Mbappe and Bellingham Under the Spotlight of the Euro Cup

Mbappe and Bellingham
Mbappe and Bellingham (Credit: Getty Images)

Great football returns tonight and there is a certain feeling that it is returning to solid ground, after two great tournaments soaked in strangeness. The 2020 Euro Cup was not held until 2021 due to COVID-19, and even then it took place under a multitude of restrictions. The 2022 World Cup unfolded far from its place on the calendar and, above all, far from the reach of thousands of fans, in Qatar, a regime that put a kind face on its contempt for women, foreign workers, and the LGBT community. After that, great football returned to the solid ground of the certainties of Germany that in the 2006 World Cup set the organizational standards of a great tournament.

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It also returns to the most agitated Europe since the echoes of the Second World War faded, with one of the participants, the Ukraine of Lunin, Dovbyk, and Tsygankov, resisting the war with Russia. The continent is also in the midst of digesting the latest polls, which detected a rise in intolerant and exclusionary inclinations. It may not be football, but football feels concerned, as the president of the organizing committee, Philipp Lahm: “A single tournament will not heal the world. But football should contribute its part to defend the achievements of democracy.”

To begin with, they have tried to introduce some certainty into something with behavior as vaporous as the ball: the ball will have a chip that will help the VAR monitors to elucidate plays of possible handballs and penalties, since it allows them to detect the deviations suffered with each touch. The public will see graphic recreations of what happened on the screens.

Beyond that, the greatest certainty of the tournament is what the eyes will focus on: Mbappé and France, and Bellingham and England; the two favorite teams for the betting houses and prediction models, and the two most magnetic footballers of the moment.

Deschamps’ team arrives with its most decisive forward released after the announcement of his signing for Real Madrid, although he did not train with the group yesterday, a week after suffering a blow to his knee in a friendly against Luxembourg. But France, a perpetual factory of talent and finalist in the last two World Cups (champion in 2018), has plenty of arsenal to await Mbappé and has also recovered Kanté in case it needs to shore up the midfield.

With England, Southgate is facing his last opportunity to lead a formidable group of players with whom he lost the final of the last Euro at Wembley against Italy on penalties to a title. This year, in addition, it has received a boost from the explosion of Bellingham released near the area by Ancelotti, the last piece of gear that Rice, Foden, and Saka were already moving under the command of Kane.

Among this exuberant struggle, the options of a Spain also appear where De la Fuente has built a block that, around the Rodri lighthouse, shines brighter than its pieces and to which he has provided more game alternatives than those that led to frustration, against Morocco in the World Cup in Qatar. It is a more direct team that has two weapons of pure and dizzying imbalance like it had not brought together before, Nico Williams and Lamine Yamal.

In Portugal, Roberto Martínez has structured and raised a team that left Qatar hypnotized by Cristiano’s tears, who is still scoring, well surrounded by Bernardo Silva, Leão, Ramos, Diogo Jota, Bruno Fernandes, Rúben Dias and Pepe.

Germany has also received a good boost, with a solid coach like Julian Nagelsmann, who managed to convince Toni Kroos to return from his international retirement and help him give meaning to the game. Starting on June 26, when the group stage ends, each of his games could be his last, a retreat at the top, in full control of his genius. In the same way that every game of Güler, Sesko, Mainoo, or Wirtz could constitute their first unforgettable big night on the international stage.

In his article, Lahm left a prediction: “The world will be happier in the coming weeks, and some of that may rub off on us.”

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