Hello, everyone, we are Link to Leeds ambassadors Khanh, Marina and Conall. We believe that for any of us that are football fans, last month must have been a wonderful time with different kinds of feelings and emotions with the happening of EURO 2020. Today, we will share some of the great experiences and special moments that we have had during the tournament.
Introduction about the EURO’s and EURO 2020 by Khanh.
The European Championship, which is known as the EUROs, is an international football tournament played amongst member nations of UEFA- the Union of European Football Associations. The idea of the EUROs was initiated by Henri Delaunay– the French Football Federation‘s secretary-general in 1927 with the hope to have a continental championship for Europe to run alongside the World Cup. The first tournament was in 1960 and was held in France. In honour of Henri Delaunay, the trophy for the winners is named after him. The country with the most success in the Euros is Germany, having won three times and also being runners up three times.
With regards to EURO 2020, the tournament was supposed to start last year, but due to the pandemic, the game was postponed until this year (2021). This year, 55 countries battled in the qualifying matches to get down to the last 16. Normally, the EURO’s would be hosted or co-hosted by 1 or 2 countries, but this year, there was a big difference as for the very first time in the Euros’ 60th-year history, the game was held across 11 countries. Both semi-finals and the final were held at Wembley Stadium in London, with the final on Sunday 11th July 2021. This year, UEFA set the main priority to deliver a safe EURO for everyone for that reason they had been working closely with both host countries and WHO to adapt all the risk assessment and safety measures for all football fans who came to see the matches. Specifically, Wembley Stadium in London had set up very strict rules and guidelines for all for all visitors such as:
- All visitors must wear masks upon entry to the stadium and any indoor areas.
- All ticket holders aged 11 or older must show proof of a negative Lateral Flow test or proof of full vaccination through the NHS app to be able to enter the stadium.
Source: UEFA, 2021).
History in the making for England by Marina
The anticipation of getting the EURO 2020 cup ‘home’ was like no other year this time, because it has been a long wait of 55 years since England had won a major tournament. The year was 1966, and the location the same as this year – Wembley Stadium. England was playing against West Germany and after a gruelling match, the Three Lions went on to carry the 8th World Cup home with a score of 4-2.
For Gareth Southgate, the manager currently at the helm of leading the team, this was his second major tournament after he and the boys had reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018.
When it comes to England’s record in the EURO’s, they had finished third place in Italy in 1968, but just four teams had participated in the finals that year. Moreover, in 1996 they had lost in the semi-finals to Germany and failed to make it beyond the quarter-finals on two occasions, against Portugal in 2004 and against Italy in 2012.
Therefore, winning the Euro Cup this time was not just about winning the trophy but also a celebration of the love for football. Fans have been waiting for a moment like this since forever and emotions were running high, considering the number of times they have been denied history.
Italy, the tough competitor by Marina
England and Italy were not the usual challengers that you get to see every day. Both the teams, equally capable in their own way, had their pros- Italy with its brilliant passing ability had gone on to score 11 goals, while England with its strong backline had only conceded once in the whole tournament.
However, for Italy, whose name had already been etched in the list of champions in EURO’s history when they won against the Soviet Union in 1968. They had also edged to the finals twice- in 2000, where they lost to France and in 2012, where they lost to Spain.
So, it was never going to be an easy ride for the English team. But both the teams displayed awe-inspiring resilience, team spirit and determination in the respective matches and showed that they are truly worthy of securing spot in the finals.
England’s route to the Final by Conall.
England’s run through the tournament was nothing short of exhilarating. Starting in the group stage, England beat Croatia 1-0. This match set the run off on a positive note, as England had never won their opening match of the tournament before. Raheem Sterling scored in the 57th minute which set the lions off to a running start.
The second match however was jarring for the English. Favoured heavily against Scotland, especially while playing at Wembley (the national stadium) they were considered disappointing by supporters and analysts alike. As England was previously seen as a heavyweight in world football as well as the Euros, this struck doubt in the country’s minds if they had the capacity to make a deep run in the tournament.
The final match of the group stage solidified England’s position as the dominant nation in their group, beating the Czech Republic 1-0. Raheem Sterling scored again with a header in the box, giving England a confident posture heading into the beginning of the knockout portion of the tournament.
The round of 16 resulted in a fantastic win for the English, beating long-time rival Germany in decisive fashion. Raheem Sterling once again scored, giving the English confidence to dominate the pace of the game and forcing the Germans into an uncomfortable strategic position. This was later exploited masterfully by England Captain Harry Kane, who scored an elegant header crossed in from fan favourite Jack Grealish. This marked England’s first win over Germany in a knockout round in 55 years, reinforcing that England’s previous good play was not a fluke.
The quarterfinals proved not to be a challenge for the Lions as England resoundingly beat Ukraine 4-0. While Ukraine managed a valiant and prolonged effort to beat Sweden in the previous round, they had no business against a squad as talented and determined as the English. Harry Kane scored twice, as well as centre back Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson.
While England were the favourites heading into the semi-final against Denmark, this did not stop attacking midfielder Mikkel Damsgaard from putting the lions down 1-0 early off of a perfectly hit free kick. While the English were down they were not discouraged, still dominating play until Bukayo Saka was able to respond by placing an impeccable cross into the Danish box and forcing centre back Simon Kjær to commit an own goal. However it was far from over, as the game extended to extra time, Denmark conceded a penalty which Harry Kane stepped up to dispatch, sending England through. While the Danish put up a valiant and respectable effort, they were unable to stop Gareth Southgate from leading the English to their first major final since the 1966 World cup.
Personal experiences: Khanh.
I have had a really wonderful time during the last few months with the EURO’s. I watched most of the games online with my friends and family in Vietnam and for the final match, I went to The Library pub with my friend to watch the game. I feel really proud of the England team, they have done such an amazing job this year. I think for everyone, we can all agree that the team has brought a huge amount of joy to our lives during the summer after months of frustration over dealing with the pandemic. More than that, thanks to EURO 2020 and the incredible achievement that the England team had made this year, we were given the opportunity to come closer together. We all had the chance to sit down together, to talk and discuss the same topic, to get excited, sing and celebrate with other people around us who we might have never met. We are all bonding through football. In some ways, I feel myself to be closely connected to the country that I am studying and living in and more importantly the people around me thanks to football.
Source: England football
(I went to The Library to watch the final game)
Being an Indian, watching a sports match is a big deal back home and something I really looked forward to. Since Euro 2020 started, I was really glad that I could experience the feeling of community as a fellow football fan and enjoyed every single match thoroughly.
On the day of the final match, my friends and I went to a nearby pub ‘The Pack Horse’ to witness the event on live TV. The pub was thronged with people, but we were lucky enough to get a table and maintained social distancing. I could feel the anticipation and excitement of England’s fans through their adamant ‘It’s coming home’ every time the team tried to score, the nervousness but sheer confidence every time they couldn’t and the silence and heartbreak when they failed to make it as winners. Despite the failure, I believe EURO 2020 bought cheer in a much-needed time and gave students, especially international students a chance to witness England’s passion for football.
(Fans watching the match live on TV in a local pub, me and my friends watching the final game)
When I look back at my university experience in England, following the Euros will likely be one of my fondest memories. While I am not English, I felt that I was welcomed in to share in their incredible passion for football and the tournament. Each time they inched closer to the final the streets of my neighbourhood erupted with streams of football fans chanting ‘It’s coming home!’ with increased fervour and hope. The energy and dedication the English have for football, especially their national team, is a truly remarkable and unparalleled sight to behold.
I was fortunate to have my friend who works at the Library pub book myself and friends a table to watch the final, as I’d not had the chance to before. The atmosphere inside an English pub during a regular match is charged, but the final was something else! We shared in the ecstasy as well as tribulation that resulted from the match, and while England was not able to bring it home we still were proud of the incredible effort the team delivered.
In conclusion, we all have had so much fun and happy times during the last few months thanks to EURO 2020. We feel really proud of the England team for what they have achieved. For us, it is always coming home!