By Ken Andrew
Thumbnail Photo Courtesy of uefa.com
The Euros are football tournaments that attract large audiences throughout the world because of the number of elite teams in the competition. The television audiences at times even rival those of the World Cup which is an incredible feat. This year’s tournament is set to be one of the toughest in recent years as the qualified national teams have an array of talent at their disposal. Before we look at the favorites, underdogs, and dark horses, let us get to understand this year’s tournament format.
Due to the severity of the pandemic last year, the tournament had to be postponed and is set to take place a year after its original date; it will run between June 11 and July 11, 2021. Even though the year of competition has changed, the tournament retains the name Euro 2020. Twenty-four European national football teams have secured qualifications for the tournament which, for the first time, will not have designated host countries. Games will be hosted in eleven venues in different cities across Europe. The host cities are Amsterdam, Baku, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, London, Munich, Rome, St Petersburg, and Seville. Out of the eleven venues, nine are set to have a certain percentage of spectators allowed but everything is subject to change when necessary due to the pandemic still being a nuisance to sports and live events.
The teams will be divided into six groups of four. The top two teams in each group and the four best third-placed teams will go through to the round of 16. The teams will have a rest day on June 25. The first game is set to take place on Friday 11th June at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy with a resurgent Italy team- which failed to qualify for the past world cup- facing the high-flying Turkey national team. The Azzurri (The Italy national football team) had flawless run-through qualifications and look to be serious contenders this year boasting a very hardworking squad. The current champions, Portugal, will still be the favorites of many with talisman Cristiano Ronaldo looking to lead his team to a third consecutive European Trophy after past successes at Euro 2016 and The UEFA Nations League in 2019. They have their work cut out for them as they are set to face France and Germany in Group F, which is said to be the group of death. The French are boosted by the return of Karim Benzema- who is coming off three spectacular club seasons with Real Madrid- to the national setup. England, who have always been favorites at the Euros, boasts a squad full of exciting youth prospects with the inclusion of Marcus Rashford, Trent Alexander Arnold, Bukayo Saka, Jude Bellingham, and Phil Foden who are well on their way to being the best talents in the world. English manager Gareth Southgate is under lots of pressure to deliver and has also been criticized for the inclusion of four right-backs in the squad.
The Dutch national team has also been on a rise after missing out on the 2018 World Cup with most of their stars having great club seasons and look to be hungry for some international glory. Spain on the other hand look to be troubled with many of their regulars missing out due to injuries. Real Madrid stars Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal have had troubled seasons with injuries disrupting their form and game time and eventually costing them places at the Euros. How will Spain fair without the presence and leadership of Sergio Ramos? Furthermore, the decision on who should be the Spanish first-choice goalkeeper seems a tough one to make with inexperienced but talented starters for their teams; Roberto Sanchez and Unai Simon are tussling for the number one spot with Man United’s David De Gea who had a strong end to the season.
Scotland, who have qualified for their first major finals in twenty years will look to prove a point against Europe’s elite with their key players being Andrew Robertson, Scott McTominay, Kieran Tierney, and John McGinn all of whom have been integral in their clubs in the past season. The Turkish squad also looks like one to shine with Hakan Calhanoglu and Burat Yilmaz the standout names in the squad. World Cup finalists Croatia will look to have another stellar tournament with thirty-five-year-old Luka Modric still going strong.
So, will it be France’s flair or England’s youth, Cristiano’s charisma, or Lewandowski’s finesse? The Dutch resurgence or the Italian resurgence? Will Scotland or Turkey challenge despite their statuses as underdogs? Whatever happens, we are set to experience one of the best international football tournaments in recent years. Bring on the Euros!