The European Championship is back. It's crept up on us somewhat by surprise after Spain's wonderful start in the inaugural UEFA Nations League tournament. Things in the game move at such a pace (Real Madrid are on their third coach since then), that it feels like some time ago when in reality all the action took place at the end of last year. Four Nations League finalists will now dispute the first title in Portugal with England, Switzerland, Holland and hosts Portugal all looking to be crowned champions. The other sides in the competition will have experienced promotion, relegation in the various groups that compose the Nations League and this idea of small groups with a promotion-relegation mechanic is one that I feel UEFA have got right.
So with the finals of the Nations League to look forward to in June, the qualifying process for the forthcoming European Championships gets underway today with ten groups with the top two nations making it through to Euro 2020. A long and arduous process ahead with Spain pitted in Group F and will face the likes of the Faroe Islands home and away. 262 games will be staged between the 55 participating nations with twenty making it through the finals of Euro 2020. The final four finalists will come via the Nations League in a system that is just that little bit too complex and convoluted to try and summarise in this article.
The novelty aspect of this forthcoming European Championship is that there will be 12 host cities in twelve countries rather than the traditional one host nation or two as was the case when Spain sealed the 2008 Euros under Luis Aragones in a tournament which was jointly staged by Austria and Switzerland. Twelve cities that will include the likes of Dublin, Baku, St. Petersburg and Bilbao (where Spain will play at least two games, assuming they qualify) and will see the competition stretch across the continent where costs, income and profits will be shared and make many nations feel part of this major sporting event. It's worth remembering that the European Championship was founded in 1955, just two years after the singing of the Treaty of Rome in a Europe that was still coming to terms with the aftermath of the Second World War.