As always, the disclaimer that none of this matters in the light of what’s going on in the world. But we don’t have much else to do but speculate and fantasize about the future at the moment, and I’m about two days from dressing the dog up as various wrestlers and recreating all their entrances.
Earlier this week, UEFA took time out from its 24/7 money-grab and expanding the Champions League to 197 teams while simultaneously restricting the winners to only Bayern, Juve, Madrid, and Barcelona (and pimp-slapping Man City for its own enjoyment/revenge) to actually make a solid decision. That was to move Euro 2020 to 2021. Some decisions are just so plainly obvious that even an unwieldy and evil organization as this one can’t help but make them.
It’s clearly a no-brainer. First, it’s unclear that any kind of sport will be able to be played even in mid-June or early July. Second, the domestic leagues are going to need a lot of room to finish their seasons if they’re allowed, and it most certainly will be when the tournament would have taken place, if not later. Third, this is the unique summer tournament that wasn’t being held in just one country, but in 12 different stadiums across Europe. Which would make it far easier to move back a year as you’re only talking about stadium use for the most part instead of one country’s entire infrastructure for a tournament such as this. No single place is ready to welcome hundreds of thousands of tourists and supporters for up to a month.
As stupid and corrupt as the whole Qatar, Thanksgiving-to-Christmas World Cup of 2022 is, even it provides more of a cushion as there isn’t a worry that players will be playing for two straight summers. Though COMNEBOL didn’t seem concerned about that by scheduling back-to-back Copa Americas (for the second time) to get on the same summer tournament schedule as UEFA. They also have pushed back this upcoming Copa America (somehow held in both Colombia and Argentina, which don’t exactly share a border) to 2021.
But from one season to the next, outlooks for national teams can change. Fuck, we don’t even know the total field for Euro 2020 (now 2021) because the playoffs for the last four spots had not been completed yet. It does open up the possibility of currently injured or wayward stars to shine in the tournament that they would have missed this summer, but the reverse is true as well.
For instance, Norway is one of those playoff teams, and they’re in possession of maybe the hottest striker on the planet. But will Erling Haaland still be opening up fissures in the time/space continuum in a year? Will a full year in the Bundesliga at 20 char him a bit? Remember, Christian Pulisic lit the world on fire at 18 at Dortmund, but he suffered in form and health at 19 to open a door for Jadon Sancho before moving to Chelsea, where fitness has still evaded him. Time moves quickly for teenagers in football.
Tournament favorite France might have gone into this without Paul Pogba, if he even thought the tourney was worth his time, as he would have missed the rest of the season with Manchester United. France also gets a year to find a way to keep Jose Mourinho from attacking Tangay Nnbombele with a mace and find him a happy home. On the flip side, it’s another year of mileage for Antoine Griezmann (between half-assed LeBron ripoffs), though when you have Kylian Mbappe at the ripe age of 22, no one gives a shit.
England will get a reprieve from trying to find a replacement for Harry Kane, though his days of being HARRY KANE are probably over. Still, heading into a tournament where the semis and final will be on home soil and white-knuckling through games with Tammy Abraham, Danny Ings, or Dominic Calvert-Lewin leading the line didn’t seem a tantalizing prospect. Especially with Marcus Rashford having also been very touch-and-go this summer. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will get another season to take an axe to his back.
On the flip side there, England won’t get Jordan Henderson in player-of-the-season form, though it’s another year for Dean Henderson to displace the sometimes wavy-inflatable-arm-guy ways of Jordan Pickford.
Another tournament favorite, Belgium, would have likely entered EU 2020 with captain and best player Eden Hazard on the sidelines, or half-fit at best. Spain will get another year to find an actual forward, though considering they won three major trophies in a row basically without one, maybe it’s not something it has to worry about. Previous World Cup darlings Croatia will have to wonder if it can nurse warhorses Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic, and Ivan Rakitic through another year without needing all the king’s horses and men.
While it’s unlikely that Cristiano Ronaldo will suddenly become useless at 36 when the tournament rolls around, Portugal will get another season to try to buttress around him and his increasingly one-dimensional game to defend the trophy with the younger generation like Joao Felix, Goncalo Guedes, Ruben Neves et al. We can still be sure their style will be a violation of the Geneva Convention, which is how they ended up winning the thing in France in the first place.
Now that the Netherlands has finally returned to a major tournament, they’ll have to wait a year to see if Virgil van Dijk can return to World Player of The Year finalist form, which he’s fallen from this season, and whether Frankie de Jong and Matthew de Ligt can get back to what made last year’s Ajax so entertaining. Whatever year the tournament is held, Memphis Depay will continue to think he’s four times better than he is, making him the new Nicklas Bendtner.
Will Gareth Bale actually be playing somewhere in a year? Will he care? (The answer to both is clearly no.)
Obviously, anything can happen in a year’s time. Players in sparkling form now could get hurt or fall off the map or transfer to clubs where they never get off the bench, along with a hundred other possibilities. But it’s always fun to see how much things can shift by changing from one summer to the next. Especially when we don’t have much else to do.