France Team Mates
LONDON: Euro 2020 finally kicks off on Friday (Jun 11) as Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal prepare to defend their title and world champions France seek a rare double a year after the tournament was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
France's fearsome forward line makes them favourites to win a third European crown at the pan-continental event, while top-ranked Belgium and a youthful England side will be a major threat.
For the first time the tournament is taking place in 11 cities across Europe instead of one or two countries despite the lingering shadow cast by the COVID-19 crisis.
Dublin and Bilbao were dropped from the list of host cities after being unable to give guarantees they could meet UEFA's requirement of accommodating limited numbers of spectators, but Seville stepped in for Bilbao while Dublin's games went to London and Saint-Petersburg.
The action gets underway at Rome's Olympic Stadium on Friday, where Italy take on Turkey in front of 16,000 fans.
Favourites France are not in action until Tuesday in the headline act of the first round of group matches when the world champions take on Germany in Munich.
"All the other countries envy us," said a recent front page of French sports daily L'Equipe underneath pictures of Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann.
All eyes will be on 33-year-old forward Benzema, who was recalled after an international exile of five-and-a-half years following a prolific season for Real Madrid.
Holders Portugal and Hungary complete Group F, dubbed the tournament's group of death.
Ronaldo is now 36 but is still going strong and is supported by a better squad than five years ago, which also boasts the outstanding talents of Joao Felix, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva and Ruben Dias.
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