Ten months after the final phase of the Champions League organized last August in the city of Lisbon alone to reduce the health risks associated with Covid, UEFA is now taking the opposite path for the European Nations Championship, which replaces the edition canceled in 2020. Between the opening match on Friday June 11 in Rome (Italy-Turkey) and the final on July 11 in London, 624 players (26 per team), almost as many technicians in the selections, plus hundreds of journalists and supporters will meet on the eleven stadiums of this Euro 2021.
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They were supposed to be twelve, but Dublin threw in the towel, refusing UEFA’s injunction to guarantee the stands at least 20% full. The Irish authorities considered the risk too great in view of the sporting issue, since their team was not qualified. Unlike the Spanish selection, which has great hopes of returning to the fore. Bilbao’s defection for the same reasons as Dublin was quickly offset by Seville’s service offer.
68,000 spectators in Budapest
All these stadiums will not be housed in the same sanitary sign. Only Hungary has planned, among others to welcome France on Saturday 19 at the Ferenk-Puskas stadium in Budapest (see below), a full gauge of 68,000 spectators. Elsewhere, we will revolve around 20 to 30% of the capacity. 14,500 spectators, or 25% of the Allianz Arena in Munich, are expected for Germany-France on Tuesday 15. The shoe pinches a little further east, in Russia and Azerbaijan, where the stadiums in Saint Petersburg and Baku announce 50% occupancy rate, or nearly 35,000 spectators. This diversity shows once again that the Europe of football is hardly more united than the political Europe: everyone does what they want in terms of requirements on tests and vaccines.
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With its maximum capacity of 5,000 people for major events, interview during the France-Bulgaria on Wednesday June 8, France could not have fit into the minimum size required by UEFA. But the question did not arise, France having never applied to the club of 12, as the organizer of the previous Euro. The UEFA president at the origin of this drawer organization, Frenchman Michel Platini, could not be judge and party in the allocation of matches either.
In his idea, this unprecedented organization was to salute the sixtieth anniversary of the Euro, launched in 1960 on the initiative of another Frenchman, Henri Delaunay (the trophy awarded to the winning country bears his name). This man who died in 1955, too early to see his great project come to fruition, wanted to support the European construction of the 1950s. And to open up to the best continental players stadiums that they never attend in the Champions League because of the weakness of their clubs: Baku, Bucharest, Glasgow, etc.
No more room for small nations
It is this spirit of openness to small nations, mainly located in eastern Europe, which presided over another decision by Michel Platini, even stronger in sporting terms: the passage in 2016 from 16 to 24 qualified nations, almost one in two compared to the 55 member countries of UEFA. This innovation, interpreted as a political maneuver by the detractors of Michel Platini, suspected of electoral aims, had major consequences on the sporting level.
The Euro is no longer the quadrennial meeting reserved for the best teams in the world (less Brazil and Argentina). It has become a more open tournament, sometimes deadly for the big cars or tender for minor nations, such as Wales, surprising semi-finalist in 2016 eliminated by Portugal. France, beaten in the final, had disposed of Germany in the half, its first opponent this year in Group F. A four-time world champion and three-time European champion who will organize the next Euro on its own, in 2024, in an edition returned to normal.
The Blues program
During this Euro, Didier Deschamps’ men will travel a lot. Their first match in Group F will take place in Munich on Tuesday 15 June (9 p.m., M6). The next two will take place in Budapest against Hungary (Saturday June 19, 3 p.m., TF1) and Portugal (Wednesday June 23, 9 p.m., TF1). The rest of the journey in the round of 16 will pass through Seville, Bucharest or London, depending on their classification. In the event of fourth place or poor third place (only the four best thirds qualify), they would be sent home.