Excitement is building ahead of the start of Euro 2020 on Friday night and people from across different nations in Europe will be cheering on their home country.
For many, England will be the focus as they prepare for their first match against Croatia on Sunday, June 13. The two teams are in Group D alongside Scotland and Czech Republic at the tournament, which was delayed by a year and kicks off on June 11.
With Lincoln having such a wide range of nationalities and cultural backgrounds, results for a lot of the other countries in the tournament will be just as important to people in the city.
Euro 2020 begins on Friday with Italy taking on Turkey and The Lincolnite caught up with an array of fans, including Lincoln City players, to find out their predictions for their own home countries and on who will win the tournament, which ends on July 11.
Italy, who won the European Championships in 1968, will face Turkey, Wales and Switzerland in Group A.
Italian chef Antonio Steri, who works at Bello Pizza on Monks Road in Lincoln, has high hopes for his home country at Euro 2020.
He said: “After a disappointing summer in 2018 when we didn’t make the world cup competition we should have the extra fire in us to have a competitive competition when it comes to Italy.
“The squad is now well rested and motivated to achieve something in the tournament. I think Italy will find it easy in the group stage as on paper we are clear favourites. Looking at the rest of the competition on our day we can give a run for their money to any team in the competition and should be looking at a high place finish.
“My predictions for the tournament would be that Italy will get to at least a semi-final as they try to avenge their performance in 2018.”
When asked who will win the tournament, he added: “As for the whole tournament there are many favourites in my opinion, but I think it will come down to four teams – Belgium, France, Italy, and Portugal.
“France will come out victorius in the end I think as they are still upset after losing the 2016 final to Portugal in their own back yard.”
Lincoln City’s Welsh defender Regan Poole believes Wales will reach the knock-out stages, saying: “I think they will finish second in the group and get knocked out in the quarter-final.”
When asked who he thinks will win the tournament, Regan added: “I think France because they have so much strength and depth in every position and the squad is unbelievable.”
Belgium, the nation ranked number one in the world, will face off against Finland, Russia and Denmark in Group B.
Finnish businesswoman Pirjo Holtta owns ‘Pre-Loved from Lincolnshire’ on Burton Road in Lincoln. She said: “Being in Euro 2020 is everything to us Finns. We’ve been waiting to get to an important international match for at least three generations.
“This is an amazing opportunity to raise the profile of football in Finland in addition to other very popular sports like ice hockey. The most important match for Finland is against Denmark. If we win, we’ll have a chance to get much further.”
When asked to pick her winner for the tournament, she added: “I hope England will win, but I think it will be a very close call with France!”
Group C consists of Holland, Austria and Ukraine, as well as North Macedonia who have qualified for their first ever major tournament.
On Holland’s chances, Lincoln City’s Dutch centre-back Lewis Montsma said: “I think they will do alright. I hope they can play as a team and I’m looking forward to their games.”
When asked who will win the tournament, he added: “I think Belgium because they have a very good squad with KDB (Kevin De Bruyne), (Dries) Mertens and (Romelu) Lukaku.”
“Football’s coming home” will be ringing in the air as England make another attempt at winning their first major trophy since 1966. Standing in their way in the group stages are Croatia, who knocked them out in 2018 World Cup semi-final, rivals Scotland, and Czech Republic.
There will be rivalry within the Lincoln City squad when England take on Scotland on June 18, with a lot of English players in the Imps’ squad, including Tayo Edun, and Conor McGrandles among the Scottish contingent at the LNER Stadium.
Lincoln City’s English full-back Tayo Edun spoke about England’s chances, saying: “I think they’ll do well, I expect us to make the semi-finals as a minimum due to all the ability and depth. As well as players coming off the back of good club campaigns.”
When asked who will win Euro 2020, Tayo added: “I think France will do it again. Just because they’ve got a similar team to the on that one the World Cup so chemistry isn’t an issue. They have also added some big talents to the squad.”
On Scotland’s chances, Conor said: “I actually think Scotland will get out the group stages and anything after that is a bonus! Well, even if we beat England and don’t qualify I’ll take it!”
Like Tayo, Conor is also backing France to win the tournament, adding: “I think France will win it because they have a lot of top class players in nearly every position. The fact they also won the last World Cup will give them massive confidence going into the tournament.”
Spain, Poland, Slovakia and Sweden will face off in Group E.
Spanish dentists Manu Ceconi and Jose Lopez Garrido are looking forward to cheering on their country with their friends in Lincoln.
Manu said: “I am sure that we have a strong and good group of young players that will take Spain to the final and win. Since the 2006 World Cup, Spain has been in a strong situation to win and we have done a few times now, so I am sure that we can win it this time.”
Jose said: “I would say that Spain could make the quarter-final, but the Spanish level is much lower than 10 years ago. France is my favourite to win the Euros as they are a young and very competitive team and have got a world class star in (Kylian) Mbappe.”
The Polish owners of Sugarart of Lincoln, Grzegorz and Agnes Grabowski, are also getting excited as their home nation prepares for another major tournament.
On Poland’s chances, Grzegorz said: “I will always support our national team and believe they can win, but unfortunately it is not always possible. Our national team has a new coach and is the team is practically completely rebuilt. Of course, we have Robert Lewandowski, but we lostArkadiusz Milik.
“We have some experienced football players and quite a few young talented ones who go to the tournament. This mixture may work, but we do not know a lot about it, so taking it all together I expect them to get out of the group stage in 2nd place. If it will work out good for us we can repeat the result from the last Euros, which was the quarter-final, and after that anything can happen.”
On his pick for tournament winner, he added: “It was a crazy year with COVID so a lot of surprises can happen during the tournament, but for the winner I think it may be England, France or Portugal defend their title from Euro 2016.”
David Grech, who is the Slovakian director of Amica HR Limited, feels proud to see his nation in the tournament.
He said: “It is the great honour for any country to take part in Euro 2020. And although Slovak football boasts the 1976 European champions, it is considered one of the outsiders in the current competition in the continental championship. As my national team, I am keen to see how they will fare in the competition.”
He believes France will win the tournament, adding: “Slovakia’s chances of winning the title of Euro 2020 are only four hundredths of a percent, according to some computer generated stats. By contrast, France is the most favourable and, in my opinion, have the greatest chance of winning the overall tournament.”
Portugal will be hoping to defend their title, but will have a difficult task after being drawn in the ‘group of death’ alongside Germany, France and Hungary.
Léonie is an Erasmus student from France at the University of Lincoln. She is currently studying politics and has loved football since she was child, describing herself as a “fervent supporter of my national team.”
She has high hopes for her home nation and said: “During Euro 2020, I know that we are ready to win. I really think they have all their chances to win. We have the best team in years, all the players know each other’s game, and everyone is ready to do their best.
“If we don’t win, I’m sure that will not happen, I think England and Belgium have their chances. I’ll do my best to support my team and watch as many matches as possible with other students at Towers.”
Fellow politics student Thorsten is also hoping to watch matches at Towers, but will be cheering on his native Germany.
On Germany’s chances, he said: “I definitely expect a better performance than in the 2018 World Cup where we already lost in the group stage. We want to compete for the Championship.
“I think they have a good team with some great players, but in the end I think other teams could be stronger so if I had to guess I would say Germany makes it to the semi-final, but not further.”
When asked who will win Euro 2020, he added: “It is hard to predict but I will go with France as they have the best overall team so if they bring it all together they have a good chance.”