On at 07:53 CEST
When Michel Platini, then UEFA president, designed a multi-site Eurocup To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the tournament, I could not even imagine that a global pandemic would delay it a year and that it would condition the development of the competition so much. Twelve months after its original date and in complicated but manageable conditions, the great continental tournament gets underway with the Italy-Turkey that takes place tonight in Rome (9:00 p.m.).
If the Old Continent is the epicenter of world football (European teams have won the last four World Cups), the Eurocup is its maximum expression.
And as such, it gathers a roster of players that turns the tournament into a parade of stars. From Mbappé to Harry Kane, passing through De Bruyne, Griezmann, Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lukaku, Benzema or Depay, without forgetting De Jong, Modric, Courtois, Joao Felix or Gareth Bale. All the lights are already pointing to the eleven host cities of the championship.
France, in the ‘pole position’
There are no doubts about the favorites: the list is headed by France, current world champion, owner of a very solid block, both in defense and in core, and with an overflowing talent in attack, embodied in his new trident, Griezmann, Benzema and Mbappé.
Portugal will defend the title and has the ropes to do so. The Portuguese team is a breeding ground for talent and in recent years it has learned to compete with the best, ldevised by a Cristiano Ronaldo who refuses to face his football twilightoy that he will probably play his last European Championship.
Many analysts believe that it may be the England tournament, unprecedented in the competition’s record despite its undoubted historical weight.
With Harry Kane as the natural leader, the English team appears with world-class figures such as Sterling, Jadon Sancho or Rashford, but needs to show that when push comes to shove, it is a candidate with capital letters and without nuances.
Something similar happens with Belgium, led from the bench by Robert Martínez: a lot of offensive talent (the Hazard brothers, Lukaku, De Bruyne, Carrasco) and a first-rate goalkeeper, although their defensive system offers more doubts than certainties.
Germany is experiencing transition times (Joachim Löw will leave office after the European Championship) and reaches the European Championship without a defined figure, but with a very solid block, packed with players with many hours of flight (Müller, Kroos, Gundogan, Hummels and Neuer), exactly the opposite of what happens with Spain, also a candidate despite the problems that have haunted those of Luis Enrique in the final stretch of preparation.
In full generational change, the ‘Red’ seeks to complete a good tournament and convince, after his failures in the last major tournaments, Brazil 2014, France 2016 and Russia 2018. Since they brilliantly conquered the 2012 Euro Cup, Spain is an unrecognizable team in international championships.
Holland wants to be great again
Among the applicants, it is also worth mentioning the Netherlands, which appears in a great tournament after being absent from the Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup. The block built by Ronald Koeman is now led by Frank de Boer, who relies on the talent of De Jong and Depay to aspire to sign a great tournament.
Young people asking for passage
Beyond national teams and established players, the Eurocup will once again be an excellent springboard for players, especially the youngest, in the case of Jeremy Doku (Belgium), Denis Makarov (Russia), Gravenberch (Holland), Bellingham (England), Baumgartner (Austria), Musiala (Germany), Ampadu (Wales) or Pedri himself, symbol of the new generation of Spanish soccer players.
There will be no shortage of those who miss the absentees – some as illustrious as Van Dijk, Haaland, Ibrahimovic or Jan Oblak – but on the pitch, the show is assured.