Matt Maher: It will not take that long for us to be swept up by Euros fever

Do the European Championships really start today?

England manager Gareth Southgate
England manager Gareth Southgate

For a tournament already postponed by a year, this one does seem to have come round rather quickly, still less than a fortnight after the club season concluded with Chelsea beating Manchester City in the Champions League final.

Yet for all the concerns over lack of preparation time for players and the questionable logic of holding a continent-wide event when Covid-19 is still some way from defeated, chances are it won’t take long to get swept up in it all.

As England boss Gareth Southgate noted in his brilliant open letter to the nation this week, there’s nothing quite like an international tournament for capturing the imagination, or defining careers.

Terribly clichéd as it might sound, the next few weeks really do offer his players the chance to write their names into the history books.

For those yet to read Southgate’s letter, posted on The Players Tribune website, it really is worth your time.

Few would consider Southgate to be England’s greatest manager yet rarely has the man at the helm been able to talk so eloquently and intelligently on behalf of his players, addressing the issues sadly and somewhat unfathomably threatening to overshadow what happens on the pitch.

And yet, for all that he is unquestionably of admirable character, Southgate will know it is results which will ultimately define his legacy.

After taking the Three Lions to the semi-finals of the World Cup three years ago, England expects just a little bit more these days and history suggests when the pressure is on things rarely turn out well.

Throw in a group which is likely to be far trickier than it appears on paper and you can understand why there is almost as much pessimism as optimism among supporters.

Getting a handle on a team who have, in truth, not played a serious competitive match since 2018 isn’t easy.

Sunday’s curtain-raiser against Croatia will give us a better indication of just where England stand but for all the debate over who – or who shouldn’t – make the starting line-up, it is worth remembering teams will evolve over the course of a tournament. An opening round which sees just eight out of 24 teams eliminated also offers some room for manoeuvre.

Reduced crowds and increased travelling mean this tournament will have a different vibe to all those before it. Yet this still has the potential to be a summer to remember.

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