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Finally, Euro 2020 showpiece kicks off amid COVID-19

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…What to watch, where to watch

IT HAS been delayed by a year, but that seems to have only ramped up the excitement levels for the 2020 European Football Championships, all down to the new normal world of COVID-19.

  Still called Euro 2020 despite now being held in 2021, the all-European tournament was postponed from last summer because of the coronavirus pandemic. But, finally, the fireworks, the showpiece begin today when Italy and Turkey meet in the tournament’s opening match in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, with the final slated to be held at England’s Wembley stadium on Sunday, July 11.

  For the first time the competition will be hosted across the continent in some of Europe’s biggest and most famous stadiums, rather than by one or two nations.

  Alongside London and Rome, the other host cities include Baku, St. Petersburg, Copenhagen, Budapest, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Glasgow, Seville and Munich.

  Bilbao in Spain and Dublin in Ireland had been scheduled to host matches, but after local authorities didn’t permit fans to attend games because of COVId-19 restrictions, European football’s governing body, UEFA chose to relocate Bilbao’s matches to Seville and Dublin’s fixtures to St. Petersburg.

  There are 24 teams playing across 51 matches in the 11 host cities over the next month, with some familiar nations amongst the favorites.

  World Cup champion France looks in imperious form, its squad bursting with talent, with the recall of Real Madrid star Karim Benzema providing the team with an additional attacking threat.

  Reigning champion Portugal, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, appear strong again, while FIFA No. 1 ranked team Belgium will be sweating on the fitness of its own superstar, Kevin de Bruyne, after he suffered a facial injury in the Champions League final.

  Spain and Germany — who have each won the competition three times — will be hoping to bounce back after poor World Cup performances three years ago, while after a few years on the outskirts, Italy are hoping for a more fruitful tournament in 2021 with its talented midfield a strong reason for optimism.

  The youth and exuberance of England and the Netherlands could carry them through the tournament, or will there be a dark horse who could shock the competition like Greece did in 2004?

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