It has been a long wait but Euro 2020 is finally upon us.
Turkey take on Italy at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome at 8pm this evening to kick-off a football festival of 51 matches that runs until the final at Wembley next month.
Twenty-four teams start out with a shot at glory, but which nation will turn their dream into a reality and be celebrating on July 11.
Our reporters have their say…
Jamie Durent: Italy
The Italian team that won the 2006 World Cup was packed with the gilded names that anchored successful club sides of the time.
Francesco Totti, Alessandro del Piero, Andrea Pirlo and Fabio Cannavaro (there’s plenty more, just look at the squad list) were all hugely recognisable and respected players of their generation.
I feel this Italy team can do the same. Their midfield is superb; Nicolo Barella, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Manuel Locatelli have emerged into Serie A stars, while Jorginho and Marco Verratti are established regulars at the highest level.
If Ciro Immobile or Andrea Belotti can chip in with regular goals up front, they should have enough of a supporting cast to do it. The Chiellini-Bonucci partnership may not be as strong as it once was, which may provide manager Roberto Mancini with cause for concern.
Portugal will be their biggest threat to the title, but this Italy side has the right balance to win the tournament.
Sean Wallace: Belgium
Confirmation Kevin de Bruyne will play at the Euros after surgery to fix a fractured eye socket will be the catalyst for Belgium lifting the trophy.
Manchester City’s playmaker has phenomenal game vision and operates like a chess grandmaster, thinking three moves ahead of anyone else.
When you add in Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens with Romelu Lukaku up top, Belgium are a formidable attacking prospect. Inter Milan’s Lukaku has scored 38 goals this season.
Belgium’s defence may be ageing, but it remains solid.
Sean Martin: Italy
Italy go into Euro 2020 with two key weapons in their arsenal: confidence and identity.
While other nations – such as England, Germany and even France – seem to be dithering over formations and personnel, Italy arrive after 27 matches unbeaten and with players who know exactly what’s expected in Roberto Mancini’s favoured 4-3-3.
The attacking triumvirate of Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Chiesa and Ciro Immobile are a threat to any defence, while Mancini has able deputies such as Domenico Berardi and Andrea Belotti in reserve if required.
When fit, Marco Verratti will lead Jorginho and Nicolo Barella in a midfield that possesses tenacity to go with its undoubted technical ability.
At the back, 20 clean sheets across the 27-match run tells its own story. Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal behind the familiar, if ageing, central-defensive pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini should be dependable enough if the latter, in particular, can stay fit.
Make no mistake, though, the Azzurri face a difficult group against Turkey, Wales and Switzerland. In a strange way, winning the section likely gives them a harder route to the final than not winning it; chances are they’d face Belgium in the quarters and France in the semis.
It’ll be tough, but don’t be surprised if Italy are ending the tournament exactly a month after kicking it off.
Paul Third: France
Group F is known as the group of death with good reason as one of three big nations could be heading home early.
Portugal are strong favourites to go all the way this year, but I think Cristiano Ronaldo and his team-mates could be the shock casualties of the group stage.
France and Germany are the two countries I’m backing to go through to the knockout rounds. It is from the hugely testing group where I predict the winner will come from as they will both be battle-hardened after having to be on the top of their game from the start of the tournament.
The Germans are always strong, but I fancy France this year.
Karim Benzema is back in the fold for the first time in six years, but lasted just 37 minutes of their friendly against Bulgaria.
The embarrassment of riches up front, however, mean his absence would not be fatal as they still can count on the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar and Antoine Griezmann, who you just know will be desperate to show what he can do after a disappointing season with Barcelona.
With Paul Pogba, Adrien Rabiot and N’Golo Kante in their midfield too they are a strong team and I don’t see anyone stopping them from going all the way.
Ryan Cryle: Italy
Yes, Italy missed the last World Cup, but a team who’ve won international football’s biggest prize four times and the Euros once weren’t going to be down on their luck for long.
Under Premier League-winning boss Roberto Mancini, the Azzurri have gone close to 30 games unbeaten going into these championships, including wins in all of their qualifiers.
In goal, they have Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma, who, with an incredible 26 caps at age 22, could challenge his predecessor Gigi Buffon’s appearance record later in his career.
🇮🇹 Italy's opening EURO 2020 game is in 𝟐𝟒 𝐇𝐎𝐔𝐑𝐒!
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 10, 2021
In central defence, they have the experience of two centurions in Juventus club-mates Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, and can play Roma pair Alessandro Florenzi and Leonardo Spinazzola on the right and left.
Midfield three options include Chelsea’s Jorginho and PSG’s Marco Verratti.
However, it is up front where the Italians look magnifico. With the team usually playing three up top, main man Ciro Immobile scored 20 Serie A goals for Lazio during the campaign, with Napoli wideman Lorenzo Insigne bagging 19. Also in the squad are Torino’s Andrea Belotti, who netted 13 league counters, and Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi – who has five goals to go with his last six Italy caps.
Callum Law: Belgium
Roberto Martinez’s squad is packed with quality and experience in every position.
As a squad, they have built up valuable major tournament experience when reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 and the semi-finals of the World Cup two years later.
This could be the time when Belgium’s golden generation of players deliver tournament glory.
Another plus point is that talisman De Bruyne is set to be available, despite suffering a facial injury while playing for Manchester City in the Champions League final.
Paul Chalk: Germany
There is a reason why you can never rule out Germany. They are under the radar this time and that might well suit them. Drawn in a group with France, Portugal and Hungary is a real test, but that is just what they need. They will have to be at peak form from the start and having all these games in Munich helps in that regard.
Outgoing boss Joachim Low, who has bossed the nation for an incredible 15 years, will want to bow out in style.
They crashed out of the group stages of the 2018 World Cup and they seem determined to correct that.
With Manuel Neuer in goal and big-hitters like Timo Werner, Leroy Sane and Kai Havertz still involved, I’m not discounting them from making a fool out of those writing them off.
Danny Law: France
It is very difficult to look beyond France. The world champions head into the tournament with the strongest squad, but they also start in the most difficult group with Germany, Portugal and Hungary.
Belgium and Italy look very equipped to do well and I wouldn’t be surprised to see England making it to at least the semi-finals.
With Kylian Mbappé, Antoine Griezmann and the returning Karim Benzema, the French possess plenty of firepower, while N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba will provide a defensive solidity in the midfield.
I think the only team that can stop them going all the way is themselves.