We are all downhearted, tired, upset and sad, about the events of the last 14 months and the UEFA Euro 2020 is a welcome distraction. With the first match due to start on Friday, the 11th of June at 8pm with Italy versus Turkey which is being held in Rome.
Originally it was supposed to be held between the months, June and July 2020. Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, this tournament was deferred for a year and was moved to 2021.
It is being held in 11 different nations across Europe. 2020 was to be the 60th anniversary of the first European championships, which were held in 1960. The current champions of the European championships are Portugal, who beat France, 1-0, in extra-time in the 2016 European championships. This tournament is likely to be the closest and most exciting one in many decades.
There are 6 groups of 4 nations each:
In Group A, is Italy, who last won the European championships in 1968, and were runners up in 2012, Turkey, who came close to reaching the final in 2008, Wales, who likewise came close to reaching the final in 2016 and finally Switzerland, whose best European championships were in 2016, when they reached the final 16.
In Group B, is Denmark, who won the European championships in 1992, against all odds, Finland, who are qualifying for their maiden European championships, Belgium, whose best finish was runner-up in 1980, and Russia, who won the European championships in its first tournament in 1960 and recently, reached the semi-finals in 2008, losing out to Spain on that occasion.
In Group C, is the Netherlands, who were the champions in 1988, and last reached the group stages of the European championships in 2012. Ukraine, who are only taking part in its third European championships, after being the joint-host nations in 2012 and qualified for the 2016 European championships. Austria, who is likewise, only taking part in its third European championships, after it hosted the championships in 2008 and qualified for 2016, and North Macedonia who are taking part in their first ever European championships.
In Group D, is England, whose best finish were the semi-finals in 1996. Croatia, who reached the quarter-final stages on two occasions, 1996 and 200. Scotland, who are taking part in their third European championships, after previously qualifying in 1992 and 1996. Finally the Czech Republic, whose best finish were the semi-finals in 2004, since becoming Czech Republic.
In Group E, is Spain, who previously won the European champions in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Sweden, whose best finish was in 1992 when they came third place. Poland, whose best finish in the European championships was in 2016, when they bowed out to Portugal in 2016, in the quarter-finals after losing on penalties. And finally Slovakia who are taking part in their second European championships after being eliminated in the group stages in 2016.
Group F is commonly known as the group of death. It consists of Hungary, who reached the last 16 in 2016, came third in the 1964 European nations cup and fourth in the 1972 European championships. Germany, who won the European championships on three occasions, in 1972, 1980 and 1996. France who were champions in 1984 and 2000, and were runners-up in 2016, when they were the host nation. Finally Portugal, who are currently the reigning champions of the European championships.
Not a single group is easy and it is all to play for, in all 6 groups of 4 nations. Group F is of particular interest as it consists of three so-called elite nations and one cannot forget Hungary, who have performing well as of late.
One cannot also forget Group A, which consists of Italy, Turkey, Wales and Switzerland, with the first match in that respective group between Italy and Turkey, being crucial for each nation, to progress out of the group stages.
Group B is intriguing, as it consists of Belgium, Russia and Denmark, who have strong teams, as well as Finland, who are taking part in their first European championships and have an ever improving team.
Group C may be viewed as the slightly easier group in the tournament. The Netherlands are likely to progress out of the group. But it is all to play for, especially for the runners-up as it is not necessarily assured that The Netherlands will finish on top in that group.
We have three other nations, including Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia (who are taking part in its first ever European championships), who will be playing to the best of their abilities to progress out of Group C.
Group D can be viewed as another intriguing group consisting of England, Croatia, Czech Republic and Scotland.
While England may be favourites to finish on top in this group, one cannot rule out Croatia, who reached the World Cup final in 2018. Scotland, who are taking part in their first European championships in this century as well as the Czech Republic will be looking to spring a surprise on the two favourites.
Once again, Group E can be analysed as yet another group of interest. All nations in that group, Spain, Sweden, Poland and Slovakia are closely matched.
Whilst Spain in their prime may have been seen as untouchable, it is not the team that it once was. Meanwhile, Sweden, Poland and Slovakia are competitive nations and will be aiming to challenge Spain for top spot and progression onto the last 16.
As stated earlier, Group F is likely to be the tightest of all groups. While it is too early to make any imperative predictions, I believe that Groups A and F could be the crucial decider for the finalists of this tournament.
You have two strong nations, Italy and Turkey, in Group A, with the latter, having a much younger team than in recent tournaments and in Group F, you have, at least, three strong nations and you cannot rule out Hungary, whose team is getting stronger.
It will be great viewing for everyone around the world, when it gets started on Friday, this week, at 8pm and the final is due to take place on the 11th of July.