EURO 2020, delayed for a year because of Covid-19 restrictions, will now kick off on 11th June, sparking a month long celebration of the beautiful game, with the final scheduled to take place at Wembley on 11th July. For the first time, the finals will be shared between 11 countries, originally a one-off idea from UEFA to honour the competition’s 60th anniversary but, of much more significance now as Europe slowly emerges from the ravages of the pandemic, an opportunity to spread the love of the sport that so unites the international football family.
Twenty-four nations are divided into six groups of four in the pool stage, with the winners and runners-up in each group, plus the four best third-placed teams qualifying for the last 16 knockout stage. With Wales, Scotland and England having qualified for the much anticipated and long-delayed extravaganza, Euro 2020 promises to be a blockbuster event for UK expats and tourists here in Gibraltar, evoking cherished memories of previous tournaments, particularly in this correspondent, when fondly remembering magical moments sitting in sun-baked Casemates Square, sipping cider in front of the Big Screen and letting tribal passion run free, unfettered, if only for an hour and a half!
Scotland and England have been drawn together in Group D and their pool clash promises to be a juggernaut affair, definitely not one for the faint-hearted, an irresistible force crashing against an immovable object, evoking memories of past epic football encounters between these footy-mad nations, the drama still powered by lingering echoes of centuries-old battlefield conflicts – think Braveheart, think Bonnie Prince Charlie, think Bannochburn and, on 18th June, think Wembley, when, pandemic permitting, tens of thousands of tartan-clad, kilt-wearing, wild-eyed, hairy-legged Scots, all united in single purpose – the rout of the Sassenachs – will march on England’s premier stadium to the haunting backdrop of Flower of Scotland and the intoxicating swirl of bagpipes. England, be warned, the Tartan Army is on the march and defeat is not an option.
Bookmakers appear to have dismissed any chance of tournament victory for either Wales or Scotland, as derisory odds of 200/1 and 300/1 respectively would seem to indicate, with England currently available at a very skinny 6/1 to lift the Trophy. Let’s take a look at how the three home nations have performed in past Euros, and run the rule over the chances of an at-long-last home victory in Euro 2020.