Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A tournament intended to unify a continent could underscore divisions and uncertainties gripping Europe.

The ambitious plan to spread European Championship games like never before has handed organizer Union of European Football Associations even greater logistical challenges.

Coronavirus curbs remain in place across the 11 cities being used for the 51 games, restricting crowds and movements as European soccer stages the biggest sporting event since the pandemic began 15 months ago.

Story continues below advertisement

Not only will stadiums be far from full, but the absence of visiting fans could diminish the atmosphere at a continentwide event intended to celebrate six decades of the Euros and already delayed by a year.

And across the 24 squads, there’s much more than just winning games to worry about. Even making the field is the concern for players – highlighted by coronavirus infections in the Spain and Sweden squads.

The Spanish outbreak even led to a shadow squad being formed this week to potentially play if the original selections are forced out by positive tests or requirements to isolate.

“It’s an unpleasant situation for everyone,” said Spain defender Jordi Alba, who assumed the captaincy temporarily as Sergio Busquets quarantines. “We have been complying with all the protocols and we have to continue to adapt.”

With not all squads vaccinated, the need to protect bubbles around the teams is a priority, especially when they are having to fly across Europe – from Scotland in the west to Azerbaijan in the east; Russia in the north to Italy in the south.

While the opening game is in Rome between Italy and Turkey on Friday, the venue with the most games is Wembley. The north London stadium that is home to the England national team will stage the semi-finals and final after five earlier games – starting on Sunday with England against Croatia.

It should be a moment of joy in England since Gareth Southgate’s team has a chance to lift the country’s first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup final was played in the old Wembley.

Story continues below advertisement

But anti-racism campaigning by the team has managed to fracture England’s fan base with some booing of players taking a knee since crowds were allowed back into games last month.

“It shows that if there’s still people booing because we’re standing together against racism that there is still a problem and we’re still going to fight it and we stand together on that,” England vice-captain Jordan Henderson said. “That shows even more that we need to keep going and we need keep fighting it.”

It’s not just social causes dividing, as so often sport becomes a platform for the manifestation of diplomatic tensions.

Ukraine’s yellow-and-blue jerseys enraged Russia since it featured an outline of its territory showing the Crimea region, which Russia annexed in 2014. The Donbass Arena used for Euro 2012 games was shelled two years later at the start of a conflict that persists between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

UEFA has allowed the map to remain – since Russia’s annexation is viewed as illegal under international law – but the slogan “Glory to the heroes” has to be removed because it was determined to be “clearly political in nature, having historic and militaristic significance.”

The tournament, though, will close at Wembley with the band of the British Army’s Coldstream Guards performing – potentially in front of a capacity 90,000 crowd if England’s coronavirus regulations are eased as planned.

Story continues below advertisement

UEFA’s hope will be once the first ball is kicked on Friday the focus can be on more joyful moments such as the tournament debuts of Finland and North Macedonia and live up to the name of the tournament song, We Are the People.

And will the person lifting the trophy again be Cristiano Ronaldo? Can he score the six goals required to claim the men’s international scoring record from Iran’s Ali Daei on 109?

Five years on from its surprise win in Paris over host France, Portugal looks a stronger proposition but first must find a way out of the most difficult group also featuring Germany, Hungary – and France. The 2018 World Cup winner boasts a formidable array of attacking options with Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann now joined by Karim Benzema returning to the France squad after an exile of almost six years.

The Group of Death – albeit with three teams potentially able to advance to the round of 16 – will also show us how far Germany has recovered from its humiliating group-stage exit as defending champions at the 2018 World Cup.

Whatever the ambitions of the players, the greatest barrier to overcome could be their own weary bodies after a pandemic-congested season that has a final month to run.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies