The Phnom Penh Post

Curtain to be raised on pan-continenta­l Euro 2020 after year delay due to Covid

- Post Staff

AFTER a year’s postponeme­nt due to the Covid pandemic, the curtain is finally to be raised tonight on the 2020 European Championsh­ip, with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal aiming to defend their title.

Turkey take on Italy tonight (at 2am Cambodian time) in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico as 24 nations vie to be crowned champions of Europe and lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy.

Matches will be played in 11 cities across Europe – in a departure from the tradition of one or two countries hosting the competitio­n – to commemorat­e the 60th anniversar­y of the inaugural championsh­ip in 1960.

Reigning World Cup holders France enter the tournament as favourites, a youthful England are next with the bookmakers, while Fifa’s No1 ranked side Belgium are third, with Portugal, Germany and Spain joint fourth.

“To win [the European Championsh­ip] again would be incredible, and of course we go to the tournament with that as our ambition.

“We have a good team, but also we know there are a lot of very strong teams there,” Portugal captain Ronaldo

told Livescore ahead of the competitio­n.

Ronaldo will be looking to make up for a disappoint­ing domestic season in which his Juventus side were only able to finish fourth in Serie A by helping his nation retain their European crown.

He will be joined by English Premier League-winning Manchester City duo Bernardo Silva and Ruben Dias, and

Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes.

However, “A Selecao” have been handed the toughest possible start as they bid to join Spain as consecutiv­e winners, having been drawn in the “group of death” alongside France, Germany and Hungary.

The French boast a strike force including Paris SaintGerma­in forward Kylian Mbappe, Real Madrid striker

Karim Benzema and Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann.

This attacking threat is backed up in midfield by Manchester United star Paul Pogba and the dynamic N’Golo Kante, who won this year’s Champions League with Chelsea.

Alongside them in Group F, Germany have a wealth of experience, with goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Toni Kroos, Matthias Ginter, Thomas

Muller and Mats Hummels all members of the squad that won the World Cup seven years ago.

The three-time Euro winners’ squad also includes four players who played in this year’s Champions League final – Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger,

Kai Havertz and Timo Werner – while Ilkay Gundogan, a loser in Porto, won the

English Premier League with Manchester City.

Joachim Low is stepping down as coach of “Die Mannschaft” after the tournament and will be looking to leave his post on a high.

England also face a tough test in Group D, having been drawn against Croatia – who beat them in the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup – the “Auld Enemy” Scotland and Czech Republic.

“The Three Lions”, however, enjoy three home group games and the most promising talent pool in perhaps a generation, although there are concerns over defence.

Despite Covid restrictio­ns, all 11 stadiums hosting matches will reverberat­e to the sound of fans, with attendance­s set to allow a minimum of 22-45 per cent of capacity, while Budapest plans for 100 per cent capacity but with strict entry requiremen­ts.

Games are to be played in Amsterdam, Azerbaijan­i capital Baku, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Munich, Rome, St Petersburg and Seville – with the final set for London’s Wembley Stadium on July 11.

While the pan-continenta­l format is a new developmen­t, another is that the 2020 European Championsh­ip will be the first to feature the controvers­ial video assistant referee (VAR) technology.

 ?? AFP ?? Euro 2020 mascot Skillzy poses with the trophy in central Saint Petersburg on May 22.
AFP Euro 2020 mascot Skillzy poses with the trophy in central Saint Petersburg on May 22.

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