Belfast Telegraph

England land Euro final but may face Scottish hostility

By Matthew Joseph

England were finally confirmed yesterday as the hosts of the semi-finals and final of Euro2020.

But no sooner had Football Association officials started celebrating the awarding of the showpiece matches to Wembley than they were surprised to learn that England may have to play group games at the home of the Auld Enemy, Hampden Park.

"I'm sure the players will be delighted to come to Hampden and experience the fervour of the Scottish crowd," said England manager Roy Hodgson diplomatically.

He then praised the decision by Uefa's executive committee to choose Wembley ahead of Munich, the only rival contender to stage the final. "It's a great reward for a lot of hard work which has gone into achieving this success," he said.

"It is a major honour and great boost for us."

Referring back to the only other times England have hosted major international tournaments, Hodgson said: "If we look back historically in 1966 it went very well for us when we hosted a tournament and in 1996 I thought we were very unlucky to lose the (European Championship) semi-final on penalties and we could quite easily have gone on to win it with Terry Venables' team.

"Young players of today have got to be thinking this is a great opportunity for us to not only to be a part of a wonderful tournament but maybe be there at the end when the prizes are dished out."

Specific dates for the one-off 13-city pan-European tournament, conceived by Uefa president Michel Platini to celebrate the competition's 60th anniversary, have yet to be worked out.

There are several hurdles to overcome, not least the 2016 Euros in France and the 2018 World Cup.

With no single host nation for 2020, Uefa has yet to decide where to stage the opening game or where England would play in the group phase, which will be decided by a free draw.

It could be Hampden Park – should they qualify.

But there was no disguising the sense of delight among FA officials at yesterday's announcement, in contrast to the sense of shock that accompanied the double humiliation of failing to secure either the 2006 or 2018 World Cup.

Having been awarded two Champions League finals in three years and seeing its vice-chairman, David Gill, gain a place on the Uefa executive committee, this was the FA's biggest political victory in years. "It's nice to win one for a change," said FA chairman Greg Dyke.

Euro 2020 will be played across 13 European cities: London, Baku, Brussels, Copenhagen, Munich, Budapest, Rome, Amsterdam, Dublin, Bucharest, St Petersburg, Glasgow and Bilbao.

Dublin's Aviva Stadium was handed three group games and one last-16 fixture to host.

Former Republic of Ireland winger Stephen Hunt said on Twitter: "Fair play for getting four games during Euro 2020! I know Irish people will buy into it and the buzz that goes with it.

"Ireland will get to show people what we are capable of, maybe one day hosting one ourselves is now on."

Wales are now expected to target a Champions League final before 2020. Football Association of Wales chief executive Jonathan Ford said: "We are disappointed, but on the technical side we could not have put in a better bid."

Belfast Telegraph


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