The delayed Euro 2020 will finally get under way tonight, a year behind schedule, with COVID-19 still set to cast a shadow over the tournament.
The continent-wide event, first envisaged by then-UEFA president Michel Platini when he announced the tournament would be held across Europe, will be played in front of limited crowds and with strict health restrictions in place.
The action kicks off at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, where Italy take on Turkey in front of 16 000 fans.
Spain’s preparations for the month-long tournament have been hit after two players, Sergio Busquets and Diego Llorente, tested positive for the virus, although Llorente on Thursday returned a negative test.
The team even had to name a “parallel” squad of 17 reserve players, fearing a possible wider outbreak in the official 26-man squad.
Although captain Busquets still has COVID, Llorente’s test result will allay fears that the first-choice side might have to miss Spain’s opening game against Sweden in Seville on Monday.
Two Swedish players — forward Dejan Kulusevski and midfielder Mattias Svanberg — have also tested positive for the virus, with six reserve players called up on stand-by.
But despite the ongoing threat, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has been bullish, insisting Euro 2020 will be safe.