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Britain may be able to lay claim to inventing most of the popular sports - football, cricket, two codes of rugby, quiz-darts, televised competitive ballroom dancing - but France is responsible for many of the great international events: the modern Olympics, the World Cup, the European Cup, Jeux Sans Frontieres (aka It's A Knockout). And of course the European Nations Cup, as the tournament was known initially, starting with its 1960 edition.
The trophy is named posthumously in honour of Henri Delaunay, a less gleaming version of the World Cup's Jules Rimet but who nonetheless proposed a continental championship as early as 1920s. It was also the French who, when they finally won the tournament, gave it proper life as a one-off event, their 1984 success on home soil delivering some of the most sparkling international football and a solid groups-plus-knockout format that had been lacking.
Only 17,102 watched Romania draw 1-1 with Spain in Saint-Etienne, but in a 15-game tournament there were 11 attendances more than double that and there had been eight smaller crowds four years earlier in Italy, including a pitiful 4,726 in Rome's Stadio Olimpico for Greece v Czechoslovakia.
The format at the 1980 championships - the winner of the two groups going straight into the final - would, bizarrely, be reprised at the very start of the Champions League. But at least with six matches the club teams could bounce back from a loss and in 1980 it led to deadeningly cautious play as any defeat would effectively finish your hopes of topping the group; the chances of recovery were perhaps even slimmer under two points for a win.
Four years later, those far bigger crowds were rewarded with scintillating play, not only from the victorious hosts, for whom Michel Platini scored nine goals, including two hat-tricks. England's qualifying exit to Denmark did not look so bleak after they put five past Yugoslavia; Spain eliminated West Germany with an injury-time goal in their final group game; Portugal led France six minutes from the end of extra time in their semi-final only to lose at the death. It was as close to perfect as a tournament can be. (Not that you could tell so easily from the UK: in the absence of a British qualifier, it wasn't shown live.)
Four years from now, Paris will host the final of Euro 2016 and, even as the Thalys express from Brussels passes the comparative graffiti study offered by the grimmer banlieue and the suburban trains, it is hard not to think how much more enticing a prospect that tournament is, or at least should be, than the current one. France is a larger country than many Brits realise but as a matter of course has the infrastructure Poland and Ukraine have been struggling with or still lack, and there will be no shortage of sights to see around the football.
The format that was fixed here in 1984 was later improved upon, with recognition that the continent had 16 worthy finalists; until Euro 96 the World Cup had more European slots than the continental championship did and it was clear there were more serious contenders than reached the tournament proper. The point was proved beyond doubt by Denmark's victory in 1992 after being granted last-minute admission thanks to the outbreak of war in Yugoslavia.
Are there 24 teams worthy of inclusion, though? That will be the entry total in 2016.
There are some notable absences from Poland and Ukraine. Slovakia eliminated Italy to reach the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup. Switzerland went out at the group stage in South Africa but only after becoming the one team to beat Spain. Belgium are getting their act together; Bosnia-Herzegovina almost qualified. Sides who have not reached a tournament in a decade or more - a category into which Scotland, as well as Northern Ireland and Wales, now fall - will have a much greater chance. But there will be makeweights.
Nor is the format for 24 teams clear. That was the number of qualifiers for the four World Cups between 1982 and 1994. In the first of these, in Spain, the top two sides in six groups advanced to four three-team second-round groups, from which the semi-finalists emerged. This messy arrangement, which contributed to England being eliminated while unbeaten and handicapped by a contentious tie-break system, was immediately abandoned. From Mexico 86 to USA 94, the circle was squared by four third-placed teams joining the top two in a last 16, which meant 36 matches to eliminate only eight teams.
You can draw a line from the 1984 finals to France's successful bid for the 1998 World Cup, with Platini to the fore, and his role in organising that championship, which again France won, to his election to the UEFA presidency. Now it his job to make sure that a tournament that was made in his homeland is not broken there.
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More immediately on France's horizon is the challenge of facing England - or what is left of them - in Donetsk in their opening Group D game. Previous matches come to mind.
At Euro 92 in Malmo, I watched a goalless draw memorable only for Basile Boli's headbutt on Stuart Pearce and our plaintive chant of "All we are saying/is give us a goal". Twelve years ago here at the Stade de France, we were the guests for a game to celebrate the Euro 2000 triumph and to say farewell to the retiring Didier Deschamps and Laurent Blanc; Michael Owen was the party pooper, scoring an equaliser as a substitute in what proved to be Kevin Keegan's penultimate game in charge.
Four years ago Owen played his last international, in Fabio Capello's second match in charge, when we helped Raymond Domenech's side warm up for Euro 2008 with a spring Parisian friendly. Sightseeing, friends and football made an irresistible excuse for an extended trip although, as I had an early return to commute to work the morning after the match, the hotel I chose was right by the station and my window overlooked the Rue de Dunkerque and the Gare du Nord.
It was perhaps little surprise that there was no retreat from the street's bars until they closed on the night before the game, with many fans arriving on the Tuesday evening and also staying close to the route home, and there were England fans all over the city. But midway through the day of the match forgetfulness meant I had to return to the hotel - and astonishingly the road was full with the overflow of these bars of last resort, many hours before you would need to make the short RER trip to the Stade de France.
A recent addition to the sadly inadequate score of England songs is the adaptation of The Sloop John B, with a different version for each location in which the team play. Some contrasting recent examples: "Norway's so expe-ensive/I wanna go home" from the other Saturday; and from Sofia in September: "Cheap beer and stri-ippers/Don't wanna go home." Paris probably fell somewhere in between.
The poor England ticket sales for this tournament are not due simply to Donetsk's industrial nature and shortage of global landmarks. There are plenty of England fans for whom a good trip is measured purely in pints rather than sights and, provided they can secure the accommodation, they will be there.
The reports about hooliganism and racism in the host countries seem well-founded, but I approach the tournament with another fear. Down the years England's support has broadened, which has had a major part to play in our rehabilitation; what we see in Donetsk, especially, and Kiev may resemble the hardcore of old.