As the American sports media slows down into the summer, casual sports fans here in the US will be struggling to find something to satisfy their inevitable cravings of watching games. The NFL is still months away and NBA and NHL playoffs are dwindling down. Out of all of the four “major” sports leagues, MLB is the only one to be playing throughout the summer. However, the sports world abroad was locked in as the biggest event of the summer kicked off this morning with Italy beating Turkey 3-0 in UEFA Euro 2020.
What is Euro 2020?
The biggest competition in international football (or soccer, whatever you prefer) other than the FIFA World Cup. Like the World Cup, it is held every four years, and is roughly a month long. Euro 2020 is a large scale tournament of men’s international football. The Euro’s were set to occur last year, but was pushed to 2021 due to the pandemic. Twenty-four of the best national teams in all of Europe qualify through a lengthy process to take place in the prestigious tournament.
How does it work?
The twenty-four qualified teams are divided into six groups of four. These teams all play each other in the group, and the teams with the most points (three points for a win, one point for a draw, zero for a loss) out of the group advance. The top two teams from every group advance automatically, as well as four of the third place teams. When the final sixteen are through, next up is a single game, win or go home knockout tournament. This format holds all the way to the end, including the final game, where the European Champion is crowned.
Why should you care?
For one, the obvious reason: it’s the most popular sport in the world, and for good reason. Football is a uniting force in world Countries rally behind their teams like we rarely see, and world famous players take to the pitch. The games are exciting, with the tournament structure making every second of every game matter, fans are back in the stadiums, and there is no lack of star quality on the field.
Who should you root for?
Like most Americans watching, if you don’t have any ties to Europe, there isn’t really much incentive to pick any team specifically. However, there are plenty of interesting storylines. Current World Cup champions France, led by world class players such as Kylian Mbappe and N’Golo Kante. Then there’s reigning European Champions Portugal, featuring world superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and wonder boy Joao Felix. France and Portugal will be likely favorites to win it all. Or there’s Belgium and England, famous for having star talent but always falling short on the big stage. Italy, Germany and Spain are historically successful and can be counted on to put up a fight. Like underdogs? Hungary, Scotland, and Denmark will be easily brushed aside by most pundits.
The world will be watching, as one of the biggest sporting events on the planet has begun. Whether you’re a lifelong football fan, a casual watcher, or someone who has never tuned in before, there is a unique experience about to take place. After what feels like an eternity, the passion is back in the game with high-level football returning with fans on the biggest stage. As Euro 2020 takes place, tune into the beautiful game taking place at the highest level. You won’t regret it.