WSo welcome to the damn Euros. Even amid a broader streak of complicated and committed soccer tournaments, it’s hard to think of one that matches the contortions that lie ahead in the weeks ahead.
It would be wrong to say that Euro 2020 is a product that arises solely from corporate greed. In fact, this delayed multihomed entity is a product born out of corporate greed and human arrogance, primarily that of its author Michel Platini, an irresistible rising man in 2012 after his re-election as Uefa president, with the will to challenge even the realities of economic austerity.
Platini’s vision of Euros Of Everywhere comes to fruition on June 11. Italy v Turkey in Rome is the first of 51 matches to be played in 31 days at 11 venues, from Glasgow on the west coast of Scotland to the coast of the Caspian Sea in Baku, Azerbaijan.
“It’s a quirky idea, but it’s a good idea,” Platini said, incorrectly on both accounts, at the launch of this envelope-back format, in essence a product of the banking crisis that had deprived Uefa of a willing host. and conveniently luxurious.
At that time, the objections of supporter groups were squashed, ignoring the unnecessary carbon footprint. The large cost to non-traveling fans with the company’s platinum card was largely discounted old regime style. Let them use low-cost airlines, Platini shrugged.
Fast forward nine years and carnival everywhere has turned into a sporting cursed land, attacked by arrogance from every angle. Platini’s career has been guillotined by scandal. The basic premise of the tournament, a bidding mass of European consumers fed by Ryanair, has been completely destroyed by a year of plague.
Chuck on the fact that the main host of the Euros for Europe, after Brexit, is no longer a signatory to that dream without borders, and this tournament seems what it is: a construction that only Platini and his sponsors thought was a good idea at the time, now staged as a living monument to corporate greed and influence.
At that time, enter the only real life note in all of this. Only one thing can save soccer from soccer and that is soccer. Somehow, whatever you make to this strangely indestructible sport, no matter what strange ways its governing bodies impose on it, it retains its peculiar power. True to form, the next month still promises something irresistible, a flower of familiar colors, sounds, and skirling possibilities. The circus keeps rolling. That summer operetta, for now, will drown out even the weirdness of its own conception.
What do we have then? This will be the second iteration of the 24-team Euros. In 2016, there were points where the tournament seemed to sink. This time the quality seems encouragingly high.
Six of the seven best teams in the world will be present, including the winners of the last four World Cups. France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain and (yes) England are the top favorites, but still comfortably within reach of a secondary level from Denmark, Holland, Croatia, Poland, Switzerland, Wales, Scotland and other cheerful middleweights.
France, world champions looking to double up, still have that mix of forward talent and gristle in the middle. Much has been made of England’s creative options, some of which have been the Champions League clubs’ first choices this season, but Mbappé-Griezmann-Dembélé-Coman-Pogba is a fair answer.
The same goes for Hazard-Lukaku-De Bruyne-Mertens-Tielemans, as well as the power of Ronaldo-Félix-Jota-Silva-Fernandes. Spain is still Spain. Germany looks as fragile as an Azerbaijani baklava, But a midfield from Leon Goretzka, Joshua Kimmich, Ilkay Gündogan, Toni Kroos and others is a powerful prospect.
Look down the list and there will be nine players with more international goals than Harry Kane, and one with more than 100. If we can overcome exhaustion, fear of the crowd, bubble disease, and general existential angst, there is a possibility. this tournament could catch fire.
Much of the joy, as always, will come from the smaller soccer nations that will leave their mark. North Macedonia, ranked 62nd in the world, counts as a genuine minnow, but they beat Germany in a World Cup qualifier in March. Scotland will be at its first euro in 25 years. Their form has been rough, but this will count for little on June 18 and a Group D match against England that promises a dreamy, nostalgic picture of men in skirts on Wembley Way, bagpipes on the Jubilee line, purple cans, vibrant crossbars and the rest. .
There are some intriguing parts. Baku and St. Petersburg will host more than 30,000 fans and Wembley 22,000, all of which could be revised up save for the horror of another virus spike. It’s tempting to see a sense of joy here, a great outing after the fear and claustrophobia of the past year. But we’ve been here before. Sport can demand this kind of straight-line narrative. The real world travels in zigzags.
The selection has been simplified and complicated with the expansion to a squad of 26 players. It seems likely that a limit of 23 names on the substitute and start lists will extend a family uncertainty to the days. Teams can also make up to six substitutions if games go into overtime, offering endless opportunities to miss, scold and wring hands among managers.
The VAR will come into action for the first time in Euros. The lessons of the last World Cup were quite clear. Use of the referee’s screen should be encouraged and a higher caliber individual in the television truck tends to lead to better decisions.
A lot has been staked on this £ 2 billion summer beano. Euro 2021 for women has regressed a year. The overload of players, schedules and the attention span of the public has increased even more. Even before the current confusion, this was a jaded, oversold, and oversold format. Five years from the last, these euros carry an additional burden, with the need to reaffirm the basic vitality of this tournament.
This sense of identity crisis is stitched into the multi-city format. The current commitment was presented as “a celebration” of the first euros 60 years ago. But for Henri Delaunay, UEFA’s first secretary general, the dream of a European tournament was born out of something else, a spirit of internationalism, the post-war rapprochement embodied by the European Coal and Steel Community. This was sport as an arm of international relations, a force for eurozone collectivism.
Instead we have this. In the cold light of the post-pandemic, Euro 2020 seems like an indicator of how dramatically that world has changed, not just in those 60 years, but in the decade since its inception.
“It could be a great party,” Platini said hopefully, announcing his Euros Of Everywhere. He is right. Might. But this will be despite, not because of, its staging and for reasons that were unimaginable when Platini’s madness was first unveiled to the world.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism