There is no escape. Andy Townsend’s on the telly, single-handedly dismantling the English language, while every second person you see is wearing a football shirt. It can only mean one thing: Euro 2016 is about to kick off.
But that’s just a piddling football tournament. We decided to take things one step further by seeing who would come out on top if the competition was about the health of the 16 nations taking part. So, we arranged them into their real Euro 2016 groups and set a different health challenge for each knockout round.
The group stages are all about hanging in there, so there was only one way to score Round 1: male life expectancy, in years, using the latest mortality data. Now, if everyone’s ready? Phweee!
With the group stages done, this is where things get serious. And each team will be hoping to score less than the opposition – we knew Emile Heskey would come in handy for something because this time we’re pitting them against each other for the percentage of male population who are obese…
We’re down to the last four, and now is not the time to run out of puff. That being the case, along with the fact that the WHO says cigarettes are the biggest cause of preventable, premature death in the world, we’re going to test the semi-finalists for their smoking levels. Once again, the lowest score wins, as these figures are the percentage of male daily smokers over the age of 15.
Wouldn’t you just know It. Sven’s men get Sven’s other men in the semi – and Sven’s other men win. Although the proportion of Englishmen who smoke has fallen from 40 per cent 25 years ago, Sweden proceed comfortably. England have gone out and Sven’s lost his job – yet hang on, there he is on the touchline, happily bobbing up and down like Ulrika Jonsson’s duvet. Traitor!
Now there’s a scoreline worthy of a semi-final. In real football, that would be a goal every 73 seconds, which barely leaves time for Ruud Van Nistelrooy to start a fight with anyone. Still, the Dutch must be doing something right. Despite – or perhaps because of – their laid-back attitude to cannabis, they smoke less than the Swiss and edge them out to take their place in the final.
England stayed in. We’ve done this properly, you know. The winners of Group A play the runners-up from Group B, OK? So who ate all the pies? Not Wayne Rooney – the Greeks get fed up with running around well before extra time.
France, meanwhile, are kicking themselves (pity Frank Lebouef isn’t playing) for losing to England. They would have romped this one with a score of 9.6. Shame.
Obesity rate (%)
You see, the runners-up from Group A then play the winners of Group B. We worked all this out after staring at the official Euro 2004 website until our eyes bled. Which means that underachieving Spain miss out once again, while the unfancied Swiss pull off the performance of the quarter finals with the lowest score of the lot.
Appropriately, another one of the ‘big’ nations crash out. The Germans struggled to make it
this far, and – forgive us our national stereotypes-were clearly too busy shovelling down sausages and insanely strong lager to get lucky again.
Sweden, meanwhile, are emerging as favourites, if only for the prevalence of blonde female fans.
Obes rate %
The tie of the round. The Dutch win revenge for their heartbreaking semi-final defeat to 11 Italian defenders at Euro 2000 by, well, simply being less fat, but this time Italy are unlucky – they have the third best score in the quarter finals but still go out. In real football, that’s sort of like losing 6-5 in extra time. To a goal from Jaap Stam.
Getting to any final is all about stamina – so what better way to decide what we’re sure you’ll agree has been a thrilling tournament than the two finalists’ level of fitness? These figures are the percentage of people who exercise for at least three and-a-half hours every week enough to benefit their health. Highest score wins…
It’s lucky both sides have good life expectancy, because it takes an age to get through the preliminaries. The camera pans along the teams as they line up for the anthems – there’s Edgar Davids trembling in his wraparound sunglasses/ facemask thing. And is that Henrik Larsson, wishing he was used to playing opposition marginally better than Dumbarton? In the end it doesn’t matter. Although the Dutch put in a strong performance – they are fifth overall in the EU ‘activity table’ – no country in Europe takes more exercise than Sweden. They have the combination of health, fitness and pneumatic fans essential for success on and off the footy field.
Nice one Sven.