For those who aren’t football fanatics, it may be hard to understand why we love watching 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes.
But for those who love the sport, it’s one of the few things these days that can still excite us, or at least bring a smile to our faces.
Today, the 16th UEFA European Championship – Euro 2020 – will kick-off.
The tournament will take place in several countries across Europe over the course of a month.
Want to learn more about one of football’s most prestigious competitions? Well, you’ve come to the right place.
Here are 10 facts about Euro 2020, the competition with a rather confusing name.
It’s Like a World Cup But Just For European Teams
In the World Cup, countries who have qualified for the tournament compete with each other for the title of the best footballing nation in the world.
Well, the European Championship is like a World Cup, except it’s just for European teams.
So, if you thought you might see Singapore in the tournament, you’re sorely disappointed. (We’ve also never made it to a World Cup).
The Euros, just like the World Cup, runs every four years.
It Was Delayed By 1 Year Thanks to COVID-19
In 2050, the host of a new trivia quiz show will ask the seemingly easy question:
- What year was Euro 2020 held?
The contestant will answer “Uh, 2020 of course!”, and immediately lose his place in the game.
See, as the name suggests, Euro 2020 was supposed to be played in 2020. But thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, which forced us to cancel most events last year, the tournament was postponed to 2021.
But the organisers kept the name, and so Euro 2020 will be played in 2021.
COVID-19 Will Affect Fan Attendance at Stadiums
If you look around local football stadiums during matches, you’d notice that they’re mostly empty.
This was the case before and after the pandemic.
But in world-renowned and highly profitable competitions like the Euros, fan attendance is key.
However, while some stadiums will allow full capacity, others will only permit 50%, while some will only allow 25%.
After all, you can never be too safe during a pandemic.
24 Countries Will Be Involved
When the first Euros was first held in 1960, only four teams took part.
This format carried on until the 1980 tournament, where it increased to eight teams.
It was then doubled to 16 teams in 1996, a format that remained in place for five Euros until 2016.
In Euro 2016, as well as Euro 2020, 24 European countries will be vying for the prestigious trophy.
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 “Group of Death” Has the Euro 2016 Champions
In every football tournament, there will be a group dubbed the “Group of Death”.
Teams in this group don’t actually fight it out to the death Hunger Games-style, of course. It’s called the Group of Death because it’s the toughest group in the tournament to win or get through.
This year, the Group of Death is Group F, which has Portugal, Euro 2016’s winner. It also has footballing giants France and Germany, as well as Hungary.
Good luck, Hungary.
It Will Be Hosted in 11 Countries
Typically, the Euros and World Cup are held in one or two host countries.
But the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), which organises the competition, decided that Euro 2020 will be hosted in several nations as a “romantic” one-off event to celebrate the 60th “birthday” of the European Championships.
The 11 host cities are:
- Saint Petersburg
A Video Assistant Referee Will Be Used For The First Time
As you may know, if you watch football leagues like the English Premier League, organisers have incorporated technology into their refereeing decisions for the first time in history.
Hoping to minimise errors made by the referee, a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) – a referee far away from the stadium in a comfy studio somewhere – will study replays of any controversial incidents in order to help the match referee make decisions.
While it has minimised some errors, it has also made questionable decisions which have led to even more drama.
Since this will be the first time VAR is used in Euros, we can expect it to be a little more dramatic too.
Cristiano Ronaldo Will Be Playing In His 5th Euros Tournament
Cristiano Ronaldo, possibly the most famous active footballer, will be playing in his 5th European championships.
His first was in Euro 2004, where he scored two goals for his country Portugal.
He is the joint top scorer in European Championship history with nine goals – in 21 games across four different tournaments – and is the only player to score at four Euros.
He was part of the Portugal team that won Euro 2016, despite his team not winning a single group game.
At 36, he’s not the oldest player in the competition though.
The Oldest Player At Euros 2020 Will Be 38, While the Youngest Will Be 17
That title goes to Maarten Stekelenburg from the Netherlands. At 38 years and 258 days old, Mr Stekeleburg will be the oldest player at Euro 2020.
The youngest player in this year’s Euros will be Poland’s Kacper Kozłowski – one of two 17-year-olds in the tournament, the other being England’s Jude Bellingham.
Kozłowski only turns 18 in October.
51 Games Will Be Played – Groups Stages First, Then a Knockout Phase
The format of this year’s Euros will be the same as Euro 2016.
Each team will play the other three teams in their group once, and at the end of all the group fixtures, the top two in each group will proceed to the next round, along with the four best third-placed finishers.
The next round will be a knockout phase, meaning if you lose, you’re out of the competition.
The four rounds of the knockout phase are:
- Round of 16
The first match of the tournament will be played between Turkey and Italy at 3am (local time).
So, who are you putting your money on?
Featured Image: M.Moira/ Shutterstock.com