Kevin de Bruyne ruled out of Belgium's Euro 2020 opener with fractured nose and eye socket

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Kevin de Bruyne ruled out of Belgium's opening match with fractured nose and eye socket - Michael Steele /Pool Getty 
Kevin de Bruyne ruled out of Belgium's opening match with fractured nose and eye socket - Michael Steele /Pool Getty

Kevin de Bruyne will miss Belgium's first European Championship match against Russia on Saturday, the Belgian team confirmed on Friday.

De Bruyne fractured his eye socket and nose in the Champions League final and had minor surgery last week, only joining up with his Belgian team mates on Monday. Midfielder Axel Witsel is also recovering from an Achilles tendon injury.

"Axel Witsel and Kevin De Bruyne did not travel to Russia. They stayed in (the Belgian training camp) Tubize to continue their recovery," the Belgian Red Devils Twitter account said.

However, Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov said Roberto Martinez still has a formidable squad to pick from.

Belgium went all the way to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and they have been the number one-ranked side in the world for the past three years.

"They have 18 players from that World Cup squad, as far as I know. We have played them three times, all three matches were interesting and spectacular for the fans," Cherchesov told reporters on Friday.

"We are studying them and our task for tomorrow's game is to be at the peak of our abilities. We suffered two defeats but we must not forget that Belgium is a great team."

02:57 PM

Danes relishing 'dark horse' tag ahead of Finland Euro clash

Reuters.

Denmark are relishing their status as Euro 2020 dark horses ahead of their opening Group B clash with Finland on Saturday, the first of three home games at the Parken Stadium for the Danes. A string of good performances has many commentators tipping the Danes as possible winners of the tournament, which they won in stunning fashion in 1992 after being called up as late replacements for the former Yugoslavia.

"It's probably because we've got good results, played football that's worth watching and won some matches that we take with us," playmaker Christian Eriksen told a media conference. "We have a lot of confidence, but to go and win, that's what we have to do if we want to go far. I think there's a lot of bumps we need to get over first," he added.

The first of those hurdles will be Finland, who are looking to make a splash after qualifying for the finals of a major tournament for the first time

"It's incredibly important that we come out and get a good start," central defender Simon Kjaer said.

Denmark face Belgium, the top-ranked side in the world, in their second Group B match, likely adding to the pressure for a result against Finland, who next take on Russia.

Coach Kasper Hjulmand, who has taken over the reins after Age Hareide orchestrated the successful Euro qualifying campaign, bristled with confidence as he said the tournament was the biggest thing ever to happen on Danish soil.

"We are in a good place, we have a good balance in the squad. We are well-prepared, we are full of energy, we are excited, we are confident and respectful of our opponent. We are where we need to be," he told reporters.

Defender Kjaer shared his coach's confidence, but sounded a note of caution with tough games against Belgium and Russia to follow. "We have a huge amount of belief in ourselves, but we take one game at a time and one day at a time," he said.

02:40 PM

Scotland perform u-turn on decision not to take the knee against England at Euro 2020

The Scots confirmed on Thursday that they would continue standing in solidarity against racism but the reaction has prompted a swift rethink.

"In light of divisive and inaccurate comments being perpetuated by individuals and groups, whose views we denounce in the strongest terms, we have reflected today as a group," head coach Steve Clarke said.

"For the avoidance of doubt: me, my coaching staff, my players and my backroom team take a stand against racism and all forms of unacceptable and discriminatory behaviour across society. We do so to raise awareness of the ongoing problem but also as a reminder to those who have the ultimate power and responsibility to implement meaningful change.

"We will continue to take a stand - together, as one - for our matches at Hampden Park. For our match at Wembley, we will stand against racism and kneel against ignorance."

02:22 PM

Belgium have a great squad even without de Bruyne, says Russia coach

Reuters.

Belgium may be without key midfielders for their Group B opener in the European Championship but Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov said Roberto Martinez still has a formidable squad to pick from.

Kevin de Bruyne did not travel for Belgium's first match, against Russia in St Petersburg, as he continues to recover from a fractured eye socket and nose while Axel Witsel is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury.

Belgium went all the way to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and they have been the number one-ranked side in the world for the past three years.

"They have 18 players from that World Cup squad, as far as I know. We have played them three times, all three matches were interesting and spectacular for the fans," Cherchesov told reporters on Friday. "We are studying them and our task for tomorrow's game is to be at the peak of our abilities. We suffered two defeats but we must not forget that Belgium is a great team."

Russia were dealt a late blow when midfielder Andrei Mostovoy tested positive for Covid-19, with defender Roman Yevgenyev taking his place in the squad on Friday.

All eyes will be on Russia's towering striker and captain Artyom Dzyuba, who has scored 29 goals for his country, two goals shy of becoming their all-time top scorer. Dzyuba said that de Bruyne's absence would be a big loss for Belgium but that they are still the overall favourites to top the group.

"I perfectly remember that the Belgians are very strong, disciplined and organised. I perfectly understand what is expected of me in the game. We have the experience and we have analysed all our matches," Dzyuba said.

"There are some nerves but of the pleasant kind because this is an important tournament. Like any player I would like to score but the team comes first. We have to gain points, and everything else will come if I play well and wisely."

02:04 PM

The making of Three Lions: The inside story of how football's most famous anthem was born

25 years on from Euro 96, Baddiel, Skinner and Ian Broudie's effort remains the high point for popular, and brilliant football songs as Thom Gibbs explains.

Calling Three Lions the best football song ever feels like faint praise. In truth, it is not a crowded field.

Back Home, Vindaloo, Diamond Lights – none troubled the Ivor Novello panel. World In Motion was a step up in 1990, but did feel less rabble-rousing tune for the fans and more New Order demo with unexpected guest rap from John Barnes.

Three Lions transcended its status and then some. A number one single 25 years ago, then again two years later it has now become something closer to a folk song. The phrase “It’s coming home,” took on a memey new life during England’s World Cup run in 2018, the song spliced into TV and film scenes from Friends to the Wolf of Wall Street.

The Duke of Cambridge tweeted “Football’s coming home” after England’s win over Sweden. Far from the boast it was sometimes interpreted as, the phrase seemed to sum up the national mood in England. Optimistic despite all previous experience, knowing full well it could all come crashing down at any moment.

You can read Thom's historical breakdown in full here.

01:48 PM

'We have to adapt to a special situation' to finish Euro 2020 Ceferin tells AFP

AFP.

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin told AFP on Friday that the teams would have to deal with "a special situation" to complete Euro 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"It's not the usual Euro because it's in 11 countries and on top of it there's a pandemic which makes travelling even more difficult," Ceferin said in Rome.

"So every team will have to adapt to a special situation to finish this Euro."

A year after being postponed due to the pandemic, the 24-team tournament spread across 11 venues throughout Europe gets underway on Friday with Italy facing Turkey in front of an estimated 16,000 fans in a Stadio Olimpico.

01:34 PM

Paulo Fonseca strikes agreement in principle to take over at Tottenham as Jose Mourinho’s successor

Away from the Euro's for a moment, our Chief Football Writer Sam Wallace can exclusively reveal that Fonseca is understood to have agreed a two-year contract at Spurs with a one-year optional extension, with paperwork pending.

The Portuguese is understood to have agreed in principle a contract until 2023 with Tottenham Hotspur, with a one-year optional extension, bringing closer the end of the club's long search for a successor to Jose Mourinho.

Euro 2020 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - STANISLAS VEDMID /AFP
Euro 2020 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - STANISLAS VEDMID /AFP

The deal is being concluded ahead of the formal presentation of the club's new sporting director Fabio Paratici, formerly of Juventus, who has led the managerial search in the last few days. Fonseca, 48, is now in place to take the job pending agreement on the paperwork and the final agreement of chairman Daniel Levy, who has been in the Bahamas with principal shareholder Joe Lewis.

Fonseca left his previous job at Roma in May, to be replaced by Mourinho. He was not Spurs' first choice for the role but was identified as being a developer of young players who is capable of playing the attacking football that Levy identified as crucial in his recent letter to Spurs fans.

You can read Sam's exclusive report on full here.

01:18 PM

Scotland team decide to take the knee in solidarity when they play at Wembley

PA.

Scotland players will take the knee in solidarity with their England counterparts when they play at Wembley in Euro 2020.

The Scots had confirmed on Thursday that they would continue standing in solidarity against racism during the tournament but the reaction has prompted a partial rethink 24 hours later.

"In light of divisive and inaccurate comments being perpetuated by individuals and groups, whose views we denounce in the strongest terms, we have reflected today as a group," head coach Steve Clarke said.

"We will continue to take a stand - together, as one - for our matches at Hampden Park. For our match at Wembley, we will stand against racism and kneel against ignorance."

01:02 PM

Euro 2020: Ranking the 50 best players you will see this summer

Our series reaches its climax, with the top 10 players revealed as Euro 2020 kicks off tonight.

Telegraph Sport’s stable of football writers have selected their best players at Euro 2020 and from that we have calculated the definitive list of the 50 brightest stars in action across Europe over the next month. Today we reveal the top of the list and remind you again of who came before them, so – from bottom to top...

Check out the full list here.

12:45 PM

Euro 2020 wallchart and predictor

Eleven European nations host Euro 2020, with Wembley home to the semi-finals and final. Will Gareth Southgate's England lift the trophy in 2021 or will Portugal emerge as victors again?

Make your tournament predictions with our brilliant tool. Simply select the winners of each knockout game, and your triumphant finalist.

Last chance before things get underway tonight!

12:32 PM

Spain vaccinates squad after outbreak scare

AP.

Worried that a coronavirus outbreak could derail its chances at the European Championship, Spain sent in the army on Friday to vaccinate the team three days before its opening match at the tournament. Medics from Spain's Armed Forces administered the shots at the team's training facility near Madrid.

"We have had the privilege and the good fortune that the government decided to vaccinate us," said Spain midfielder Thiago, who was infected with Covid-19 last year. "While this is great news for us, I hope that we don't have any adverse effects before the match."

Spain will play Sweden in Seville on Monday in its opening Euro 2020 match. Some people who receive vaccines can experience fever and tiredness, but many do not have any side effects.

Euro 2020 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - Pablo Garcia/RFEF/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock
Euro 2020 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - Pablo Garcia/RFEF/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock

The government allowed the team to be vaccinated ahead of schedule in Spain, which is maintaining a strict order based on age. Currently, no one under 40 years old is eligible for a shot.

Spain has also given special permission for its athletes heading to the Tokyo Olympics to receive vaccinations against the virus.

Spain's preparations were thrown off this week after captain Sergio Busquets and defender Diego Llorente both tested positive.

Llorente's subsequent tests have come back negative so his initial positive result may have been erroneous. The team said he may be able to return soon. Busquets tested positive on Sunday and is under a minimum 10-day isolation. But the team said he is feeling fine and that it hopes he will be back during the tournament.

12:17 PM

Downing Street tells England fans not to boo players for taking the knee

Speaking on Question Time, education minister Gillian Keegan had previously suggested that the gesture was 'creating division', reports Jeremy Wilson.

Downing Street has told England fans not to boo the national team for taking the knee in protest against racial injustice.

Despite No 10 previously declining to condemn those who booed players, a spokesman said: "The Prime Minister respects the right of all people to peacefully protest and make their feelings known about injustices.

"I think the Prime Minister has spoken before about his desire to get everybody to get behind the national team and the PM would like to see everyone getting behind the team to cheer them on, not boo."

Gillian Keegan, the education minister, had previously described England footballers taking the knee as a divisive gesture that represented "symbolism more than action".

Speaking on BBC Question Time, Keegan said she was "pretty sure" that the majority of those fans who were booing footballers for taking the knee were also anti-racist but disagreed with political positions linked to the Black Lives Matter movement.

You can read Jeremy's report in full here.

12:01 PM

Who will win Euro 2020 – and which outsider they will beat in the final

In a fascinating, data-driven long read, Daniel Zeqiri and Ben Butcher crunch the numbers and answer the important questions: How to predict a Euros winner? Tournament clout? Manager experience? Defence or attack?

Making predictions about sport is hard. Making predictions about football is harder. Making predictions about international tournaments is even harder still.

While the weekly grind of club football provides a regular supply of fresh data, fluctuating performances and variable results to sink our teeth into, these biennial jamborees exist almost in a world of their own.

Clubs who are coached to the letter bring a degree of reliability. They might not win every game, because football's low-scoring nature guarantees variance, but once a coach has been in place for some time we quickly get a feel for how they will approach games. There is a deluge of publicly available information, which in turn barely scratches the surface of the data and feedback the professionals have at their fingertips behind the scenes.

That data is more scarce and spotty at international level. The top nations rarely play each other in games of significance, despite Uefa's best efforts with the Nations League. Qualification campaigns are spread over such a long period that a team's early fixtures can seem irrelevant by the time a tournament arrives.

You can read their breakdown in full here.

11:44 AM

De Bruyne to miss Belgium's Euro opener against Russia

Kevin de Bruyne will miss Belgium's first European Championship match against Russia on Saturday, the Belgian team confirmed on Friday.

De Bruyne fractured his eye socket and nose in the Champions League final and had minor surgery last week, only joining up with his Belgian team mates on Monday. Midfielder Axel Witsel is also recovering from an Achilles tendon injury.

"Axel Witsel and Kevin De Bruyne did not travel to Russia. They stayed in (the Belgian training camp) Tubize to continue their recovery," the Belgian Red Devils Twitter account said.

Euro 2020 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - Michael Steele /Pool Getty 
Euro 2020 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - Michael Steele /Pool Getty

11:34 AM

England 2.0: Flip-charts, Lewis Hamilton and no 'slow deaths' – how Gareth Southgate rebuilt after 2018

England have not gone deep in successive major tournaments since 1970. With a squad of young, exciting players at his disposal, Gareth Southgate has the opportunity to end that and take England all the way.

Jason Burt explains the how the England manager has learned and changed his methods since the World Cup in 2018.

11:21 AM

Players to miss Euro 2020 games due to Covid-19

Reuters.

There is no doubt coronavirus will impact the delayed Euro 2020 tournament. Here is the full list of players to test positive in the run-up to tonight's big kick-off...

Netherlands

  • Jasper Cillessen - tested positive on May 28

The Netherlands left first choice goalkeeper out of their squad after he tested positive, with coach Frank de Boer not prepared to risk how long he needs to recover.

Russia

  • Andrei Mostovoy - tested positive on June 11

Russia replaced midfielder Andrei Mostovoy with defender Roman Yevgenyev in their lineup after the former's latest coronavirus test came back with "unfavourable results".

Scotland

  • John Fleck - tested positive on June 2

Midfielder John Fleck returned a positive test at the team's base camp in Spain ahead of a an international friendly against Netherlands. As a precaution, six other players did not travel for the friendly.

Spain

  • Sergio Busquets - tested positive on June 6

  • Diego Llorente - tested positive on June 9

Captain Sergio Busquets tested positive eight days before their first match at Euro 2020 and is set to miss Spain's opening fixture against Sweden on Monday.

Defender Diego Llorente tested positive five days before Spain's Euro 2020 opener.

However, he was set to return to the squad's training camp after testing negative in another two rounds of tests. There were indications he had returned a false positive.

Sweden

  • Dejan Kulusevski - tested positive on June 8

  • Mattias Svanberg - tested positive on June 8

Sweden midfielders Dejan Kulusevski and Mattias Svanberg will miss the opening game against Spain.

After the first of the two players returned a positive test, Sweden head coach Janne Andersson said no reserve would be called up as he hoped Kulusevski would be able to rejoin the squad after the Group E opener.

11:08 AM

Scotland will not take the knee before matches at Euro 2021, instead opting to 'stand up to racism'

England on Thursday night were left isolated in taking the knee alone in their three European Championship group matches after Scotland announced they would not join them in doing so.

Amid the publication of a new poll that laid bare the deep divisions among supporters over the gesture, the Scottish Football Association said its players would not resume performing it, having stopped in March.

Croatia, England’s opening opponents, also confirmed their squad would not take the knee on a collective basis during Euro 2020.

With Czech Republic having previously announced they had adopted “a neutral political stance” over the pre-match routine, England were facing being the only team in Group D to continue to perform it.

A statement from the SFA read: “The squad, coaching staff and backroom members will stand up to racism ahead of the Group D matches against Czech Republic, England and Croatia.”

Scotland stopped taking the knee in March after manager Steve Clarke said it had become “maybe a little bit diluted”.

Croatia’s players refused to discuss their own position on Thursday but a spokesman for their football federation said: “Because this gesture does not symbolise anti-racism or the fight against discrimination in the context of Croatian culture, we will not be imposing this as a mandatory measure.”

10:53 AM

Euro 2020 TV channel schedule: how to watch every match live

Having weathered an enforced year's delay because of the global coronavirus pandemic, the European Championship finally gets underway on Friday, June 11 in Rome.

Because of restrictions over the size of crowds and the vast distances between the 11 venues which have been chosen to celebrate the 60th (now 61st) anniversary of the competition, this, more than any previous tournament, will be largely a television event even for the most diehard match-going supporters.

All 51 matches will be shown in the UK by the two largest terrestrial broadcasters who have already carved up the group games and will take dibs on the knockout stages once the qualifiers have been established.

The full tournament schedule, including details of kick-off times and how to watch in the UK, is set out here.

10:37 AM

Euro 2020: The England XI that should start against Croatia – our writers pick their teams

Our football writers select their England XIs for the team's opening game of Euro 2020 against Croatia on Sunday.

With Euro 2020 kicking off on Friday evening and England's first game just two days away, the time is nigh for Gareth Southgate to finalise his selection for their tournament opener against Croatia on Sunday June 13.

Southgate will need to decide whether he goes all guns blazing for the opener and picks his best squad available, or look to manage the campaign in the knowledge that the games against Scotland and the Czech Republic follow soon after.

Here, our writers select the team they would deploy against Croatia.

10:22 AM

Jose Mourinho picks his England XI to face Croatia

The Special One has had his says, and there's no Jordan Pickford for him. Kalvin Phillips is down to start next to Declan Rice in a 4-2-3-1, with Mount playing in behind Kane. Mings partners Stones in the middle of the back four.

It's ultra-attacking by Mourinho's standards, and doesn't look too far off what Southgate may plump for..

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10:08 AM

How 12 months in Holland were the making of Mason Mount: 'He conquered Dutch league'

Mount made a big impression at Vitesse Arnhem and there has been genuine delight there to see him shine for England and Chelsea, reports our Chief Sports Reporter Jeremy Wilson.

Marc van Hintum held hundreds of meetings with players, parents, agents and representatives of rival clubs during almost seven years as Vitesse Arnhem’s chief scout. There was one, however, that has always remained at the absolute forefront of his mind.

Mason Mount was almost four months into his season on loan in Holland during the 2017-18 season and, for all the obvious potential of a player who had just helped England win the European Under-19 Championship, he was struggling to command a regular place in manager Henk Fraser’s team.

That in itself was not totally unexpected. Mount was only 18 and it was his first season in senior football. Many other teenage Chelsea loanees had previously struggled to adapt, especially early in the experience of living and playing in a different country. Mount’s father, Tony, had accompanied Mason to the meeting, which was also joined by representatives of Chelsea.

“Mason is a winner and he wanted to play,” said Van Hintum, himself a former Dutch international. “When a player isn’t playing, he is not happy. Mason was not satisfied.”

You can read Jeremy's full account of Mount's Dutch adventure here.

09:55 AM

Italy vs Turkey, final preparations in pictures

Meanwhile, the hosts of tonight's curtain raiser Italy have also been preparing for their first game against Turkey...

Euro 2020 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - HANDOUT/AFP
Euro 2020 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - HANDOUT/AFP
Euro 2020 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu 
Euro 2020 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu
Euro 2020 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - ETTORE FERRARI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock
Euro 2020 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - ETTORE FERRARI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock

09:38 AM

Euro 2020 football kits: every team's home and away shirts ranked

Every home and away kit for the 2020 Euros put into order of merit – find out who has clinched Thom Gibbs' coveted No 1 spot.

It's Kitmas time / there's no need to be afraid.

At Kitmas time / we let in light, and banish tedious templates shared between several teams, thus eroding their distinctive national identities.

The European Championship tends to provide a more low-key slate of brightly coloured sportswear than the World Cup. There are no Nigerian pattern explosions, Brazilian flair or Saudi Arabian number-making-up to liven up proceedings here.

This is the continent of staid tradition, Germany in white, Italy in blue, Sweden always there but rarely contributing much.

So there's a slight throwback feel to the competition's outfits for this delayed tournament, and not just because some of these kits have been in use for nearly three years now.

09:24 AM

Italy vs Turkey, final preparations in pictures

Ahead of the Euro 2021 curtain raiser this evening, the Turkish team have been preparing in Rome...

Euro 2021 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu
Euro 2021 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu
Euro 2021 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu
Euro 2021 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu
Euro 2021 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu
Euro 2021 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu

09:08 AM

'England need a reality check – reaching the Euros semi-finals would be an achievement'

Setting lofty ambitions before the first ball is kicked risks the same old disappointment, says Jamie Carragher.

England’s participation in major international tournaments tends to follow the same pattern. Anticipation, over-expectation, disillusionment and recrimination. Usually, this is caused by the misguided belief the national team is ready to win the World Cup or European championship. This year, it seems predictions are more restrained.

“Reaching the semi-final would represent a good performance,” is the most frequent observation, suggesting the nation has learnt from those years of setting its sights too high, later deflated by the ‘failure’ to win.

We may need another reality check. Making the last four of the European championships will require an outstanding performance, so the nation would be wise to remind itself of England’s current standing and the challenge ahead before over-optimism takes hold.

You can read Jamie's thoughts in full here.

08:51 AM

The rise and rise of 'Meatball' John McGinn

The Scotland and Aston Villa star has come a long way since imitating Zidane on a trampoline and being stabbed in the leg by a team-mate, reports John Percy.

John McGinn is renowned as the resident comedian in Scotland's European Championship squad so it is perhaps fitting that he was at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival three years ago when his life changed forever.

Euro 2021 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - Andrew Milligan /PA
Euro 2021 latest news: Turkey vs Italy to kick off delayed tournament - live updates - Andrew Milligan /PA

It was then that Aston Villa offered McGinn the chance to leave his country and join them in the Championship. He had already firmly established himself with St Mirren and Hibernian, winning a promotion, Scottish League Cup and Scottish Cup, and was attracting the interest of Brendan Rodgers at Celtic, the club he supported as a boy.

But McGinn was determined to prove himself in England and the move has paid off spectacularly. He has emerged as a pivotal figure in the club's evolution under Dean Smith and, on Monday, the man previously known as “Meatball” will be one of Steve Clarke’s main weapons on Monday as Scotland begin their first major tournament campaign in 23 years with a game against the Czech Republic at Hampden Park.

You can read John's full profile of McGinn here.

08:37 AM

Kevin Nisbet wants Scotland to impact Euro's as Wales did 5 years ago

PA.

Scotland striker Kevin Nisbet believes they can follow in the footsteps of Wales and make their mark on the big stage.

The Scots end their 23-year absence from major tournament action on Monday when they take on Czech Republic at Hampden in their opening Euro 2021 encounter.

Wales returned from a longer hiatus to reach the European Championship semi-finals five years ago and Nisbet agreed that Scotland could "definitely" take inspiration from such an example.

"Anything can happen in the Euros," the 24-year-old added. "Greece won it one year as well and nobody expected them to win it.

"First and foremost for us it's just to get out the group and then we will regroup and take it from there.

"All concentration is on the Czech game. It's a massive game for us and, if we can get a result there, it stands us in good stead for the rest of the group games.

"You want to get off to a good start in any match and in any tournament you play in so it'll be full focus on the Czech game and how we're going to try to beat them."

08:22 AM

Euro 2021 predictions: Our experts' verdicts - from tournament winners to top scorers

It's here! It's finally here! After a year delay to the festival of football, the Euro's kick-off this evening with Turkey facing Italy in Rome.

Will Scotland and Wales get out of their groups? Can England go all the way? Is there anyone who can stop France? Our writers have their say.

Do you agree with their predictions? Get involved, have a full read here and have your say in the comments section below...

08:10 AM

The ageing talisman: Can Gareth Bale rise to the occasion for Wales one last time?

The 31 year-old remains a unique talent, a global draw and best hope for a Wales side that will soon have to contemplate a post-Bale reality, writes Sam Dean, who is embedded with the Wales squad in Baku, Azerbaijan.

With his top-knot pulled tight and his shorts rolled high in the Azerbaijani sun, Gareth Bale has been hard to miss this week. He is a figure who naturally draws the eye and, even if you could not pick him out of the crowd in Wales’ open training sessions, you can usually hear his voice. More often than not, Bale is the one with his head thrown back, whooping with high-pitched laughter towards the Baku skies.

This is Bale’s default state with Wales. Happy, relaxed, joking with his team-mates. He has long been one of the main pranksters in the squad, always searching for the next gag, and he has never made any attempt to hide the joy he feels when representing his country.

There are times, though, when it all gets a little more serious for Bale and for Wales. Those wide smiles will be replaced by clenched jaws on Saturday, when their European Championship begins with a testing match against Switzerland. For most of Rob Page’s players, a second consecutive Euros brings opportunity. For Bale, more than anyone else, it also brings pressure.

You can read Sam's analysis in full here.

07:55 AM

'England needs a unifying force for the Euros - and the St George's flag can be it'

In this of all periods, no good can come from creating yet another instrument of division, believes our Chief Sports Writer Oliver Brown.

It feels as if the European Championship is emerging on Friday out of the fog of an escalating culture war, in which Gary Lineker finds himself accused by Laurence Fox of moral supremacism, and where the tortured conversation around taking a knee triggers an intervention by the Prime Minister. The sensitivity of these debates highlights how profoundly society has changed over the past 25 years, since the last time England contested major tournament games at Wembley. For Euro ’96 was a tournament defined less by paroxysms of outrage than by an outbreak of unabashed jingoism.

The coverage did little to dispel a caricature of English football as nakedly xenophobic. All it took was a leaden knockout win over Spain on penalties, and a semi-final with Germany, for the Daily Mirror to mock up an image of Stuart Pearce in a Second World War helmet under the headline “Achtung, Surrender”, with then editor Piers Morgan reportedly hatching a plan to drive a tank to the German Embassy. To pick up the Daily Star that week was to read the front-page declaration, “Herr We Go, Bring on the Krauts”, alongside a suggestive picture of Claudia Schiffer straplined: “Ooh, ja, Claudia.”

You can read Oliver's thoughts in full here.

07:41 AM

Ukraine says will make 'political' slogans its official symbol

Reuters.

Ukraine's national football association will convene an emergency meeting of its executives to approve Uefa-banned slogans as the country's official football symbols, the head of the association said.

Uefa told Ukraine on Thursday it could keep a map showing Crimea on its new national shirt despite objections from Russia but said it must remove the phrase "Glory to the heroes" due to military connotations.

The president of the Football Association of Ukraine, Andriy Pavelko, said on Facebook late on Thursday that the association would approve the slogans "Glory to Ukraine" and "Glory to the heroes" as the country's official football symbols, while the emblem of the national team would be the image of Ukraine's map with Crimea and Donbass.

Ukraine's kit, due to feature in the European Championship, has stirred rivalries with Moscow because it includes an outline map showing the peninsula of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014 but which remains internationally recognised as part of Ukraine.

"Football symbols of Ukraine, long recognised by all our fans and the football community in general, must be protected and immortalised in the football tradition of our country," Pavelko said.

"Thank you to all our fans for the crazy support of Football Association of Ukraine and the new design of the national team uniform," he added.

Ukraine had said the shirt was a symbol of national unity. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy posted a selfie on Instagram with the jersey on this week and his office defended the slogans as "absolutely correct".

Relations between Moscow and Kyiv collapsed after the annexation of Crimea and the start of a Russian-backed separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014 that Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people.

On Thursday Pavelko flew to Rome for emergency talks with Uefa and said the talks would continue Friday morning.

07:26 AM

'France are the team to beat in a tournament that can make the world smile again'

Arsene Wenger has labelled France 'super favourites' - but the Euro's is often harder to win than the World Cup and has a knack of surprises, says our Chief Football Correspondent Jason Burt in his tournament preview.

England's lament about "30 years of hurt" will roll down from the stands at Wembley Stadium once again on Sunday, the sentiment as pertinent as it was when 'Three Lions' was first released for Euro '96, even if the numbers need updating.

That song is a famously idiosyncratic celebration of national suffering, but other countries may find themselves sharing the sentiment ahead of this unique European Championships. Everyone, after all, has had their fair share of pain in the last year, but the hope is that the delayed Euro 2020 will be the joyous communion that it can be.

Nothing unites quite like an international tournament, and it is hard to find fault with Belgium coach Roberto Martinez's assessment that this will be the most “emotional” competition ever, as fans return in force across the continent.

You can read Jason's preview in full here.

07:12 AM

Mings on England and mastering the 'dark arts'

Tyrone Mings believes England need to be streetwise at the European Championship to counter rival nations being "masters at the dark arts".

The Aston Villa defender is in contention to start England's Euro 2020 opener against Croatia at Wembley on Sunday.

Mings, 28, picked up his 10th cap in Sunday's 1-0 warm-up win over Romania and with fitness concerns over Harry Maguire he could retain his place this weekend.

After being caught on cameras hitting Austria forward Sasa Kalajdzic with his forearm in last week's friendly, Mings suggested England need to sometimes blur the line when it comes to following the rules.

Asked if there is something to be said about being streetwise, Mings replied: "Football is very soft these days, you cannot get away with much.

"Like you say, if there had have been VAR, absolutely I would have given away a penalty.

"As a defender, I have done that many times in my career. When a cross is about to come in, block the striker. That is not against the rules. But that one (on Kalajdzic) there was probably too aggressive.

"But being streetwise is a huge part of the game. You look at other nations and they are masters at the dark arts - staying on the floor for longer than needed, delaying restarts.

"Being streetwise is also sometimes what gets you over the edge because it winds up the opposition and breaks up their flow and their rhythm."

Mings defended his actions in the Kalajdzic incident and says he would not have been caught out by VAR, had it been in operation during the friendly at the Riverside Stadium.

"Not lucky, no, because I knew there wasn't VAR," he said when asked if he was lucky the clash went unnoticed by the officials.

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