The battle of Europe
In a few weeks' time, on a Thursday in June, an event relating to Europe will take place that will have far-reaching consequences for many people in the United Kingdom.
The outcome of this event is almost impossible to predict. Both sides have a good chance of winning. And for the losers, the consequences could be dramatic.
I am talking, of course, about the almighty battle scheduled for Thursday, 16 June.
What was that you said? You thought the UK's EU referendum was a week later, on Thursday, 23 June? Ah, well, it is, but that wasn't the event I was referring to.
Instead, I meant the England–Wales football match on 16 June in the French city of Lens. The two countries will meet in Group B of the Euro 2016 football championship, which runs from Friday, 10 June to Sunday, 10 July.
The winner of the game — in a group that also includes Russia and Slovakia — will have a good chance of reaching the knock-out phase. The losers could exit the tournament. England are the clear favourites, but the Welsh team includes a true superstar, Gareth Bale, currently playing for Real Madrid.
Many Europeans find it strange that the UK has four national football teams. As well as England and Wales, Northern Ireland are also taking part in Euro 2016, in Group C with Germany. The only one of the four "home nations" that failed to qualify is Scotland.
A draw is also a possible result in the England–Wales game, unlike in the EU referendum a week later. With around 45 million people eligible to vote, it is highly unlikely that the two sides will get exactly the same number of votes.
Recent polls suggest that the United Kingdom is leaning towards remaining in the EU, although, as in a football match, a dramatic event could swing the result in the last minute.
It is also possible that the nations of the UK will vote in different ways. Scotland and Northern Ireland seem certain to vote to stay in the EU. The results in Wales and England are much harder to call. A constitutional crisis could follow if parts of the UK are forced to leave (or stay in) the EU against the declared wish of their people.
But before the politics, British football will have its day. My money is firmly on England to beat Wales — and one week later, I expect the UK to vote to stay in the EU. But nothing will surprise me.
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