The delayed Euro 2020 will finally get under way on Friday June 11, 2021, a year behind the official schedule.
The action kicks off at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, where Italy take on Turkey in front of 16,000 fans even though the Covid-19 pandemic is still set to cast a shadow over the tournament.
The continent-wide event, first envisaged by then-Uefa president Michel Platini when he announced the tournament would be held across Europe, will be played in front of limited crowds and with strict health restrictions in place.
Euro 2020 has been organized in the most complicated manner imaginable for players and fans with the 51 games taking place in 11 host cities around Europe which are:
Amsterdam (Netherlands) – Johan Cruyff Arena, Baku (Azerbaijan) – Baku Olympic Stadium, Bucharest (Romania) – National Arena Bucharest, Budapest (Hungary) – Puskás Arena, Copenhagen (Denmark) – Parken Stadium, Glasgow (Scotland) – Hampden Park and London (England) – Wembley Stadium.
Others stadiums includes: Munich (Germany) – Football Arena Munich, Rome (Italy) – Olimpico in Rome, Saint Petersburg (Russia) – Saint Petersburg Stadium and Seville (Spain) – Estadio La Cartuja.
Majority of the 11 venues, all in different countries, will only be partially-filled for matches, although Denmark on Thursday announced it would lift mask rules and allow 25 000 fans, instead of 16 000 set by UEFA to attend games in Copenhagen.
The tournament has however witnessed bad blood between some participating teams. Ukraine caused a kerfuffle by daring to include territory on a map on their jerseys that Russia invaded.
England supporters are booing their footballers before a ball has even been kicked due to the players taking a knee to support racial justice.
Over at the French camp, a controversy of a more traditional and tremendously French nature – in-fighting within the camp has hit the squad once again. Chelsea star Olivier Giroud has raised tension after claiming that some of the teammates don’t pass the ball to him, a statement that as seen bad reactions from Kylian Mbappe who took the remarks personal.
However, Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has assured the whole European Continent and football fans around the world that the tournament will be played on safe grounds.
“It will be the perfect opportunity to show the world that Europe is adapting to Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. “Europe is alive and celebrating life. Europe is back.”