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France v Romania: Euro 2016 kicks off – live!

Hello and welcome: it’s showtime! After 266 qualifying matches, several weeks of rehearsals and a million selection squabbles, the 2016 European Championships is kicking off in Paris and it promises to be a lot of fun. The tournament’s cast has never been so big and while expansion to 24 participants means watering down the quality, drama is still guaranteed. There’s no telling how things will pan out over the next month. If the stars are properly aligned by Roy Hodgson, even England have an earthly. A competition with no flawless team looks perfectly unpredictable. A handful of countries can realistically aspire to outright victory – including Poland and Austria – but four sides start with stronger credentials than the rest: the holders (Spain), the world champions (Germany), the highest-ranked team (Belgium) and the hosts, France, who get things under way this evening against Romania, who were unbeaten during the qualifiers and only conceded two goals. They even kept Kyle Lafferty quiet.

France, of course, won the last two major tournaments that they staged – the 1984 European Championships and the 1998 World Cup – and that’s no easy feat, as evidenced by the fact that it has been nearly four decades since any other host won either competition (Argentina ‘78). But of course it was much more than home advantage that brought those victories to France: on both occasions Les Bleus had bloody good teams. Can we say the same about them now? Well that’s what we’re here to find out. They sure have some exciting ingredients but they’re all in attack: their defence is vulnerable, although being able to field Laurent Koscielny and Adil Rami is actually an indication of France’s strength in depth in central defence: what other country would be able to pick a duo as decent as that after losing five players (Varane, Sakho, Laporte, Mathieu and Zouma) who would have been picked ahead of at least one of them? And looking at the calibre of attacking players that Deschamps has chosen to omit (Ben Arfa, Lacazette, Gameiro...) gives an indication of the awesome strike power that they he have called up: if Roman’s defence can stifle the likes of Greizmann, Payet, Pogba, Martial, Comon and potential golden boot winner Giroud, then they really are exceptional.

Teams will appear here about an hour before kickoff. There’ll be an opening ceremony at some point too, so get your dancing shoes.

Related: France takes deep breath as Deschamps’ favourites make Euro 2016 entrance | Barney Ronay

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