Countdown to Euro 2020 As Leading Continental Football Festival Beckons

The 2020 UEFA European Football Championship, also called the UEFA Euro 2020 or simply Euro 2020, is the 16th UEFA European Championship. The quadrennial international men’s football championship for Europe is organised by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). The tournament would be held in 11 cities in 11 UEFA countries.

It was originally scheduled to take place from 12 June to 12 July 2020, but the tournament was postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and rescheduled for ‪11 June to 11 July 2021‬.  

The competition was postponed in order to reduce pressure on the public services in affected countries, and to allow time for the completion of domestic leagues that had been suspended due to the pandemic. The tournament will still retain the name “UEFA Euro 2020”.

The prize money was finalised in February 2018. Each team receives a participation fee of €9.25 million with the winner able to earn a whopping €34 million.

UEFA said the tournament is being hosted in several nations as a “romantic” one-off event to celebrate the 60th “birthday” of the European Championship competition. 

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With remarkable success recorded in the containment of the pandemic in Europe, spectators will be allowed into match venues at varying degrees. Extant COVID-19 guidelines will be applied with cautious optimism at the stadia, which will not operate at full-capacity.

Portugal are the defending title holders of the European Championship having won the 2016 edition in what was their first tournament win. They defeated host team, France, in the final of the competition at the Stade de France, with Eder scoring in the dying minutes of stoppage time to clinch the 1-0 victory.

Euro 2020 will feature 24 teams – 20 from automatic qualification and the remaining four decided through the play-offs. The 24 teams to take part in the continental showpiece are divided into four teams of six groups.

They include Group A (Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland); Group B (Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia); Group C (Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, North Macedonia); Group D (England, Croatia, Scotland, Czech Republic); Group E (Spain, Sweden, Poland, Slovakia); and Group F (Hungary, Portugal, France, Germany).

Football enthusiasts all over Europe and beyond are looking forward to this continental showpiece which promises to be thrilling and action-filled.

The 11 cities that will host the matches are Rome (Italy), Baku (Azerbaijan), Copenhagen (Denmark), St. Petersburg (Russia), Bucharest (Romania), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Glasgow (Scotland), Budapest (Hungary), London (England), Munich (Germany), and Seville (Spain).

Antoine Griezmann of France won the Golden Boot for scoring the highest number of goals in the 2016 edition with 6 goals. Will he be able to repeat the feat this time around too?

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, Ciro Immobile of Italy, and Romelu Lukaku of Belgium are among the top scorers in Serie A, while Kylian Mbappe of France and Memphis Depay of Netherlands are leading the way in Ligue 1.

Robert Lewandowski leads the highest scorer in the German Bundesliga and will fancy his chances of taking home the individual laurel for this competition.

Harry Kane of England, who was the top scorer in the competition’s qualifiers, is the top favourite to win the Golden Boot. He is at the top of the Premier League scoring charts with Bruno Fernandes of Portugal, another challenger, in third.

As all road leads to ‪July 11‬ at the Wembley Stadium in London where the final will be played, which team is likely to win this prestigious competition?

England are in uncharted territory as they head into the tournament as favourites to win the trophy. Gareth Southgate led the Three Lions to the World Cup semi-final three summers ago, and some of his raw youngsters from that run have since flourished with another two years of development now behind them.

Meanwhile, world champions France are perhaps being underestimated. Didier Deschamps still has a pool of talent at his disposal, but the fact they will not have home advantage at any point this summer could count against them.

The Netherlands is also fancied to put together a decent charge for silverware, with a crop of impressive stars behind their resurgence under Ronaldo Koeman and, more recently, Frank de Boer. The long wait for Euro 2020 could in fact count in their favour with an extra 12 months to continue building their momentum.

Elsewhere, Belgium coach Roberto Martinez arguably has the best squad depth and their ‘Golden Generation’ will be expected to be a top contender for the Euro 2020 crown after their run to the World Cup semi-final in 2018.

Germany, who holds the joint-record for winning the competition highest number of times, are always hungry for success having recorded their last continental triumph in 1996.

In what will be Joachim Low’s final outing as Germany manager, expectations are high that he will bow out with a silverware.

Spain, who has seen their football influence drop rapidly over the years, are still a formidable force and will fancy their chances to go toe-to-toe with any of the other contestants.

Alongside Germany, they are the only team in the history of the competition to have won it 3 times with their last triumph coming in the 2012 edition.

Italy, one-time champion of the competition in 1968, will look forward to be a reckoning force again on the continent after their struggles since winning the 2006 World Cup. This follows manager Roberto Mancini’s insistence they can match any of the other contestants in all aspects.

Portugal, despite being the defending champions are outsiders this time around and like in 2016, they could emerge again as the dark horse of the mundial.

With the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes amongst their ranks, the team will be brimming with self-belief that they can go all the way and win the showpiece back-to-back like Spain did in 2008 and 2012.

More so, Poland buzzing behind their talismanic hitman Robert Lewandowski who has been in sensational form for his clubside this season will be eager to defy the odds and upset the pre-competition favorites.

Conversely, Croatia, a home to many decent and talented footballers, will hope to consolidate on their 2018 World Cup final appearance as a springboard to challenge for the trophy this time around.

Finland and North Macedonia will make their European Championship debut as minnows and underdogs, having never previously qualified for a major tournament.

Scotland, a co-host of the tournament, qualified for their first major international tournament since the 1998 FIFA World Cup, and their first European Championship since 1996. 

The Netherlands and Denmark returned after missing out in 2016, with the Dutch featuring in a major tournament for the first time since the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Equally for the first time, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Wales reached successive European Championship tournaments.

For the exclusive one month period that the competition will last, an exciting footballing fiesta surely awaits fans who have waited patiently for an extra year to witness the fun and thrill of the round-leather sport.

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