UEFA 2020 Euro Championship – Prologue
Well, we’ve got there. A year later than scheduled but the 16th edition of the UEFA European Championships will start on 11 June in Rome with Italy hosting Turkey. It will be unlike any other version of the tournament held to date, not only because as a celebration of 60 years since the first Finals in 1960, it will be spread across various countries, but that due to COVID there will be restrictions on the numbers attending each game.
Indeed, I’ve already got the hump with the competition because despite initially having a ticket for the Scotland v Czech Republic at Hampden Park, I lost out in the ballot when the reduced capacity was imposed. So instead of taking in the ‘live’ matchday experience, I’ll be watching that game and the tournament as a whole at home, with the occasional visit to a pub to see the action.
So let’s remind ourselves of a few things. Portugal are the current holders having won the trophy in 2016 beating hosts France 1-0 thanks to an Eder goal in extra-time. This tournament will feature 24 with six groups of four, with the top two progressing, alongside the four third placed teams with the best records, to give us the last sixteen teams. The format is then straight knock-out leading to the Final. The six Groups are as follows:
Group A: Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, Wales
Group B: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Russia
Group C: Austria, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Ukraine
Group D: Croatia, Czech Republic, England, Scotland
Group E: Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden
Group F: France, Germany, Hungary, Portugal
What I will say is that I’m not fan of the competition being this size. It seems crazy to have a full round of Groups games which only eliminates eight teams. For me, the tournament should be 16 teams (i.e. four Groups of four, as was the format in 2012), with winners and runners-up through with the eight teams into a knockout situation. With 24 teams in the Finals, that is 44% of the total UEFA Membership (currently 55), which to me dilutes the quality of the competition.
However, as we know with all UEFA tournaments this is about more games, more TV coverage, more profit and more opportunity for the ‘big countries’ to ensure progress to the knockout phase. Surely not in the overall interest of the game, but then when has that mattered to the authorities in charge of football.
Gut feeling going into the tournament…winners to be one of France, Germany, Italy or Portugal. I fear England will have a shocker and not make it out of the Group. Just look at The Three Lions record over the years at the Euros – less that inspiring, and allied to real concerns about the defence, it adds up to a bad feeling. Still, that all awaits us as the first ball is kicked tomorrow.
Que sera sera…Whatever will be, will be…