The Irish Times view on the European Championship: best in the field

Unlike Eurovision, the other TV moment that Europeans share, this one is hard to game

There’s something about the Euros, the quadrennial showpiece of continental football, that makes it more engrossing than any other competition in this global sport. Photograph: Anatoly Maltsev/ EPA

There’s something about the Euros, the quadrennial showpiece of continental football, that makes it more engrossing than any other competition in this global sport. Photograph: Anatoly Maltsev/ EPA

 

The World Cup is bigger. The Champions League is harder to win. But there’s something about the Euros, the quadrennial showpiece of continental football, that makes it more enthralling than any other competition in this global sport. That’s partly due to the games themselves, which, with just 24 teams taking part, feel competitive from the start. But it’s also the sense that, for a continent that shares so few genuinely communal moments and for a sport so often dismissed as a soulless husk, this one matters.

Europe’s domestic leagues tend to be won by the richest clubs. Yet in international football, the continent’s richest northern economies, with one exception (Germany), have never dominated. This is a competition where southerners thrive, and where upsets are common. In living memory it has been won by Denmark, Greece and Portugal, small states punching above their weight. It’s a short competition that rewards good organisation and a strategic long-term approach to player development; that’s one of the reasons why perennial under-achiever England, its squad filled with technically gifted youngsters, is now a contender for the trophy. And it’s why Ireland, where the sport has been run in shambolic fashion, deservedly failed to qualify. Unlike Eurovision, the other TV moment that Europeans share, this one is hard to game.

Euro 2020, which kicked off in Rome last night, was delayed by a year because of the pandemic (the merchandise had already been made, so it kept its original name). Some will naturally greet it as a chance to zone out, to forget about the pain of the past year. But the Euros are a reflection of life on the continent today, not an escape from it. There will be no missing the half-empty stadiums, the capitalistic excesses or the racism that has already marred some of the build-up games. And all of that will co-exist with signs of hope: players using their positions to stand up for equality; societies exhaling after a long trauma; grown men and women crying over transcendent moments of skill and grace.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.