The delayed UEFA European Championship is finally set to begin today following a year-long delay to the event because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Italy’s Group A clash with Turkey at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico is due to open the 24-team tournament, which had been scheduled to be held in 2020.
International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 officials are sure to be keeping a close eye on the pan-continental competition, the biggest sporting event to take place since the COVID-19 crisis hit.
UEFA has put several measures in place to reduce the risk posed to participants, including reduced capacity at venues, and allowed teams squads of 26 players.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, UEFA has kept the original multi-city format, although two – Bilbao in Spain and Dublin in Ireland – were axed from the list of host venues after failing to provide the required guarantees over the attendance of spectators.
The tournament is set to encompass 51 matches over 31 days in 11 countries – England, Scotland, Russia, Italy, Azerbaijan, Denmark, The Netherlands, Spain, Romania, Germany and Hungary.
Wembley Stadium in London is due to host the final on July 11.
World champions France arrive as the favourites for the event and will compete in Group F alongside defending champions Portugal, Germany and Hungary in what has been termed as the “group of death”.
Italy and Turkey are joined by Switzerland and Wales in Group A, while Group B features Denmark, Finland, Belgium and Russia.
The Dutch, Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia are in Group C, with England, Scotland, Croatia and the Czech Republic making up Group D.
Group E comprises Spain, Sweden, Poland and Slovakia.
The top two in each group, plus the four best-placed third-place finishers, will advance to the round of 16.