After six years away, England are in a quarter-final, against Italy tonight. Back at the peak of the "Golden Generation" this was a regular occurrence – 2002, '04 and '06 – before the wilderness years. The result is that being there feels more like an achievement than an entitlement. They might well be outpassed, but there is an honesty to this campaign. If it does have to end, it will not do so in dismay.
This, unfortunately, is a squeezed Wimbledon. The Olympic Games are consuming the sporting attention of London. The European Championship climaxes during Wimbledon's first week. It is a shame, as this is an unambiguous golden age for the men's game; but whatever Novak Djokovic and friends do this summer, it may end up as a footnote.
There was a time when the Varsity cricket match – which is played in Oxford this time – was an audition for the England captaincy: Mike Atherton and Peter May played for Cambridge; Colin Cowdrey and Douglas Jardine for Oxford. Of course, this is not how these things are done any more, in the enlightened 21st century; Andrew Strauss received his further education at Durham.
Is this the summer of Cristiano Ronaldo? His club form has been scintillating for years, but now he is finally reproducing it in a major tournament. With Portugal just one game away from an international final, expect the very best of him in the first semi-final.
Those who are keen to see how Team GB athletes are preparing for the Olympics can watch the European Championships from Helsinki. Injuries, presumably, would be rather poorly received.
There is a long list of reasons why we love Ashes cricket, but rarity is certainly high up there. The more it happened, the less important it would be. The ECB seem determined to test this to destruction this summer by inviting the Australians over for a one-day international series, which starts at Lord's on Friday. The cricket will be good, of course, but it will be difficult to avoid the sense that something is being undermined here.
In the likely event that England are no longer in the European Championship come Saturday, fans can soothe themselves with the Tour de France. With Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins's Team Sky exploits, the British have never been better placed, and can record successes even before the Olympics start.
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