What to expect from Euro 2020 - Fans, Fatigue & Favourites

Craig Humpage 3 weeks ago

With club football coming to an end, we look forward to the showpiece international tournament of the summer

By Craig Humpage
Editor-in-Chief, Sporticos
Published on Wednesday 19 May 2021

Football fans have been spoiled by a long season of constant football and the train isn’t stopping any time soon. As the domestic calendar for 2020/21 draws to a close, champions will be crowned, European places will be decided, and teams will be relegated. Then a little while later we will be treated to Europa League and Champions League finals to polish off what has been a rollercoaster of a season across Europe. But wait, we’re not done yet!

After a rest so short it could almost be described as pointless, Europe’s finest players will be back out there again to compete at Euro 2020. We know it’s confusing and some people are calling it Euro 2021, which makes more sense, but apparently it’s still Euro 2020. I guess UEFA had already paid several graphic designers and didn’t want to shell out for more logos and prints and so on. No problem. All that matters is that the Euros are here, and at least in one small way, football is most definitely coming home, to Wembley Stadium.

Here’s what you can expect from possibly the strangest iteration of an international tournament in living memory.

Host Countries (and more than two)

We are used to seeing two countries share the honour of hosting a major tournament. Think Japan and South Korea at World Cup 2002 or Poland and Ukraine at Euro 2012. What we haven’t seen yet is 11 host cities from 11 different countries hosting a tournament. It’s an interesting idea which could be cool but does present some strange and slightly unfair scenarios.

The games will be played in: Amsterdam (Netherlands), Baku (Azerbaijan), Bucharest (Romania), Budapest (Hungary), Copenhagen (Denmark), Glasgow (Scotland), Munich (Germany), London (England), Rome (Italy), Seville (Spain),Saint Petersburg (Russia)

Most of the host nations are represented at the tournament, but Azerbaijan and Romania unsurprisingly failed to qualify. Normally the host nation qualifies automatically so it will be weird to have games played in Baku and Bucharest but no sign of their national teams at the tournament.

It’s obvious that this concept was devised long before the coronavirus pandemic hit. To come up with an idea today whereby thousands of fans from different countries need to travel around Europe to different cities to follow their teams would be lunacy. Nonetheless, UEFA is proceeding with the plan as created. There will be warnings from governments not to travel but fans will go and they will be welcomed by the host cities who are all committing to various percentages of attendance. Dublin (Ireland) and Bilbao (Spain) were removed from the list after they refused to guarantee a minimum level of attendance in their stadiums due to Covid-19 restrictions.

One other issue with the plan is that it creates an element of unfairness. Usually one or two countries host all the games, fans travel to one place from all over and the only teams who really gain any advantage are those couple of host nations. Now we have 11 of the 24 teams gaining a significant advantage over the others. The nations which are hosting will play all their group games at home while their opponents are jet setting around Europe. In Group A for example, Italy will play all three games in Rome, while Wales will travel to Baku for their first two and then on to Rome for their third. The same pattern is repeated across all groups. It’s a little unfair and should favour the host nations greatly.

Fans in Stadiums

Every host city at Euro 2020 has committed to allowing fans inside stadiums at one percentage or another. Saint Petersburg and Baku are welcoming 50% capacity. Budapest actually hopes to achieve 100% capacity for its matches. Amsterdam, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Rome and Seville are guaranteeing 25-33%. London has confirmed 25% attendance for Wembley Stadium and Munich will have 22% of their stadium full.

It’s been a long old season of empty seats and fake crowd noise and as these past few days in the Premier League have shown, fans have a huge impact on the quality of the product. It will be a real pleasure to see fans from across Europe making some noise at these games. Budapest in particular should steal the show with that goal to achieve 100% capacity. This tournament could represent the light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic and the negative impact it has had on football.

Tired Legs

Both this season and last season have been impacted greatly by the Covid-19 pandemic. Outbreaks have weakened squads, some individual players have had lengthy periods on the sidelines, and all have been rushed off their feet playing a fixture schedule so intense that Jurgen Klopp doesn’t even have the time to complain about it. This will definitely impact the Euros. Most domestic European leagues will play their final game this weekend. Then next week we have the Europa League and Champions League finals. Then, within days of that final, many countries will begin a round of two international friendlies to prepare for the tournament and the following week we kick off with Turkey vs Italy on Friday 11 June.

Granted only those few players in the Champions League final will have that short turnaround and the others will have a little longer, but by no standards can this be described as a real break before a tournament. It’s been an issue for England squads for years but this time around it will even affect those players from other top European leagues who wrap up just a couple of weeks before their warm up friendlies begin.

How this will affect the quality on show at the tournament is unknown. Player fatigue could lead to defensive mistakes and goals galore, but that is probably wishful thinking. It’s much more likely that many big players will get injured either in the build up or during the Euros, that the overall play will be sluggish, slow and lacking in goals, and that many star names will be unable to shine as brightly as they would like to on the big stage. It is what it is, we are living in a pandemic and having a slightly disjointed, rushed Euros is better than not having one at all. Here’s to hoping that everyone can persevere and put on the best brand of football possible. Some nations of course will have so much strength in depth that they shouldn't be too adversely affected.

Breakthrough Moments for Young Superstars

Under the lights during a major international tournament, many prodigal talents have emerged. From an England perspective, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney come to mind. There are a lot of fantastic young players out there in Europe today and many of them have already proven themselves at the highest level, but there’s nothing like an iconic performance for your country to quieten the naysayers. Assuming they can overcome fatigue and avoid injury, here are some of the fantastic youngsters hoping to bolster their reputations even more at Euro 2020:

Phil Foden has broken through at Manchester City in a way which cannot be ignored. He simply must start for England and could well make the difference for them at the tournament. Erling Braut Haaland is a goal machine and is only getting better. Norway aren’t quite blessed with the same number of talented players as France, England or Belgium, but with Haaland, Martin Odegaard and some other great young talents, they could be a dark horse to go a long way. Then there’s names like Joao Felix, Kylian Mbappe and Kai Havertz that people will be expecting equally big things from.

This could be the tournament of the young superstar as perhaps they will be the only ones with enough energy left to make a difference.

Who will win?

At the time of writing, the bookies favourites to win are France, England and Belgium. They are closely followed by Spain, Germany and Portugal. Any of those six could lift the trophy without any real surprise. They all possess fantastic squads full of energy and talent.

England have come a long way in the last few years and are producing player after player. Their long term development plan seems to have paid dividends. It’s still a little surprising to see them as second favourites to win the tournament given their lack of pedigree but they will be disappointed if they don’t make a semi final.

France are of course the favourites on paper and for good reason. The World Champions simply have the best squad. Belgium will be disappointed if they don’t win any silverware with this golden generation of theirs. They will be pushing all the way. Spain and Germany are somewhat in transition but always capable of winning trophies. They are also developing some eye watering young talent.

The big surprise is that European Champions Portugal are rated so lowly. They are sixth in line. If you’re looking for a dark horse to win the tournament, there you have it. They have an abundance of young, skilful players as well as veterans and leaders who can inspire them to big things. Just looking at the spine of impenetrable centre half Ruben Dias of Manchester City, creative wizard Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United and iconic captain Cristiano Ronaldo is enough to make anyone a believer.

Outright Prediction: Portugal to win

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