Every June and July alongside the soaring temperatures, the action on the pitch tends to cool off until late August as players go on their lavish leisure. A biennial football tournament breaks up the monotony of this routine, providing some fever pitched excitement to go with our pool
days. Just as this summer is expected to be unusually hot, this year’s football calendar is set to be a strange one too. The belated start to the (2020) European Championship will be the football parallel to the anomalous temperatures; and that’s just the beginning, it’s going to be a hot summer of football.
Pre-tournament friendlies are like that early summer break period when school has just ended and you stay home planning and packing for a few days in preparation for all the fun lined up. The freshly ended domestic season has opened the door for the fans to plan their holiday accordingly so here’s what’s in store:
● UEFA EURO 2020 – June 11 to July 11
● 2021 CONMEBOL Copa América – June 13 to July 10
● 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup – July 10 to August 1
● Tokyo Olympic Games – July 21 to August 7
UEFA EURO 2020
In many ways seen as second only to FIFA’s World Cup, the European Championship carries with it a certain prestige and interest – to the point that some overzealous advertisers are sticking by a certain tagline that it’s Euros over everything.The first thing I (and the few others who I’ve quizzed about seeing it) think upon hearing the ad, “it’s the greatest football tournament on Earth”, is the World Cup. A creative rethink may be in order… but I digress. Between now and June 11 all participating parties should be ready to go (that means you too admen).
The show piece is a year late to it’s own birthday party. 2020 would have been a celebration for the 60th year of the tournament, and in the spirit of that, the tournament was scheduled to be spread across various European cities with group games scheduled for certain locales while other groups play in different countries altogether. It’s certainly an interesting concept – one the West Indies used for the staging of the 2007 ICC World Cup, except with Islands. in the middle of a pandemic, what was already a logistical headache, and has become a full blown migraine. Thankful for fans and organizers alike, there hasn’t been too much disruption to the original plan.
Group A – which houses Italy, Switzerland, Turkey and Wales, will play their games in Rome (Italy) and Baku (Azerbaijan). Group B will be played between Saint Petersburg (Russia) and Copenhaggen (Denmark); that group includes Belgium, Denmark, Russia and Finland. Group C – Austria, Netherlands, North Macedonia and Ukraine – will be played in Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Bucharest (Romania). Group D will make appearances in London (England) and Glasgow (Scotland), and features both those nations plus the visitors Croatia and Czech Republic. Group E participants – Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden – will travel to Seville (Spain) and double up in Saint Petersburg with Group B. Finally, Group F will play in Munich (Germany) and Budapest (Hungary), and it consists of France, Germany, Hungary and Portugal. The final will be played on July 11 in the Wembley Stadium in London.
The Copa America has been a serious issue for those involved. The competition’s destination has been in significant flux since the start of the year, none the least because of the pandemic but for reasons beyond that as well. Ultimately, it seems all parties have settled on Brazil as the hosts. Initially it was supposed to be a shared experience (a trend lately and going forward) for Argentina and Colombia to share. Unfortunately, the latter was forced to withdraw with all that is happening within the country, suffice to say it hasn’t been a good time for land of a thousand rhythms. Which left Argentina, but recently the country has been struggling with a spike in COVID-19 cases, making the situation basically untenable for a major tournament like the Copa America. It left the 10 teams involved nowhere to have their kick about with Brazil emerging as the contingency for the contingency.
Assuming that is their final decision, CONEMBOL should have it’s showpiece event beginning June 13 and running until July 10. The final will be played July 10 (subject to change), likely to be played in Rio.
At the risk of jinxing the whole tournament and region, the Gold Cup has been largely spared much of the drama engulfing its cousin tournaments. The last 3 teams to be added will be known at the conclusion of the Qualifiers in early July. That aside, the competition will be in the U.S. again this year where they will adopt the usual bubble formula that has been the go-to method for dealing with the pandemic. It has been highly effective for American sports especially.
Jamaica will be in Orlando for all their group games, which should give them enough familiarity to build up some momentum for another deep run in the competition. It all kicks off July 10 with Group A action, meanwhile Jamaica in Group C will start their campaign July 12 against Suriname. They play a to-be-known team (from the qualifiers) on the 16th before wrapping up group play against Costa Rica on the 20th.
This competition is playing catch up as the circumstances make things too hard to predict. The Olympics may not happen this year, and may get called off by the Japanese government who are trying everything to keep the dream alive, but in the same token, the Games could go ahead and individuals or countries may decide to pull out over safety concerns. It’s not an ideal situation for anyone and may yet be too early to know how it will all play out.
Whether the Olympic Games happen or not, if the other more football specific competitions go off without a hitch, it promises to be a good summer, and in times like these, it would be a welcomed experience.