The 16,000 spectators might be wasting their time. That’s because Achilles the Oracle Cat has prophesied victory for Italy in tonight’s game. Achilles, one of the mousers at St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum by day, looked into his crystal bowl this morning and started chowing down on the Italians. He’s got form, having correctly predicted the winner of the 2017 CAF Confederation Cup, then the first four matches at the following year’s World Cup. He started getting a few things wrong after that, but nobody’s perfect, and yes I did consider making that pun before thinking better of it.
1.15pm EDT 13:15
Approximately 16,000 fans are expected at the game tonight, and they’re all making their way to the Olimpico with a view to making some beautiful noise. Here are some Turkish supporters not doing a particularly good job of recreating the cover of Abbey Road …
… while Italian fans build some atmosphere at the nearby Stele Mussolini obelisk.
1.00pm EDT 13:00
Tonight’s opener takes place at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome … which according to our complete guide to all the Euro 2020 stadiums “resembles a large uncovered bowl slowly sinking into its designated patch of land between the Tiber river and Monte Mario hill”. It’s not super-safe ground for the hosts. While their all-time record in Rome reads 35 wins, 18 draws and only six losses, three of those defeats have come in their last six matches here. However, they beat Greece 2-0 here in qualifying, while their finals record in the capital at the Euros and the World Cup is eight wins and two draws … and to be fair, they won the Euro 68 final here, 2-0 against Yugoslavia, so you can look at this a few different ways.
at 1.16pm EDT
12.45pm EDT 12:45
So how should we start the Guardian’s live, up-to-the-nanosecond coverage of Euro 2020, then? That’s right, with material first published ten days ago! Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a quick refresher course.
7.09am EDT 07:09
Hello! Where on earth have you been? We’ve been waiting 364 days for you. But don’t worry, we’ve stalled everyone. Turns out you’ve arrived in the nick of time. This is going to be a blast.
Thing is, people get so het up about where in-play tournaments are going to end up in the pantheon. Endless arguments. Half-decent games are compared to the 1984 semi between France and Portugal by folk desperate to believe they’re living through a golden age; half-decent tournaments are compared to Euro 80 by the glass-half-empty edgelord crowd. The truth, we can exclusively reveal, is almost always somewhere in the middle.
But this time, it really, really, really doesn’t matter. There will be 51 matches at the 16th Uefa European Championship. They could all end 0-0, and it’d still be an excuse to enjoy every single minute, a reason to party hearty, a cause for wild celebration. After all the world’s been through in the last year-and-a-bit, a major international football tournament is about to begin! With fans in situ!!! Whatever happens, this is going to be the feelgood hit of the summer. Sit back and enjoy.
The tournament begins with an intriguing match between away side Italy, hosting in Rome, and designated home side Turkey, playing away. (Go with it, it’s going to be that kind of tournament.) The Turks have scored 14 goals in their last six matches, while the Azzurri, back in the big time after missing the last World Cup, haven’t been beaten since 2018, a run that stretches to 27 matches.
Before that, there’s an opening ceremony to get through. More on that anon, because we’ll have plenty of time to fill. The ceremony is scheduled to start at 7pm BST, the big game at 8pm BST. At long last, we can say it. Euro 2020: it’s on!