With the European Championship set to begin at last, Goal.com takes a satirical look at what to expect at the summer showpiece in Poland and UkraineBy Max De Luca
The wait is almost over with the tournament some consider harder to win than the World Cup set to kick off on Friday in Warsaw.
A plethora of storylines and subplots are set to dominate discussions in bars, cafes, piazzas and living rooms not only in Europe but across the planet.
Can Spain become the first team ever to win three straight major competitions? Will Germany be able to get over the proverbial hump after a number of close calls in recent years?
How far will the co-hosts progress? Will Roy Hodgson's depleted squad be able to defy the odds and make England proud?
The answers to those questions will be answered in due course, but in the meantime, Goal.com takes a light-hearted - yet realistic - day-by-day prediction of what is likely to take place in Poland and Ukraine during the next month...
8: After the encounter with Poland and Greece produces no goals and the clash between Russia and Czech Republic finishes in another scoreless snoozer, Uefa president Michel Platini proclaims a wildly successful opening day of the tournament with football the real winner.
9: Wesley Sneijder picks up a groin injury in Netherlands' 2-0 victory over Denmark and subjects his followers to an unhealthy dose of public twitter affection (PTA) prompting his embarrassed wife Yolanthe to promise to bring out the infamous thong she wore in the movie 'Turkse Chick' if the Inter playmaker stops tweeting.
Germany captain Philipp Lahm shuts down Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo and scores the winner for die Mannschaft but almost incites a riot in Lviv when he celebrates by taking off his jersey which reveals a 'free Yulia Tymoshenko' undershirt.
10: Sergio Busquets falls to the ground theatrically after Mario Balotelli whispers in his ear: "So what did you really say to Marcelo?" Balotelli receives his marching orders while Busquets has his man card permanently revoked.
Aiden McGeady pulls an Allen Iverson and says that practising is overrated and blames the extra strenuous training sessions for the Boys in Green's sluggish performance against Croatia.
11: Neo Nazi group Ukraine Patriot comes out in droves to support England captain John Terry but are left bitterly disappointed as France winger Hatem Ben Arfa nets the only goal of the game.
Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores a hat-trick against the visibly nervous co-hosts Ukraine and proclaims after the match that he is the best striker in Europe.
12: Still no goals in Group A as the usually more attacking Greece coach Fernando Santos quotes John 'Hannibal' Smith during his post-game press conference saying: "I love it when a plan comes together."
13: Cristiano Ronaldo is jeered mercilessly whenever he touches the ball in the second half of Portugal's disappointing loss to Denmark. When asked about his feelings concerning the boos, the Real Madrid ace says "my detractors are jealous of my boyish good looks and my vast wealth." The reporter points out that it was actually the Portuguese fans who were doing the jeering.
Mario Gomez opens the scoring for Germany but Arjen Robben has a chance to equalise late on from the spot. Manuel Neuer guesses right and stops the penalty. The Dutchman sees Thomas Muller clapping at the miss and slaps him in the face, reigniting the feud from their much-publicised dust-up 18 months ago.
14: Leonardo Bonucci is arrested in the Scommessopoli scandal while Giorgio Chiellini re-injures his thigh in training prompting Marco Materazzi to offer his services to the shell-shocked Cesare Prandelli. "I'll win us the tournament just like I did at the 2006 World Cup," the former Inter man says.
Spain's Fernando Torres beats Ireland keeper Shay Given four times, and is two goals shy of his total Premier League output in the entire 2011-12 campaign.
15: Andriy Shevchenko receives a raucous ovation from the Ukrainian faithful after he is forced off through injury in what will be his final game for the national team, no one clapping more furiously than 35-year-old's wife Kristen Pazik who can't wait to get back to the United States ASAP.
Olof Mellberg severely damages Sweden's hopes of progressing in the tournament after he breaks Ibrahimovic’s nose in a training ground bust-up. Nevertheless, the burly defender is given a standing ovation by his team-mates, coaches, backroom staff, journalists, WAGs, curious onlookers and the groundsman. The Swedes end up drawing with England and the Scandinavians celebrate a good night all around.
16: With all four teams deadlocked at three points apiece with no goals scored and none conceded, the eighth tiebreaker (two before the drawing of lots) is needed to determine that Russia and Greece advance to the quarters.
All you need is love | Sneijder scores both on and off the pitch
17: Ronaldo picks up the ball just past the halfway line and sprints past three defenders, before five lightning quick step-overs leaves another for dead. The Portuguese faithful are now on their feet, certain that they are set to witness a magical moment that will be talked about by future generations. With only the keeper to beat, he sends an exquisite chip that is set to bounce into the net but his ecstasy soon turns to agony as Nani inexplicably bundles the ball into the net from an offside position.
Denmark's Nicklas Bendtner scores two goals in a defeat by Germany but quickly points out after the game that his five-year plan to become the best striker in the world is right on track.
18: Slaven Bilic fails to learn his lesson from four years ago against Turkey as he joins in the wild celebrations after Nikica Jelavic gives the Croats the lead in the 90th minute against Spain but once again he is jolted by an equaliser at the death as his side crash out of the tournament at the group stage.
Sebastian Giovinco comes off the bench for Italy to score not only the winner against Ireland but the goal of the tournament, with the stunner garnering more hits on YouTube than Kate Upton doing the 'Dougie'.
19: English fans take to the streets of Donetsk after their elimination at the group stage, trashing the Ukrainian city and are soon joined in the melee by an army of stray dogs who somehow escaped the country-wide cull giving a new meaning to Dog Day Afternoon.
With all the focus on the ruckus in Donetsk, France quietly pick up their third straight victory in the tournament.
20: The FA fires Hodgson and names Harry Redknapp as his successor. Overtime and double pay are freely available to workers in Donetsk who spend the whole day cleaning up broken beer bottles and dog excrement from the day before.
21: Russia coach Dick Advocaat blames their 3-0 loss to Netherlands on the fact that his players did not sleep after Polish protesters kept them up the night before, accusing the country of masterminding the plane crash that killed former president Lech Kaczynski in 2010.
22: German chancellor Angela Merkel gives the team a pep talk before the game urging Germany to punish Greece and show them who is number one on the continent in more ways than one. Low's side's dutifully oblige with a 4-0 win.
23: Spain vs Sweden: Busquets and Andres Iniesta win two contentious penalties and Ibrahimovic vents after the match that the Barcelona conspiracy extends into the international arena. Rumours that the mercurial Swede wants to reunite with Jose Mourinho increase ten-fold the next day.
24: Italy crash out of the tournament as the makeshift centre-back pairing of Daniele De Rossi and Davide Astori are no match for Karim Benzema and Co.
25: A new scandal awaits the Italian national team as they touch down on the peninsula.
Homeward bound | Bendtner flies back to his home planet citing 'under-appreciation'
26: Three 'prominent' American journalists ask why Lionel Messi hasn't scored in the tournament yet.
27: Netherlands and Spain face off in a rematch of the 2010 World Cup final with Howard Webb once again the man in charge. Nigel De Jong karate kicks Xabi Alonso a-la-Johannesburg two years ago, with Webb wasting no time in giving the Manchester City enforcer his marching orders. "It wasn't a red card two years ago so why is it today?" De Jong asks incredulously. To which Webb replies: "Because two years ago you guys didn't pip United to the Premier League title."
28: Germany upend France in one of the most exciting games of the competition. Lahm hails his side's display and credits Low's decision to allow beer, cigarettes and women at the team hotel as a major reason for their success. The Bayern full-back also discloses he already has enough juicy material for another book.
29: Lahm signs new book deal worth €4.5 million.
30: Xavi and Bastian Schweinsteiger engage in some public mind games with the Barcelona star questioning if the Germans are so good at penalties then why did the Bayern man miss in the Champions League final. Schweini shrugs off the comments saying he doesn't listen to 32-year-old men who still live with their parents.
1: Germany avenge their loss in the last Euros by beating Spain 2-1 causing coaches around the continent to implement Low's sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll training method.
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