The UEFA European Football Championship, commonly known as the UEFA European Championship (informally, the Euros) will kick off on Friday June 11 for a mad month which will see the final take place at London’s Wembley Stadium on Sunday July 11.
England, alongside France, are the bookmakers’ favourites to lift the trophy. Personally, I can’t see it. But I have been saying that for every major tournament since 1966, each time hoping to be proved wrong.
I don’t expect to be proved wrong this time. But, at least England have the very real advantage of both semi-finals and the final being staged in London. There’s just the (not inconsiderable) question of them managing to get that far and Wembley being allowed to have enough fans in to constitute the so-called 12th man.
On paper, where, of course, the game isn’t played, the English would seem to be in a reasonable initial grouping. In Group C they will face Croatia, Czech Republic and the “old enemy” Scotland. Could be better; could be a lot worse. Certainly I expect the Scots to raise their game against England, but I can’t see them getting much change out of the other two.
The Scots will take great delight if they can create a dent in the English hopes. For them, it would be like winning the whole thing. For me, with several good friends from Scotland, I would be happy if both teams got through to the latter stages of the competition. Wish my Scottish friends would feel the same.
I wonder how many times the TV companies will roll out Paul Gascoigne’s wonder goal against the Scots in 1996? Just enough to tick off everyone from north of Hadrian’s Wall is my guess.
Remember, there are six groups and the top two teams from each and four teams with the best third place records will make up the final 16.
Wales also managed to avoid some of the historic big boys. Their Group A pitches them up against Italy, Switzerland and Turkey. Will Wales make it into the last 16? If they have a fit Gareth Bale, I wouldn’t write-off their chances. Without Bale, I can’t see it somehow.
In my estimation the “pig” of a group is Group F – formed of current World Champions France, current Euros champions Portugal, Germany and Hungary. If ever there was a “Group of Death” in a major football finals it’s that one. That said, I fully expect the third placed team to make it through as one of the best four outside the top twos.
In that group, Germany are scheduled to play all three of their games in Munich. Indeed, such is the set-up of these finals that many teams will enjoy some home advantage (provided Covid regulations allow the fans in).
The full list of venues is as follows:
• Wembley Stadium – London, England*
• Allianz Arena – Munich, Germany*
• Stadio Olimpico – Rome, Italy*
• Olympic Stadium – Baku, Azerbaijan
• Krestovsky Stadium – Saint Petersburg, Russia*
• Arena Nationala – Bucharest, Romania*
• Johan Cruyff Arena – Amsterdam, Holland*
• Estadio de la Cartuja – Sevilla, Spain*
• Puskas Arena – Budapest, Hungary*
• Hampden Park – Glasgow, Scotland*
• Parken Stadium – Copenhagen, Denmark*
* Will play host to their own nation in at least one match
Dublin’s Aviva stadium had been scheduled to host a couple of games, but these were snapped up by Wembley after the Irish were unable to give the required Covid assurances. Bilboa in northern Spain also missed out for similar reasons with Seville getting the nod instead.
The opening match will be in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico when the Italians face Turkey. The bad news for Thailand-based soccer fans is that the game kicks off at 8pm (UK time) so 2 in the morning for you.
Sadly, this in the early hours story will apply to many of the games. However, the first matches for England, Wales and Scotland (against Croatia, Switzerland and Czech Republic, respectively) will each kick off at 2 in the afternoon (UK time), thankfully on different days. So, all will be available to watch at a very civilised 8pm in Thailand.
Thereafter the TV timetable is not so good. England’s other two games will be broadcast at 2 in the morning in Thailand; as will Scotland’s (one of them against England, of course). Wales will face Turkey and Italy in 5pm (11pm in Thailand) matches.
Who will win it?
Well, perm any one from half a dozen. It’s not great punditry to trot out all the usual names… one of France, Germany, England, Portugal, Italy and Belgium is easy to predict. I will go for Belgium.
Well, I would fancy Holland if Virgil Van Dijk were fit (see how Liverpool struggled without him). Poland has a chance with super striker Robert Lewandowski (again, if fit).
Whichever team triumphs, I’m just happy to be avoiding the summertime blues when the Premier League is not on the TV.
Here’s to a great Euros. Just wondering how many six-packs of lager to get in…
Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.