(Paris) Twenty-four contenders, a spherical balloon and a virus to stop it from turning: the euro, which opened Friday in an unprecedented way for the whole of Europe, promises a major battle to oust Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo … on the condition that the epidemic saliva
Five years after the Portuguese’s victory at Euro 2016 in France, the best countries of the continent dream of inviting themselves in turn to the Pantheon, starting with France and world champions, Belgium and its golden generation, England and its impudent youth. Even Portugal itself.
“We are favorites to win the title,” Portuguese coach Fernando Santos warned. “I will leave with the same conviction that Portugal can win this tournament.”
He and his 23 peers all dream of reaching the final, scheduled for July 11 at the legendary Wembley Stadium in London, in the country that ranked the most popular sport on the Old Continent a century and a half ago.
But before the ball started rolling in the opening match between Turkey and Italy on Friday in Rome, this was 16 years old.e Edition of the European Championship will have known the worst difficulties.
Michel Platini dreamed of it when he headed UEFA in order to unite the continent around 60e In memory of the event, this tournament has spread to eleven cities in eleven countries, and it immediately seemed like a logistical challenge to transport teams, media and spectators from London to Baku.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also turned into a health nightmare, first delaying the competition by one year, before maintaining endless ambiguity about its progress.
A “safe and festive” euro prepared by UEFA
It wasn’t until April 23 to find out the last 11 host cities: Bilbao and Dublin were ousted, Seville invited to the party, and London and St Petersburg regained more matches.
Further complicating the preparations, UEFA asked local authorities to commit to welcoming spectators at every match.
Despite the uncertainty caused by the spread of more infectious variants of COVID-19, countries have played the game, for this competition that the organizer wants “safe and festive”.
But the atmosphere wouldn’t be the same whether we were in Budapest (measure 100%, 68,000 spectators) or Munich (around 22%, 14,000 spectators).
Tournament security will depend primarily on the “bubbles” of the teams as well as a set of measures for spectators – intermittent access to the stadium, disinfection and spacing.
There are still some uncertainties to be cleared, such as the tangible possibility for fans to follow their team from one country to another.
The UK does not currently plan any exemptions for ticket holders, with London hosting the semi-finals and finals of the competition.
The situation remains fragile, as the announcement on Sunday evening indicated a positive COVID-19 test for Spain captain Sergio Busquets.
On the sporting front, Portugal is witnessing the end of a five-year reign that began with the surprise victory of a more deserving selection from an impressive squad against the French hosts in 2016.
Led by 36-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese national team appears in the background in the forecast, behind the young England goalkeeper or Belgium.
Another favourite, world champion France, was boosted by the return of Karim Benzema after his absence of more than five years at the selection. But to achieve a new pass between the world and Europe, as happened in 1998-2000, the Blues will have to pull themselves out of a very difficult group with Portugal and Germany as the toughest rivals.
“Obviously the wait is important because of the success we’ve had. That’s the goal of this group and this generation,” French coach Didier Deschamps said in a recent interview with AFP.
It is impossible to hope for an increase in strength, while many players are ending the season due to the healthy context, schedule changes and cut-off summer preparations.
But the ball is about to roll, and all of Europe is hoping for a turn.