When it comes to a major tournament like Euro 2020, there is usually a big advantage for the host nation. Not only do they automatically gain a place, avoiding a gruelling qualifying campaign, but they also get to play in home stadiums cheered on by home fans. Compare this to the experience of other teams, who have to decamp to a strange country with disconcerting customs and foreign languages, and you can see how much easier it is for home players.
Home advantage is also a huge boost tactically, as the team will be much more used to the conditions. Just ask any of the cricket teams competing in India or Pakistan, or the NFL teams competing for the AFC North title, who are able to cope with the cold conditions far better than their sunny southern rivals from Texas or Florida.
No home nation
This year, however, the 16th European Championships will be rather different, with the tournament being held in 12 different countries to celebrate its 60th anniversary. This means that no nation qualifies as hosts, but also means that a whole host of nations will end up playing at home, in front of the roaring of home supporters.
England, for example, will play all their home games at Wembley Stadium, and if they progress that far, could play their semi-final and final there too. And they’re not alone; the Netherlands will play all their group games in Amsterdam, Germany are at home in Munich, Spain play in Bilbao, Italy play in Rome and Denmark kick off in Copenhagen. Should Scotland qualify, they will play two group games at home and the other not too far away in London, while poor Wales have two games in Baku, Azerbaijan and one in Rome.
Anyone could win
What effect the widespread venues of the tournament will have remains to be seen. As we previewed recently, any one of half a dozen or more teams are in with a chance. Of course, home advantage doesn’t always count for that much. The last time the home side won the European Championships was France in 1984, although Spain and Italy were both home winners in 1964 and 1968. In the past, Russia have won in France, Greece have won in Portugal, and of course snowy Iceland didn’t seem too bothered by the unfamiliar warmth of the French Riviera when they beat England in 2016.