There’s no such thing as too much football. Exit the European leagues, enter the Euros 2020. It’s bound to be a summer of fun, glitz, glamour and the very much undesired disappointment.
Before the first whistle blows at Stadio Olimpico in Rome for Turkey vs Italy on June 11, let’s run you through five exciting storylines that'll unravel in the course of the tournament.
- The tournament runs from June 11 - July 12.
- There'll be 11 host cities across Europe.
- Portugal are the defending champions.
- Crowds of varying capacity will be allowed in all 11 host stadiums
- This edition marks the 60th anniversary of European championships
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Here we go
Will it come home for England?
Will it come home for England?
“Football’s coming home” was the catch-phrase that fans, pundits and the English media sang to serenade its England team throughout the 2018 world cup in Russia. Except that it never "came home."
The song originally titled “Three Lions” was released in 1996 when England hosted that year's Euros. It was meant to propel the home side to victory but instead endured and through the revised renditions has continued to endure nothing but turmoil after successive failures in major tournaments.
The semi-final and finals will be played at Wembley. Gareth Southgate and his boys will have the chance to make it all come true. They have Croatia, Czech Republic, and Scotland to contend with. Should they go past and get into the round of 16, the chant “It’s coming home” will only get louder.
The experience accumulated over the recent few years should suffice. The angst over penalty shootouts was finally broken when they beat Colombia 4-3 in spot kicks in the round of 16 in Russia. With one of the most exciting squads, there is no excuse for England.
English fans will be expecting nothing but silverware.
Lose or win. Will it matter for Joachim Löw’s Legacy?
The writing was on the wall for Joachim Löw but he decided to turn a blind eye. After prolonged agony in what some will refer to as "the champions curse", curtains will come down on his 15-year tenure at the helm of Die Mannschaft after the Euros.
He came second in Euro 2008, third in 2010 world cup, semi-finalists in Euro 2012, and won the 2014 world cup. With only one major trophy during his time, will the outcome of this competition have a bearing on his legacy?
Well, if you manage one of the best teams in world football, you’re constantly expected to deliver heaven. Especially with the kind of players Löw had - Philip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski, et al., You remember that cohort of players?
After this team withered and the seemingly loss of identity within how the current squad plays, Löw has long endured criticism over his decisions key among them freezing out of the “old guard” - Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels, and Jerome Boateng.
In his last tournament, he has decided to roll back on his decision. Muller and Hummels will be amongst his picks and with the avalanche of talent at his disposal, a little more is expected from this side.
Sadly, after almost two years of staleness, regardless of the outcome, you get the vibe that the die has already been cast and conclusions drawn as to where his legacy stands.
Karim Benzema. Will he pay off?
The last time Karim Benzema played for France was in 2016 against Armenia. He scored two times and since then, he's been snubbed.
After almost six years of wilderness from international football, Didier Deschamp handed Benzema a return back to Le Bleu.
The Real Madrid forward has been a bright spot at the heart of an uninspiring Los Blancos not just in the season gone by but in previous campaigns especially after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018. He was the club's top scorer this time around with 23 goals.
What does he bring to the team? Goals, leadership, and chemistry. He scores from the six yards area has a long-range shot on his foot and also knows how to assist. He's been able to show his scoring instincts and comes up with crucial goals to save the day.
Group of Death
Group of Death
This is the group that promises to have some of the most closely contested fixtures. Group F featuring France, Germany, Portugal and Hungary is undeniable the group of death.
Matches between France, Germany, and Portugal will be exciting ties. France are favourites to win the overall tournament, with Portugal being given a shot at that as well. They are defending champions after all.
Germany, who knows how they'll turn up? It's either as the mercurial well-oiled machine they are on paper or the chaotic and seemingly lost side. Regardless, they've got home advantage and must make it count.
Hungary's chances are not lost but you'd imagine, against the aforementioned opponents, are quite bleak. They'll host matches in Budapest with 100% crowd capacity but, I don't think that'll be enough to put off their competitors.
There's no tournament that lacks disruptors. And the Euros have a history of producing surprise upon surprise.
Greece 2004 comes to mind. Will this year's edition spring any of these? Get your bets in with as little as R20 at Gbets!
The world took notice of Iceland in the last championships not just for their performances but also for the thunderous Icelandic clap. Croatia, despite the talents they have, are underdogs and in 2018 quietly progressed to the finals.
Turkey has been at everyone's lips. One of their headline players Burak Yilmaz scored 16 goals and fired Lille to Ligue 1 title. Right-back Zeki Celik and forward Yusuf Yazici were also part of the Lille team. With all the hype around Turkey, it will be worthwhile to follow them.
Wales and Switzerland are the other dark horses.
Where to watch In South Africa: SuperSport / beIN Sports/ Star-Times.
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