Soccer fans await the track for Germany’s June 14-July 14 European Cup finals, scheduled for Saturday in Hamburg, Germany’s second-largest city.
The event marks the start of the countdown to the 20 teams that have qualified so far, with hosts Germany, and 3 additional teams joining them in the qualifiers for the finals next March.
Teams were drawn in 4 stages, with the first stage comprising Germany (host), Portugal, France, Spain, Belgium and England. The second tier includes Hungary, Turkey, Romania, Denmark, Albania and Austria. Netherlands, Scotland, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Czech Republic in the third level and Italy, Serbia and Switzerland in the fourth level after winning the first playoff match. Second playoff and third playoff winner.
France, the runners-up at the last World Cup, and England, the second-to-last edition of the continental championship, are among the main contenders for the title, given the high level both teams have shown in recent times. And first-class stars Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann and Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham were first.
Pressure will be high on coach Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions after reaching the finals for the first time in their history in 2021 and losing to Italy on penalties in the final at Wembley Stadium in London.
Southgate, who led England to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, touched on the pressure his side face to win their first major title since their country hosted the 1966 World Cup, saying: “I think we have to accept it. (The pressure).”
He added: “The pressure comes when expectations differ from reality and the reality is that we will be one of the teams that can win.”
On the other hand, Germany, without a title since the 1996 edition in England, are in crisis after losing 6 of their 11 matches at last year’s World Cup after their second consecutive group stage exit.
These results cost Hansi Flick his position as Die Mannschaft’s chief of technical staff, but did not improve under new coach Julian Nagelsmann, who suffered two defeats in 4 matches compared to one win and a draw.
“We have a lot of work to do in every position,” Nagelsmann told local media after the recent 0-2 defeat in Austria.
As always, there are dangerous teams not in first place, notably the Netherlands, who won the title in 1988 in Germany, in third place, and Italy, the defending champions, in fourth place.
Italy, who failed to qualify for the World Cup in the last two editions, managed to qualify this time after a tough goalless draw with Ukraine in their last match.
The first-tier teams, of course, hope to avoid relegation with these two teams, although the structure of the next tournament reduces the risk of early exit for the big teams, as the first and second teams in each of the six groups reach. In the second round, except for the top 4 teams who finished third.
“After all the difficulties we have faced, we will be in Germany, we will go there as champions, we will win there,” Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma said after the draw with Ukraine.
The host nation’s position represents a real concern and threatens Germany’s hope that the tournament will become another “summer fairy tale”, which is how the country remembers the 2006 World Cup finals.
However, football fans across the continent are eager to capitalize on the return to the classic format of a continental championship held in one country after the last tournament was held in 11 different countries across the continent.
The latest edition was marred by restrictions on travel and attendance due to the “Covid” pandemic.
Fans will flock to ten host cities across the country, from the capital Berlin and Hamburg in the north, to Munich in the south and Dortmund in the heart of the Ruhr industrial region.
Germany will play their opening match in Munich on June 14, while the 70,000-capacity Olympic Stadium in Berlin will host the final on July 14.