FOX Sports activities Insider
Of all of soccer’s main worldwide tournaments, it’s typically the European Championship that shapes up as the largest celebration.
Subsequent summer time’s Euro 2024 competitors in Germany (June 14-July 14) would be the newest month-long competition and can have a particular and much-awaited vibe to it after the final version noticed the attendance decreased as a result of lingering results of COVID-19.
Make no mistake, a soccer celebration is coming, and a fierce battle for European soccer supremacy is the icing on the cake.
But whereas it might be pure to anticipate that the largest and most fanatical curiosity would come from these nations which are usually within the combine for profitable such prizes, and which boast the steepest peaks of footballing success, there may be far more to it than that.
Other than the host nation, which can stage video games in 10 venues highlighted by the opening sport in Munich and the ultimate in Berlin, the best variety of ticket functions didn’t come from neighboring France, dwelling of the 2022 World Cup finalist.
Nor from defending champion Italy, long-time dominant pressure Spain, which has misplaced solely two Euro matches prior to now 19 years. Or from England, the finalist of the 2020 match (truly performed in 2021) and inspired by the recent latest type of very good midfielder Jude Bellingham and captain Harry Kane.
As an alternative, organizers introduced final week that following a lottery which noticed a document 23 million functions for the 1.2 million accessible tickets, the best variety of requests got here from … Croatia, Albania and Turkey.
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Alexi Lalas and David Mosse reacted to the UEFA Euro Cup drawing and they discussed which group they believe is the group of death.
This was an extraordinary development, yet one that doesn’t defy logic, and is also a sign of all the things that are best about this tournament.
Croatia has just 3.9 million people, making it the 130th most populous country on earth, and is dwarfed in numbers by the continent’s bigger nations. However, as a soccer entity, it routinely punches massively above its weight, and the fact that it does so is an immense source of patriotic pride.
[Euro 2024: Group-by-group breakdown]
The team’s run to the 2018 World Cup final was dramatic, but also thoroughly deserved, and it backed that up by knocking out Brazil and then reaching the semis in 2022.
“Seeing what the football team does and the way it always fights and often wins against bigger teams, it also almost like the romantic story of our country,” Jelena Mravak, who has traveled to the past two World Cups and will be in Germany, told me. “It is not so much about being a football fan. It is about being a Croatia fan.”
Luka Modric, Croatia’s finest player of this golden generation and the Ballon D’Or winner in 2018, is now 38 and will be taking part in his last major tournament, which may also go some way toward explaining why so many Croatian fans are trying to make the trip.
“The Last Dance” is how Modric’s impending appearance in Germany has been described in his homeland.
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Netherlands, Scotland, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Czech Republic selected were selected to be included within Pot three for the 2024 Euros.
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In Albania, there are factors of national identity at play, too, combined with the reality that the rarity of any feat makes it feel more important. Albania’s national team has only qualified for one prior major competition, the 2016 Euros, where it exited after the group stage.
The effort in qualifying this time around was one that head coach Sylvinho, a Brazilian who spent part of his playing career with the English Premier League’s Arsenal, was awarded Albanian citizenship by the president and the prime minister in recognition of completing the unlikely feat.
“I am lucky to have found a beautiful country where people love football, and they love to support their team,” Sylvinho told reporters recently. “Their support means everything to us.”
As for Turkey, the reason for such a high number of ticket applications may be more cultural. There are huge links between Germany and Turkey, with Turks making up Germany’s largest ethnic minority group.
Turkey’s games at Euro 2024 promise to be vibrant and have also been some of the most sought-after contests on the secondary ticketing market.
[Euro 2024 Schedule: Dates, times, TV channels, bracket and how to watch]
As much interest as those nations have, there will still be plenty of excitement among the bigger nations.
Italy is trying to atone for missing the World Cup, while Spain was stung by its disappointing exit in Qatar. As for France, having come so close in the World Cup final, there is still the sense that it can and should be in the mix for every tournament it enters, especially with Kylian Mbappé still in his prime.
For Portugal, meanwhile, it is widely expected that this will be Cristiano Ronaldo’s final hurrah in national team colors.
Yet beyond the big stars and most decorated teams, the Euros’ broad mix is what forms part of its enduring magic.
It is a regional event, albeit with a global audience. But for the teams involved and the countries that support them – especially the smaller ones – it is everything.
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the day by day e-newsletter.
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