Lovers of European countries, statistics and competitions rejoice: today, UEFA Euro 2020, the European men’s football championship, is kicking off. After having been cancelled in 2020, 24 countries will compete to win the much-desired title of European football champions.
This format might ring a bell: 24 European countries competing to be crowned champions… it sounds eerily familiar to Eurovision, but instead of the best song, the competition is looking for the best football team in Europe. As a result, ESC United has prepared this handy guide explaining Euro 2020 in Eurovision language. If you want to learn more about UEFA Euro 2020 or if you don’t understand football and want to impress your friends, this guide will tell you all you need to know and explain the competition in familiar terms.
Dates: The tournament will run from the 11th of June until the 11th of July
Participating countries: There are 24 countries participating in Euro 2020. The following countries will compete: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, Hungary, North Macedonia, Poland, Scotland, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, Wales.
Note that the United Kingdom is not taking part in Euro 2020 as a whole, but instead its constituent nations are participating individually (England, Scotland and Wales – Northern Ireland sadly did not make it through). Compare it with Junior Eurovision, where Wales took part individually in 2018 and 2019, or Scotland and Wales’ individual participations in Eurovision Choir.
Structure: The tournament has two stages: the group stage and the knockout phase. During the group stage, the participating countries are divided into six groups of four and each country will play three games against fellow members of their group.
A country which wins a game receives 3 full points, much like 12 points at Eurovision. If the game is a draw, both countries will receive 1 point, comparable with 4 points at Eurovision. When a country loses a game, it receives the dreaded “I’m sorry, zero points”.
At the end of the group stage, the points are counted and the first and second places in each group advance to the next phase. Furthermore, the best four third-placed teams also go through to the next stage. In that way, even if a country does not win all of its games or even loses some of them, it might still advance to the next round. At Eurovision, even if a country non-qualifies with the jury or televote, it might still advance to the final if it has enough support in the other area, and something comparable happens.
During the knock-out phase, countries go head-to-head in a round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final, with the winner of each game advancing until only one country is left standing. If the game is a draw, it continues with two periods of 15 minutes extra time and if still tied, a penalty shoot-out. The winner must be decided, unlike Eurovision 1969, where the United Kingdom, Spain, The Netherlands and France all won the contest due to a tie.
Grand Final: The Grand Final will be held at Wembley Stadium in London on the 11th of July, so mark this important date in your calendar as the next 22nd of May.
Qualifiers: Of course, much like in Eurovision, only the best countries can make it to the final, or at Euro 2020, the final tournament. In advance of Euro 2020, a tight competition was held between no less than 55 countries who wanted to join the tournament, with only the 24 best teams advancing. Image if Eurovision had 55 countries competing, instead of the current record of 43 – even more heartbreak would occur in the semi-finals, and 29 countries would have to non-qualify.
Host cities and venues: To celebrate its 60th birthday, Euro 2020 games rotate between different host cities. Compare it with the format of Melodifestivalen, where different rounds are hosted in different cities across Sweden. Euro 2020 is being hosted in 11 cities: London, Rome, Munich, Baku, Saint Petersburg, Budapest, Seville, Bucharest, Amsterdam, Glasgow and Copenhagen.
The trophy: The winning country of Euro 2020 receives the prestigious Henri Delaunay trophy, named after the first General Secretary of UEFA. It is no glass microphone, but many countries in Europe would kill to own it.
The organizer: Much in the way that the European Broadcasting Union organizes Eurovision, Euro 2020 is being organized by UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations.
Logo and slogan: No Eurovision is complete without its logo and slogan, and Euro 2020 is no different. Echoing a similar message to ‘Open Up’, the slogan of the football tournament is ‘Live It. For Real.’ Similarly, the logo of Euro 2020 depicts the Henri Delaunay trophy surrounded by celebrating fans on a bridge, representing how football unifies and connects people. Many will be reminded of the Eurovision 2021 logo, which symbolized countries coming together through music.
The representative: Instead of being represented by a singer, countries are represented by a squad of their best 26 football players at Euro 2020. At any one time, a team can have a maximum of 11 players active on the field.
The running order: The running order at Eurovision is a much-discussed topic, with opinions diverging on whether it impacts a song’s chances. Similarly, a team’s allocation in Euro 2020 might affect their ability to do well. Take, for example, group F: this group is made up of powerhouses France, Germany and Portugal in addition to Hungary. With only the best two countries advancing to the knockout phase, and the progression of the third placed country being uncertain, most countries would rather be in any other group.
Rehearsals: Before departing for Euro 2020, most countries played a couple of friendly international games to practice and get in shape, a bit like Eurovision rehearsals. France, England and Italy were particularly impressive during these games.
Head of delegation: At Eurovision, the head of delegation is ultimately responsible for a country’s Eurovision selection, representative, song and everything that goes with it. A team’s coach at Euro 2020 takes on a similar role, playing an invaluable role in guiding teams to victory (or defeat).
The executive supervisor: In football, referees supervise games and ensure that football rules are respected, much like Jon Ola Sand or Martin Österdahl checking if there is a valid result. This will also be the first tournament where a Video Assistant Referee system, better known as VAR, will be used, which reviews decisions of the referee using video footage. However, decisions by VAR are often highly controversial, and many want to ‘take it away’.
Incidents: Like everyone’s favourite Eurovision Wikipedia section, ‘incidents’ are not out of place at Euro 2020. When Ukraine revealed its official football kit, displaying a map of Ukraine which included Russian-annexed Crimea, Russian officials were outraged in a controversy which will remind many Eurovision fans of Vidbir 2019.
Winner’s reprise: Whoever wins Eurovision deserves their moment of glory in the winner’s reprise, and Euro 2020 is no different. A joyful cup ceremony will be held after the final game, celebrating the achievements of the winner and handing them the trophy.
Cancellation: Confused by the name Euro 2020 being used in 2021? Euro 2020 was originally intended to be held in June and July 2020, but just like Eurovision 2020, it was cancelled due to Covid-19. The current competition has retained the main characteristics of the originally planned tournament, such as the logo and host cities, although Dublin has been scrapped as a host city and Seville has replaced Bilbao.
Rule changes: Similar to Eurovision 2021, slight rule changes were made to Euro 2020 to account for the current public health situation. Eurovision introduced pre-recorded backing vocals to create the possibility of less people needing to travel to Rotterdam and/or less people having to perform. Euro 2020 has expanded tournament squads from 23 players to 26, to accommodate possible Covid-19 infections among team members, and five substitutions can now be made during games due to the greater burden currently being placed on players.
Isolation rules: Covid-19 is far from gone and infections still take place, as Daði og Gagnamagnið painfully experienced during Eurovision 2021. At Euro 2020, even if a group of players tests positive for Covid-19, a game will go ahead as long as a team has at least 13 players available, including one goalkeeper. If not, the match can be rescheduled within 48 hours of the original date, subject to availability. However, where this is not possible, unfortunately no equivalent of the live-on-tape is available to teams: they will be deemed to have forfeited the game and lost 3-0.
Eurovision fans are very familiar with the bookies: love them or hate them, they are omni-present in the run-up to every contest. They reflect which countries people are willing to put money on and provide corresponding calculations of a country’s winning chances. While they are often wrong, they correctly predicted Italy as the winner of Eurovision 2021.
Much like Eurovision, international football has a huge betting market, filled with predictions of who might end up where, who might score goals and who will win each game. These are the most important predictions:
Winner: The current prediction of the winner of Euro 2020 is a country which was also at the top of the Eurovision betting odds this year for a short period of time. At the moment, bookmakers are predicting France, the current World Cup champions, to win.
Finalists: According to the bookies, the countries most likely to reach the final are Belgium and France. Will France take revenge on Belgium for being blanked in their jury vote at Eurovision this year?
Last place: Unfortunately, out of all countries, someone has to come last, even if it is the lovely Samanta Tina. Currently, Hungary are the favourites to be the lowest scoring team at Euro 2020.
Countries to watch
Just like at Eurovision, everyone follows and roots for certain countries. Besides your own country if it is participating, these are the countries to keep an eye out for at Euro 2020:
The favourites: As mentioned earlier, France are the big favourites to win Euro 2020. Will they do well or will their fate be more akin to that of Madame Monsieur?
Debuting countries: Two countries are debuting at Euro 2020 this year: Finland and North Macedonia, both of which have never previously qualified for a major tournament. As Guy Sebastian knows, debuting countries can do very well, so keep an eye on their progress.
Returning countries: A number of countries are returning after an absence from previous Euro tournaments. Both The Netherlands and Denmark missed Euro 2016 and will be hoping to leave an impact this year. Most notable, however, is Scotland’s much-anticipated return after 25 years of absence from the competition. Many are hoping that Scotland’s return will mark a new, golden age of football for them, similar to Italy’s return to Eurovision in 2011 after more than a decade of absence.
The underdog: Of course, much like Eurovision, football is unpredictable and the pre-contest favourite might not necessarily win the competition. After all, Malta were this year’s favourites to win Eurovision before the contest, but ultimately ended up in 7th place. France’s victory at Euro 2020 is certainly not set in stone, and with a whole month of games left, anything could happen. Belgium have had a string of successful results in international football and have been number one in the FIFA World Ranking for several years, so they might snatch the victory from France.
The reigning champions: Five years ago, Euro 2016 was won by Portugal. Will they be able to renew their title, or will an O Jardim effect take place instead?
The Big 5: Notably, the Eurovision Big 5 countries are all taking part in Euro 2020 one way or another. The United Kingdom is being represented by England, Scotland and Wales, while Spain, Germany, France and Italy are also taking part. Many of the Big 5 countries are tipped to do well in this year’s competition, and 2021 might be the year of Big 5 victories in both music and sports.
Shock NQs: At times, successful football countries do not qualify for the Euros, much like when Albina shockingly did not qualify to the Eurovision Grand Final. This year, Iceland is notably absent from Euro 2020, after making it to the semi-finals at Euro 2016. Greece, the Euro 2004 champions, also did not make it to the tournament this year.
Players to watch
While Eurovision has its stars, such as Måneskin who are entering the charts across the continent and might even be collaborating with Miley Cyrus, Euro 2020 has its fair share of dazzling international football icons. These are the players to look out for:
Romelu Lukaku – Belgium
Lukaku is a 28-year old striker who is one of Belgium’s top players. When he is not playing for Belgium, he is a striker for Italian club Inter Milan, which won the most recent Serie A league competition. Having scored 60 goals for Belgium already, he is Belgium’s all-time top goal scorer. He achieved this figure of 60 goals in 93 games, which is the fastest anyone has reached this number in football history. Compare him with the record-breaking Salvador Sobral, the highest-scoring winner in Eurovision history.
Kylian Mbappé – France
Mbappé is only 22 years old, but he has already won a World Cup. He is the youngest French player to ever score at a World Cup and the second teenager to score in a World Cup final. Playing for Paris Saint-Germain, he has won several awards, including the award for Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year, the Golden Boy Award and the Best Young Player Award at the 2018 World Cup. Even Sandra Kim, the youngest Eurovision winner ever, might soon become jealous of Mbappé’s achievements at such a young age.
Thomas Müller – Germany
Müller has been part of the German national football team since 2010, when he scored five fantastic goals at the World Cup. As a player for Bayern Munich, he is the most decorated German football player in history, with 29 trophies to his name and counting. Nevertheless, in 2019, he was surprisingly excluded from the German national team by coach Joachim Löw. Euro 2020 will be his return to Germany’s team after two years of exclusion. Will he pull a Jamala, pushing his team towards victory immediately after a period of absence?
Luka Modrić – Croatia
Modrić is the captain of Croatia’s team, and considered the best Croatian footballer of all time by many. He plays as a midfielder for Real Madrid and has been awarded a Golden Foot for his career results and personality. Like Eleni Foureira, he led Croatia to the final of the 2018 World Cup, achieving an outstanding second place to many people’s surprise.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal
In 2011, Lena, the reigning Eurovision champion, decided to return to the competition and defend her own title with Taken By A Stranger. Just like Lena, Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo is joining Euro 2020 as the reigning champion and ready to defend his title. He plays as a forward for Juventus and is regarded as one of the best football players in the world. In 2016 and 2017, he was even the world’s highest-paid athlete, and he will be hoping to lead Portugal to victory once again.
Who’s missing? Zlatan Ibrahimović – Sweden
Unfortunately, due to a knee injury, everyone’s favourite Sanremo guest will be unable to join Euro 2020. Even though he only came out of retirement in March, he was injured during a game in Italy and is not fit to play. Sweden will certainly be missing its star player, who is the country’s all-time leading goal scorer. However, if he is feeling left out and wants to make a career change, he might have a long career as Sanremo host ahead of him.
To get you in the mood for Euro 2020, we have curated a playlist with songs from each competing country. You can listen to the playlist here.
The full track list of the playlist is as follows:
- Austria – Conchita Wurst – Rise Like A Phoenix
- Belgium – Laura Tesoro – What’s the Pressure
- Denmark – A Friend in London – New Tomorrow
- England – Scooch – Flying the Flag (For You)
- Germany – Cascada – Glorious
- Hungary – Joci Pápai – Origo
- North Macedonia – Tamara Todevska – Proud
- Poland – Donatan and Cleo – Slavic Girls
- Scotland – Lulu – Boom Bang-a-Bang
- Slovakia – Krisína – Horehronie
- Switzerland – Luca Hänni – She Got Me
- Turkey – Hadise – Dum Tek Tek
- Croatia – Albina – Tick-Tock
- Czech Republic – Lake Malawi – Friend of a Friend
- Finland – Saara Aalto – Monsters
- France – Jessy Matador – Allez Ola Olé
- Italy – Måneskin – Zitti e Buoni
- The Netherlands – OG3NE – Lights and Shadows
- Portugal – Suzy – Quero Ser Tua
- Russia – Sergey Lazarev – You are the only one
- Spain – Miki – La Venda
- Sweden – Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes
- Ukraine – Go_A – SHUM
- Wales – Lucie Jones – Never Give Up On You
N.B.: As the constituent nations of the United Kingdom compete separately at Euro 2020, past Eurovision representatives who were English, Scottish and Welsh respectively were chosen for the playlist.
UEFA Euro 2020 kicks off tonight at 21:00 CEST with Turkey v Italy, at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The tournament will run from the 11th of June until the 11th of July.
Will #YOU be watching UEFA Euro 2020? Who do #YOU think will win? Share your thoughts with us in the comments, on our forum HERE or on social media!