Stamina more important than skill in this unique tournament
- Credit: Dan Weir/PPAUK
The fury which killed the European Super League train before it had even sold a ticket has overshadowed the fact that those other ever-hungry 'expresses', FIFA and UEFA, left global football's mainline station years ago.
They keep adding more and more carriages, hand in hand with insatiable TV companies, and doing very nicely out of it, thank you.
The '2020 Euros', put back a year because of Covid-19, used to be played in one or, at the most, two countries. This 24-team edition will be spread across 12 cities from Baku to Bilbao.
No sooner have European domestic competitions finished than, after one of the most demanding seasons in living memory, the players will be hauled off to 'training camps' and even some 'warm-up' friendlies!
The stronger sides will still be playing halfway through July, by which time everyone will have returned for 'pre-season training' - really? Oh, and the early rounds of UEFA's 2021-2022 club competitions will already be under way.
As Torquay United manager Gary Johnson asked the other day: "Is anyone thinking about the welfare of players or even coaches here?" And he was only referring to the fact that the National League Play-Off Final (June 20) is only SEVEN weeks before the start of next season!
With Covid-limited crowds and few travelling fans, will these Euros feel a bit 'second hand'?
Will the futures of Harry Kane and Emi Buendia, or how many more millions Chelsea might spend, conspire to muscle even Wales-v-Italy off the back pages?
Will VAR drive everyone round the bend?
Let's hope not. For there are some seriously exciting teams about to kick off, and England are right up there.
Several countries will play all, or the majority, of their group games at 'home'. They include England (Group D) at Wembley, which also stages the Semis and Final, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and even Scotland, who may be 'away' to England but meet Croatia and the Czech Republic at Hampden Park.
The 'Golden Generation' of Beckham, Scholes, Owen & Co ultimately failed to deliver, but Gareth Southgate now has an equally exciting raft of attacking England talent. Selection must have been a nightmare.
And don't worry that Raheem Sterling has apparently gone a bit 'quiet' for Manchester City. He's world-class and if he hits that form even two or three times, it might be enough to tip things, especially in the knock-out rounds.
The big question is - will England's relatively inexperienced defence be good enough?
England may have home advantage, but even if they win their group, they will then face the runners-up of the 'Group of Death' - 'F' (France, Germany, Portugal, Hungary).
Finishing second might not be a disaster - it would give England a last-16 game against the runners-up of 'E' (Poland, Slovakia, Spain or Sweden).
Note that the winners of 'B' (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Russia), 'C' (Austria, Netherlands, Ukraine, North Macedonia), 'E' and that 'F' group will all face one of the best Third-placed teams in the last-16.
On paper the favourites include multi-talented Belgium, England, Portugal and France - but only if those two can get past Germany, who may have fallen below their lofty standards of late, but are all the more dangerous for that.
Italy, who have a potentially favourable draw, may have gone 'under the radar', Scotland and Wales will do well to reach the last-16 and my two 'dark horses' are Denmark and the Ukraine.
The ultimate winners? The team that ticks all the boxes, has been there and done it before and, after his long international absence, has the mighty Karim Benzema back is…France.