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The European Championship has undergone a revamp for the 2020 edition and much has changed. From the number of host nations to possible matchups banned by UEFA, here we explain everything you need to know.
Which teams are involved in the competition?
Twenty of the 24 participants reached the competition through the usual qualifiying process, which ran between March and November 2019. Germany are joined by Belgium, Italy, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Spain, Turkey, France, England, the Czech Replublic, Sweden, Austria, Portugal, Croatia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Wales and, for the first time in the nation’s history, Finland. Fifty-five nations were involved in qualifying. The draw for the group stage is to be held on November 30 in Bucharest.
Who will take the final four spots?
The final four participants will earn qualification through the UEFA Nations League playoffs. This process is to be contested by 16 teams split into four groups (A to D), with the winner of each group qualifying for next summer’s tournament.
The 16 competing nations earned their playoff participation place through the UEFA Nations League, an earlier tournament also consisting of four groups. The winner of each of these groups earned a place in the playoffs. However, some of those nations also qualified through the regular qualifiying process, meaning they do not need a playoff spot. In these cases, the next-best-placed team that hasn’t yet qualified takes their place. Each team will face one of the others in their own group in a one-legged semifinal match; the winner of that game will then face the winner of the other two teams in the final.
The semifinal matchups of the Nations League playoffs are as follows:
A: Bulgaria vs. Hungary, Iceland vs. Romania
B: Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Northern Ireland, Slovakia vs. Republic of Ireland
C: Norway vs. Serbia, Scotland vs. Israel
D: Georgia vs. Belarus, North Macedonia vs. Kosovo
The team with the higher UEFA ranking will get to host its semifinal match on 26th March. The playoff finals will take place March 30th, with each of the four winners earning a place at EURO 2020. Should they each qualify, Israel, Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia and Kosovo would join Finland as tournament debutants.
What are the 'forbidden matches'?
Due to political tensions between some of the participating nations, UEFA has ruled out clashes between some teams. Ukraine, for example, is currently at war with Russia and would not have to play Russia in Saint Petersburg should the scenario arise. Should Kosovo qualify for the tournament, they would not have to face Russia, Serbia or Bosnia-Herzegovina due to political conflicts.
This is because Serbia doesn't recognize the independence of its former province Kosovo, nor does Russia, which has close political ties with Belgrade. Bosnia-Herzegovina is made up of two entities, including the mainly Serb Republika Srpska, which is also has close ties to Serbia.
However, these "forbidden" games are only actually banned at the group stage, in the knockout phase, theoretically all pairings are possible at all venues. But it seems highly unlikely that Ukraine would be forced to play a round-of-16 match in St. Petersburg, for example. If such a situation arises, the UEFA Emergency Panel, a five-member committee headed by UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, has the power to make last-minute changes.
Where are the matches to be played?
EURO 2020 is the first pan-European, European championship. It is to be played at 12 venues in 12 countries. The venues are Rome and Baku (Group A), St Petersburg and Copenhagen (Group B), Amsterdam and Bucharest (Group C), London and Glasgow (Group D), Bilbao and Dublin (Group E) and Munich and Budapest (Group F). The semifinals and final are to be played at Wembley Stadium in London.
Teams that have qualified through the usual qualifying process and are also co-hosts are to play at least two of their group-stage matches at home. If the other co-host in their group failed to qualify directly, the single co-host in the group gets three home games. Germany, for example, qualified directly, but partner country Hungary is having to try to do so through the playoffs. That's why Germany will have three home games in Munich - including a possible match against Hungary. If Hungary do qualify through the playoffs, they would get two home games. In Group B, on the other hand, both Russia and Denmark qualified directly, so now a draw will have to be held to decide which of the two will play at home when they meet each other in the group.
Why is EURO 2020 pan-European?
The idea of not awarding the European Championship to one host but to spread it over the entire continent is the brainchild of former UEFA President Michel Platini. In the summer of 2012, the Frenchman proposed hosting a "Euro for Europe" to mark UEFA's 60th anniversary. The idea was to bring the matches closer to the fans across the continent, while spreading the cost of holding the tournament over several national associations.
"We will play in 12 cities in 12 different countries, so each country only has to build a stadium and an airport," Platini said at the time. "I think this is a great idea during the economic crisis."
In December 2012, UEFA approved Platini's proposal, turning down bids to host the tournament from Turkey, as well as the joint bids from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as Azerbaijan and Georgia.
Critics argue that spreading the matches over the entire continent will take away from the tournament atmosphere that tends to be generated when there is single host nation. The distances between the venues are also a problem. It's about 5,500 kilometers (3,417 miles) from Bilbao in the west to Baku in the east. It's also about 2,400 kilometers from St. Petersburg in the north and Rome in the south.
asz/sn/pfd (dpa, SID, UEFA.com, sportschau.de