What you need to know for Euro 2020

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One of the biggest sporting events in the world kicks off Friday

Soccer’s European Championship is, basically, the World Cup except a few teams smaller and only for European countries. Like the World Cup, it typically takes place every four years, but Euro 2020 was postponed by a full year due to the pandemic. It’s finally ready to kick off Friday, when Turkey plays Italy in Rome. Here are some things to know about the month-long, 24-team tournament to decide European soccer supremacy:

Four of the top five countries in the FIFA world rankings are here. No. 3 Brazil is missing, but you’ll see top-ranked Belgium, reigning World Cup champion France (No. 2), England (4) and defending Euro champ Portugal (5). In 2016, Portugal’s Eder scored in extra time of the final vs. France to give his country its first Euro title. Cristiano Ronaldo scored three goals in that tournament, including two in the knockout stage. At 36, this could be his final Euro.

11 different countries are hosting matches. This was planned before the pandemic, as a way to mark the 60th anniversary of the tournament. Each of the six groups will play their matches in two locations. The top two teams in each group and the four best third-place teams advance to the single-elimination round of 16, which will be held in seven different cities. The quarter-finals are in Munich, St. Petersburg, Rome and Baku, Azerbaijan. The semifinals (July 6 and 7) and final (July 11) will be played at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Fans will be in attendance, to varying degrees. How many depends on local restrictions. Budapest is the only host allowing close to a full stadium (theirs should have more than 60,000 fans). Baku and St. Petersburg are going for around half. Copenhagen and Seville will try for about a third, and the rest are planning for 20-25 per cent capacity.

Group F is truly the Group of Death. It includes the reigning World Cup champ (France), the defending Euro champ (Portugal), and one of the most successful countries in world soccer history (Germany). Yikes. You know a group is stacked when Germany is its third-highest-ranked team. The traditional powerhouse has fallen off a bit since winning its fourth World Cup title in 2014, losing in the semis of Euro 2016 to France and failing to get out of the group stage at the ’18 World Cup. As a result, Germany is down to an uncharacteristic 12th in the world rankings. And they get to play all three of their opening-round matches in Munich. That’s why they’re co-favoured with France to win the group, with Portugal a bit behind and Hungary just hoping for mercy. However, Munich’s stadium will be only about a fifth full (about 15,000 fans), which could dull that expected home-field advantage.

France looks like the team to beat, but the tournament is wide-open. Led by blazing 22-year-old forward Kylian Mbappé, who won the Best Young Player award at the 2018 World Cup, France is the betting favourite. But the current odds imply they have only about a 1-in-5 chance of winning the tournament, with England and Belgium close behind. Those teams each have a world-class scorer to match Mbappé in, respectively, Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku. Germany, Spain, Portugal and Italy are the other countries with a better than 10 per cent shot according to the betting markets, which also give the Netherlands a puncher’s chance.

Cristiano Ronaldo is trying to lead Portugal to back-to-back Euro titles. (Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP via Getty Images)

Quickly…

Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David came up big for Canada. With the Canadian men’s soccer team needing a win or a draw last night vs. Suriname to advance in World Cup qualifying, its two best players stepped up. David scored a hat trick and Davies had the other goal in a 4-0 victory just outside Chicago. Apart from David’s penalty kick in the 77th minute, each of the goals was assisted by the other young star. Canada, which is ranked 70th in the world, will now face its toughest opponent yet, No. 83 Haiti, in a two-leg, home-and-away playoff. The matches are Saturday in Port-au-Prince and Tuesday back in the Chicago suburbs (Canadian travel restrictions have forced the men’s national team to play all its “home” matches in the U.S.). The winner advances to the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, which will include the region’s top five teams (Mexico, the U.S., Jamaica, Costa Rica and Honduras) and the winners of the three second-round playoffs. Canada hasn’t reached the final round since the qualifying tournament for the 1998 World Cup. Read more about last night’s exciting performance by David and Davies and watch highlights here.

The Avalanche are the streakiest team in the playoffs. They started with six straight wins — a sweep of St. Louis followed by two victories vs. Vegas. But last night’s OT loss was Colorado’s third straight defeat, putting them on the brink of elimination for Game 6 in front of what’s sure to be a bonkers Vegas crowd. The Avs rolled into the playoffs as the Stanley Cup favourites, but the last three games served as a good reminder that the Golden Knights are pretty much their equal. Vegas finished the regular season with the same number of points and one more win than Colorado, which was awarded the Presidents’ Trophy because it had one more regulation-time victory. Game 6 is Thursday night. The winner of this series faces Montreal in the Stanley Cup semifinals.

Nikola Jokic became, by far, the lowest-drafted player ever to win the NBA MVP award. The Denver Nuggets took a flier on the doughy 6-foot-11 Serbian prospect in 2014, taking him 41st overall. But sometimes, as the Athletic’s Ethan Strauss likes to say, fat is potential in disguise. Jokic is still far from ripped, but he’s got himself in good enough shape to showcase his incomparable skill set. The best-passing big man in the NBA finished sixth in assists this season with 8.3 per game (that’s wild for a centre) while averaging 26.4 points and 10.8 rebounds and leading the league in Player Efficiency Rating. Another impressive stat: Jokic hasn’t missed a game in the last two seasons — a rarity for a star player in the load-management era. Jokic sewed up the MVP when Denver didn’t miss a beat after losing star Canadian guard Jamal Murray to a season-ending knee injury in mid-April. They were in fourth place in the West at the time and finished third. Jokic then led the Nuggets to a first-round victory over Portland, and they’re now facing No. 2 seed Phoenix in the second round. Before Jokic was named MVP yesterday, the record for lowest-drafted player to win it was shared by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Canadian Steve Nash, who both went 15th. Read more about Jokic here.

There will be a new French Open women’s champion. Defending champ Iga Swiatek had won 22 consecutive sets at Roland Garros before Greece’s Maria Sakkari upset her 6-4, 6-4 in the quarter-finals today to reach the final four of a Grand Slam for the first time. Defending men’s champ Rafael Nadal advanced to the semis today with a four-set win, and top-ranked Novak Djokovic was playing his quarter-final match at our publish time. Read more about today’s French Open results here.

Coming up on CBC Sports

Track and field: Four Canadians are competing in this week’s Diamond League meet in Florence. 2019 world-championship bronze medallist Mo Ahmed and Justyn Knight will run in a loaded men’s 5,000-metre race that includes nine of the world’s top 10. Gabriela DeBues-Stafford is in the women’s 1,500, while Jean-Simon Desgangés makes his Diamond League debut in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase. Watch the entire meet live Thursday from 2-4 p.m. ET here.

Judo world championships: Watch live bouts in the women’s 70-kg and men’s 90-kg divisions on Thursday from 4 a.m. ET to 12:30 p.m. ET here.

Volleyball: Watch the Canadian men’s team play Russia at the Nations League event in Italy on Thursday at 5:45 a.m. ET here.

You’re up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.



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