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coming home The A-Z of Euro 2020 as Roy Curtis offers his alternative view on the summer of football

All the things we’ll love and miss during a huge summer

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Cristiano Ronaldo was Portugal's talisman in their Euro 2016 triumph

Cristiano Ronaldo was Portugal's talisman in their Euro 2016 triumph

Cristiano Ronaldo was Portugal's talisman in their Euro 2016 triumph

Ireland won’t be there, it is a year late, they call it Euro 2020 even though it is 2021... and still it has the potential to be epic.

England are favourites, Portugal are defending champions, France are kings of the world.

Here’s our guide to a month that promises thrills and spills.

A is for Aviva… the rectangle of grass that might have been at the epicentre of this summer’s Mardi Gras, ghostly and mute, while above in the Dublin 4 heavens, rather than anticipating the serum of Robert Lewandowski and Harry Kane’s sorcery, Lansdowne Road’s corporate lounges are now used as vaccination centres.

B is for Belgium… the team of all the talents (Lukaku, Hazard, Tielemans, Carrasco, Courtois, and, fitness permitting, the great De Bruyne), the unlikely off-Broadway contender with a summer of possibility stretching wide before them.

C is for CR7… 36 now, can Portugal’s bronzed colossus, the machinery of his ambition unsleeping, deliver a last grace note to an international career that has yielded an authentically staggering 103 goals from 173 caps?

D is for Declan Rice… Ireland’s most beloved Englishman, his signature on the divorce papers of a brief but doomed Hibernian marriage reading like a rebuke to FAI ambitions. West Ham’s pivot will be propelled into the tournament on a warm breeze of Celtic affection. Or perhaps not.

E is for England… it’s coming home, it’s coming home. With a squad oozing offensive wizardry and certain of home advantage for five of the seven matches, and possibly a sixth, they should reach the final four. Installed as favourites by the odds-makers, it just might be.

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Euro 2020 (Yui Mok/PA)

Euro 2020 (Yui Mok/PA)

Euro 2020 (Yui Mok/PA)

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England manager Gareth Southgate and the Euro Championship trophy. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

England manager Gareth Southgate and the Euro Championship trophy. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

England manager Gareth Southgate and the Euro Championship trophy. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

F is for France… with the enriched uranium of an Mbappe, Benzema and Griezmann strikeforce offering Les Bleus nuclear capability, might Didier Deschamps unstitch England’s ambitions and end a 206-year Gallic wait to avenge Waterloo?

G is for Giles… Admit it, the new-look, well-tailored, saccharine, careful-what-you-say, ho-hum RTE panel would have you yearning for the old days: Johnny screeching at the producer to “stop it there”, while The Dunph, wild-eyed and carnivorous and addicted to the glare of the studio lights, the acid rain of his fury falling hard, brings a blood-pressure sizzle to bear with a pitiless, on-the-hoof, thesis which declares that Ronaldo is a third-rate imposter, a poor-man’s Wes Hoolahan.

H is for Harry… World Cup Golden Boot, a £200m apple of both Red and Blue Manchester’s eye, English captain. Is Kane poised to step into Bobby Moore’s 55-year-old footprints?

I is for Ireland… the football Goliath that put manners on Andorra.

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J is for Jack Grealish… like Rice, forever green, his post-game party piece an impassioned recital of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, followed by a shut-eye blast of Come Out You Black and Tans.

K is for Kenny Cunningham… an analyst who actually seems aroused by the tactical side of the game, the notion of the right-sided defender in a three tucking in, while a false 9 ghosts off the double-pivot to break a high-press while transitioning from offence to defence. It’s a football aphrodisiac for the Dubliner.

L is for Lewandowski… the Pole who scores as effortlessly as an inter-county hurler in Copper Face Jacks on All-Ireland final eve. His 53 goals for club and country in 2020/21 included no less than five hat-tricks.

M is for Madrid… remarkably there is not a single player from La Liga titans, Real Madrid, in the Spanish squad.

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Chelsea's Ngolo Kante with the trophy following his side's UEFA Champions League final win over Manchester City at Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Portugal on Saturday. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Chelsea's Ngolo Kante with the trophy following his side's UEFA Champions League final win over Manchester City at Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Portugal on Saturday. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Chelsea's Ngolo Kante with the trophy following his side's UEFA Champions League final win over Manchester City at Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Portugal on Saturday. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

N is for N’Golo Kante… the first human being to master the art of bi and tri-location, the French Duracell bunny will simultaneously execute a goal-saving interception, make a 90-yard overlap and bring a nice cup of tea and two chocolate biscuits to your front room even as your TV shows him dispossessing a counter-attacking Thomas Mueller 1,100 miles away in Munich.

O is for overexposed… turn on a TV to any station anywhere in the world over the next month and, before you can say Marty Morrissey, it is 100 percent certain that Jermaine Jenas will appear on your screen, droning on like a particularly persistent, migraine-inducing bluebottle.

P is for pyrotechnics… firework Friday, five days time when England and Scotland collide at a major finals for the first time since Euro ’96, recalling Gazza’s goal for the ages and his imperishable dentist chair celebration.

Q is for Qatar… the desert World Cup is only 17 months away with the final a week before Christmas Day, 2022.

R is for Russia… 75/1 to win the tournament, odds-on to hack the Uefa website and doctor Ronaldo’s passport to state he was born in Moscow, the eldest son of Vladimir Putin and Anna Kournikova.

S is for Stuttgart… it is 33 years next Saturday since Ray Houghton’s header left Peter Shilton thrashing at thin air and transported a nation to wonderland. Lord, I feel old.

T is for Tartan Army… Scotland are competing in a major finals for the first time since 1998. Craig Brown was manager, they lost 3-0 to Morocco and took just a single point from their three games. This time they are in a group with England, Croatia and the Czech Republic.

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Scottish football fans gather in Trafalgar Square, London, ahead of an international friendly match between England and Scotland at Wembley.

Scottish football fans gather in Trafalgar Square, London, ahead of an international friendly match between England and Scotland at Wembley.

Scottish football fans gather in Trafalgar Square, London, ahead of an international friendly match between England and Scotland at Wembley.

U is Underdog… North Macedonia are 500/1 to win the tournament, Slovakia, Finland and Hungary a mere 325/1.

V is for Verne… with 11 host cities from Glasgow to Baku (a mere 5,306.5km spin) UEFA appear to have used ‘Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days’ as a template for their tournament. Dublin, until Micheal Martin padlocked the Aviva, was due to be venue number 12.

W is for Wes… can it really be five years since the timeless and erudite craftsman from Dublin’s inner-city turned the Stade De France and Lille’s Stade Pierre-Mauroy into his personal playhouses?

X is X-ray… Trent Alexander Arnold received the news every footballer dreads when scans confirmed the injury he sustained in the midweek friendly with Austria had ruled him out of England’s squad for the European finals.

Y is for Youth… aged just 17 years and 342 days, born more than a year after Roy Keane roamed the Saipan plains, Jude Bellingham hopes Gareth Southgate allows him to stay up after his bedtime to play in the 8pm kickoffs against Scotland and the Czech Republic.

Z is for Zzzzz… with 51 games in 30 days, all of them live, followed by analysis and highlight packages, sleep opportunities will be in short supply for armchair footy fans.

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