Euro 2020 finally kicks off on Friday as Portugal prepare to defend their title and world champion France seeks a rare double a year after the tournament was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
France’s formidable attacking line make them the favorites to win a third European crown at the pan-continental event, while top-ranked Belgium and a young England team will be major threats.
For the first time, the tournament is taking place in 11 cities in Europe – instead of one or two countries – despite the lingering shadow of the COVID-19 crisis.
Favorites France is not in action until Tuesday headlining the first round of group matches when it faces Germany in Munich.
All eyes will be on 33-year-old striker Karim Benzema, who was recalled after a five-and-a-half-year international exile after a prolific season for Real Madrid.
Portugal and Hungary round out Group F, dubbed the tournament death group.
Cristiano Ronaldo is now 36 but is still going strong and is supported by a better team than he was five years ago, which also counts the exceptional talents of Joao Felix, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva and Ruben Dias.
England have the carrot of knowing the two semi-finals and the final will be played at Wembley, while Italy and the Netherlands are eager to impress after failing to advance to the recent tournaments.
But despite the continuing threat of COVID-19, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has been optimistic, insisting that Euro 2020 will be safe.
The clearest illustration should come from Budapest, where it is hoped that the new Puskas Arena will be packed to capacity.
Each of the host cities will once again welcome fans, with capacities between 25% and 100%, with the exception of Munich, which aims to accommodate a minimum of 14,500 fans, or around 22% of capacity.