Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill praised the second half efforts of his side, as they came from a goal ...Sun, Jun 11 2017
We've got a big summer of international football coverage planned for you here at Extratime.ie, with four reporters and a photographer en route to France to bring you live coverage in and around the games, including all three Republic of Ireland group games.
To help you (and us) get in the mood, we've set up a fantasy league on UEFA.com – we can't guarantee it will be the Greatest Fantasy League In The World, but with a bit of luck there'll be no need for a Points Deducted column.
With a handful of ex-League of Ireland players at the Euros – and more still who've faced Irish sides in Europe – the race will be on to unearth the surprise gem of the tournament.
Ireland fans will undoubtedly flock to the likes of Wes Hoolahan and Shane Long, who started out at Cork City and Shelbourne respectively, but what of the other players to cross paths with League of Ireland sides in Europe?
What of the Swedes? In recent times they've tended to come second-best in clashes with League of Ireland clubs, but goalkeeper Andreas Isaaksson and veteran midfielder Kim Kallstrom can boast being part of the Djurgardens side that beat Shamrock Rovers 5-1 on aggregate in 2002.
And what of Austria striker Mark Janko, who was part of the Red Bull Salzburg side to break Bohemians hearts in the dying moments at Dalymount Park in 2009? Paired with Portugal, Iceland and Hungary, they're dark horses to fill their boots goalswise.
On the other end of the spectrum entirely, you have Cristiano Ronaldo, the most expensive player in the game at €12m, who made his Real Madrid debut against Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght, and who will look upon the same untested defences with gusto.
Or you could ignore the League of Ireland entirely and pick players objectively based on their ability, if that's what floats your boat. Robert Lewandowski is second most-expensive at €11.5m, and Thomas Mueller is a snip at €10.5m, but patriotic fans may be hoping Zlatan Ibrahimovic turns out to be a junk stock at €11m.
In midfield, Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne and Spain's David Silva are obvious picks at €10m, but does Eden Hazard's for warrant the hefty €9.5m price tag? Antony Martial looks a smart investment at €9m, while Robbie Brady's set-piece prowess could make him a shrewd investment at just €6m.
Spanish defenders Jordi Alba, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué are the most expensive defenders, but is that justified after they conceded seven goals at the World Cup two years ago? For solidity at the back and scoring potential going forward, players like Germany's Benedikt Howedes (a snip at €5m) and France's Laurent Koscielny have more potential.
In goal, Manuel Neuer is the most expensive option at €6m, and with goalkeepers bottoming out at €4m, picking one of the top goalkeepers is a no-brainer, even if he will have clubmate Lewandowski and Will Grigg to contend with. For back-up, is anyone prepared to make a call on who of Darren Randolph and Keiren Westwood will make Martin O'Neill's first XI?
And all this before our Senior Albanian Football Expert (ahem) fills you in on all the players you may not be that familiar with to begin with. But that's a discussion for another day.
HOW TO PLAY
1. Visit http://eurofantasy.uefa.com/ and sign in or register an account. Depending on your account history, you might need to add your team and pick your team colours before moving to the next step.
2. After logging in click the ‘Leagues’ table and click the ‘Join a League’ link. Enter the code for our league. Our league code is: 12693MTC
3. Good luck!