Europe’s going football mad; you’re invited to join in the fun

Europe’s going football mad; you’re invited to join in the fun

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

From lively nights in bars and restaurants to watching major sporting events, we’ve missed an awful lot over these past few months. But a welcome sign that much of Europe is taking one step closer toward normalcy is fast approaching.

Every four years, Europe’s citizens find the perfect excuse to don the colors of their respective national flags and cheer their squads toward victory. We’re talking soccer here, or football, as the beautiful game is known to the rest of the world.

The men’s championship soccer match known as the Union of European Football Associations European Football Championship, or in simpler terms, the UEFA EURO 2020, was slated for last year, but of course, COVID-19 put those plans on pause. But it’s better late than never, and now the show can begin.

From June 11 through July 11, 24 teams will battle it out to become Europe’s newest champions. To celebrate the tournament’s 60th anniversary year, organizers scrapped the usual pattern of selecting a single host nation in favor of allowing 12 cities across Europe to host matches. These host cities include Amsterdam, Netherlands; Baku, Azerbaijan; Bucharest, Romania; Budapest, Hungary; Copenhagen, Denmark; Glasgow, Scotland; London, England; Munich, Germany; Rome, Italy; Saint Petersburg, Russia and Seville, Spain.

To come out on top, a team must advance through three matches of the group stage, a round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and win its final match. The winner in 2016, the last time the tournament was held, was Portugal, and the runner-up was France.

Six groups, consisting of four teams, have been determined by qualifying matches that began way back in March of 2019. The teams and groups are as follows:

  • 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
  • Group F: Hungary, Portugal, France, Germany

The Stadio Olimpico in Rome has the honor of hosting the opening game, a match between Turkey and Italy. All hosting stadiums will have fans in their stands, whose numbers will be determined by the COVID-19 regulations currently in place at the local level. The final match will play out in London’s Wembley Stadium.

While your chances of scoring a ticket to a match are slim to none, there’s no reason to despair. As the countries we call home slowly open up to allow drinking and dining in beer gardens and sidewalk cafés, there’s more chance you can join the locals in cheering their countries to victory. Invest a few euros in the purchase of a jersey, flag, lei or other such fan article, dress for the weather, take your seat at an outdoor table and cheer, if not for a specific land, for victory against our common foe: the virus that’s kept us apart for way too long already.

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