Slovakia – They have qualified for the first time for the Euros as an independent nation. They are also paired with England and Wales in Group B
Albania – It is the first time they have qualified for a major final in their history. They edged out 1992 euro winners Denmark in their qualifying group following a win over Portugal.
Iceland – They are the smallest nation ever to qualify for the European Championship finals with a population of just 330,000.