EURO 2020 begins

EURO 2020 gets under way on Friday and what was already going to be a unique tournament will be notable for several other reasons too.

The competition keeps its name even though it was delayed for a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will now run from 11 June to 11 July 2021 across 11 countries, separated by 4,766km.

A total of 24 national teams will participate.

With Wembley hosting group games, a last-16 tie, both semi-finals and the final, England would only have to play one match abroad if they win their group and go all the way.

The other host cities are Glasgow, Amsterdam, Baku, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Munich, Rome and Seville.

Thousands of fans who bought and paid for tickets in 2019 have had their tickets cancelled and refunded as a result of the smaller capacities.

But supporters lucky enough to keep their tickets will have a few hurdles to clear before being allowed to attend games.

The decision on how many fans could attend was made by the individual regions/countries and not UEFA.

Teams will be allowed to select a 26-player squad instead of the usual 23 to lessen the load on players after a compressed club season and give managers more options in case of COVID-19 outbreaks.

A rule allowing each team to make up to five substitutes per game had already been confirmed.

Squads will be in bubbles and tested before each game. There has been no mandatory vaccination of players.

France are considered by many as the favourites. The world champions (and EURO 2016 finalists) have a hugely impressive starting XI and squad depth and are boosted by the return of prolific Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema from a long international exile.

They are in a tough group with defending champions Portugal and 2014 World Cup winners Germany. All three sides could qualify for the last 16 though.

This could be one of the last chances for Belgium’s golden generation to win a major tournament. They top the FIFA world rankings.

Luis Enrique’s Spain — champions in 2008 and 2012 — come into the tournament in good form, with only one defeat in 24 games.

BBC Football

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