Football is home… at last!
The Euros are here, and with eight games at Wembley and three at Hampden Park in Scotland, fans are really being treated to the UK.
England last hosted a major tournament for Euro 1996 25 years ago – a reminder current boss Gareth Southgate won’t need.
In the semi-final against Germany, Gaffer missed a crucial penalty as the Three Lions fell short.
Now Southgate is hoping to lead their young and spirited squad to glory under Wembley Arch.
The coronavirus pandemic delayed the tournament by a year – but that’s no longer stopping the Beautiful game from taking center stage.
Here, SunSport takes a look at the big players in celebration of football starting tonight with Turkey against Italy at the Stadio Olympics in Rome.
England and Southgate may step up
By Dave Kido, Chief Football Writer for SunSport
When Southgate was appointed England’s boss in 2016 – following the humiliation of the Euro by Iceland and the embarrassment of Sam Allardyce’s butterfly rule – many regarded him as a soft touch and an FA yes man.
He mistook Southgate’s decency and good manners for his lack of leadership qualities.
Those myths were dispelled by England’s march to the semi-finals of the World Cup and a series of difficult, unpopular decisions en route.
He enjoys that unique pressure and despite the dire result, the fact that Southgate took England’s sixth penalty 25 years ago is a testament to his willingness to accept the responsibility.
Although England’s performance in this tournament, Southgate would not escape responsibility.
SunSport has signed the great Jose Mourinho for this summer’s competition. He gives his verdict on England and the rest…
Jose on England: “It has to happen now, as it was in 1966. It was not in Euro 96, because of a penalty shootout which is very unpredictable.
“They have to move on with everything this time.”
famous england fans: Prince William
route to finals
It could actually be better if England finish second in Group D.
Thus they will play Sweden in the round of 16. If they win the group they can be paired against France, Germany or Portugal.
Come through that potential Sweden tie, the quarter-finals are to be avoided with neither France, Germany or Portugal.
If Southgate advances its troops to the semi-finals, a possible opposition could be Italy or Belgium.
Taking all the big guns, this could be Luis Enrique’s final appearance against Spain in the final.
We can dream!
Betting Special – England to win Euro 2020 and Harry Kane to be top scorer on 18/1
Scotland – Steve and the Boogie Men
by Graeme Bryce
Eli McCoist once claimed that he felt sorry for fans from Brazil and Germany at major tournaments.
“Where’s the excitement and the drama, traveling halfway across the planet when you know the only game you can lose is in the finals?
“Where’s the fun in that? Give me Scotland any day – we don’t have a bloody clue what’s going to happen from one minute to the next.”
If Ally is right and it’s better to travel in hope than in hope, Scotland fans can look forward to the usual rollercoaster of emotions this summer.
They secured their place in this year’s tournament with a penalty shootout win against Serbia. Soon after, boss Steve Clark’s squad shouted ‘Yes sir, I can boogie’ in Belgrade before conga.
As McCoist said, Scotland just isn’t sluggish.
Jose Mourinho’s verdict: “They are not candidates for the title, not even the semifinals. But they will be very difficult to beat.”
famous scotland fan: Andy Murray
Wales – new page and chapter
by Martin Blackburn
This summer will only be the second time that Wales will play in a major tournament since 1958.
But they have to do without the man who took them there
Ryan Giggs was temporarily removed from his role as head coach of the Dragons when he was arrested following a domestic incident in November.
Rob Page, a member of Giggs’ backroom staff, is the man who has been charged with leading Wells this summer.
Captain Gareth Bale and Juventus star Aaron Ramsey are likely to be significant, having achieved for both club and country over the years.
The knockout stages have a goal in place and if everything clicks, it’s no further than them.
Jose Mourinho’s verdict: “With a small group of players they are doing amazingly well, a lot of respect.
But it will also be difficult for them to qualify for the next stage.
famous wales fan: Tom Jones
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Italy – Is Roberto the Man?
by Phil Caden
Roberto Mancini gave Manchester City their first league title in 2012 – 44 years ago – and now he is looking to complete the revival of the Italian national team.
Mancini took over in May 2018, six months after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.
The 56-year-old turned Italy’s fortunes around, winning all ten of their Euro 2020 qualification games, with only Belgium matching that feat.
Azzurri will be the favorites to advance to the knockout stage from Group A, which includes Wales, Turkey and Switzerland.
Once there, Mancini’s Italy could also be a smart bet to win the Euro.
Jose Mourinho’s verdict: “Italy has talented players, but they have very good tactical knowledge. They are able to play in different ways.
“I think they will always be in the last four.”
Belgium – Golden opportunity for Cave & Co.
by Tom Barkley
The tournament is seen by many in Belgium as the last chance for success for its golden generations.
Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku may be in their prime but most of Roberto Martinez’s team is at its peak.
And if Eden Hazard’s fitness is the hot topic in this tournament.
Belgium do not consider themselves favorites but have minimal hopes of a semi-final.
Jose Mourinho’s verdict: “I think it’s now or never for them because a lot of players are reaching this right age to make it.
“they can do.”
Holland – Time to turn it around
by Jordan Davis
After failing to qualify for the last two major tournaments, Oranje is looking to win the Euro game for the first time since 2008.
It is his longest absence from an international final since the 1980s, when he returned to lift the 1988 Euro.
But under boss Frank de Boer, who took over from Ronald Koeman in September, the feat seems unlikely this time around.
Virgil van Dijk is a huge loss, with the Liverpool defender ruling himself out with an injury.
Given his fall from grace – not winning a game at Euro 2012 – many fans would be drawn to the knockouts.
Jose Mourinho verdict: “Holland should be out of the group but to reach the semi-finals or the final? I don’t see that.”
Spain – write them at your own risk
by Oscar Paul
Unfazed and unseen, this could be the year of the great Spanish revival.
While going as the fifth favourite, La Rosa will fear no one and is boosted by defender Aymeric Laporte’s late switch of allegiance from France.
It’s not quite Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets, but the midfield trio of Coke, Rodri and Pedri provide the deceit, protection and passing to hum Luis Enrique’s side.
They are likely to adopt 4-3-3, a constant threat on the right side of Ferran Torres.
On the left, Mikel Oyarzabal is coming off a stellar season with Real Sociedad, while Chelsea flop Alvarro Morata is the centerpiece.
Jose Mourinho verdict: “Luiso [Enrique] Was my player when I was in Barcelona a long time ago. He has great leadership qualities. He will have the team as a whole.
“They can beat anyone but I don’t see them play in the finals.”
late for the party
These five players benefited from the delay in Euro
Since moving to Real Madrid, the 30-year-old Belgian star has had a rough time with injuries – and he was touching to make up for it last summer.
But the former Chelsea winger has recovered after a long season of rehab.
This time last year, the 20-year-old Manchester City starlet was yet to make his Three Lions debut.
Now it would be difficult to imagine England’s starting XI without him.
The 18-year-old winger is Barcelona’s youngest scorer at 16 years and 304 days.
The Spanish FA soon swooped in to award him away from his country of birth – Guinea-Bissau.
After a six-year absence, Benzema will be back in intimidating defense for France this summer.
And at 33, the Real Madrid striker is somehow in the form of his life
Born in Stuttgart but raised in London, the former England U21 forward had to make a difficult decision.
It paid off – after the 18-year-old was included in Joachim Low’s Germany squad.
France – Frightening Favourites
by Duncan Wright
Les Blaes are tournament favorites for a reason.
Boss Didier Deschamps can call on some of world football’s biggest stars.
With N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Adrian Rabiot in midfield, they will look to dominate their possession and block opponents in their defence.