It’s been a long, arduous year since the announced postponement of Euro 2020.
International football has never felt so far away, and yet now we find ourselves just one week out from the first ball being kicked at the European championship.
The much needed morale boost that tournament football offers is poised to re-energise the nation, with Gareth Southgate’s England side even tipped to go the full distance.
With all the thrills and spills to look forward to, Sportsmail breezes through the reasons why it is now time to get excited for the imminent arrival of the Euros.
With one week to go it is now time to get excited about the European championship
England’s youth-laden squad
Taking youngsters to a tournament is sometimes seen as a bad thing. It can be viewed as scraping the barrel or simply having too few options.
Not for Southgate, however.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the Three Lions possess some of the finest young players in European football right now.
Think Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham, Jadon Sancho and Mason Mount.
With the likes of Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham, Jadon Sancho, England have an electric squad
Each are starlets who have made a huge impact this season, not only during their own domestic campaigns but also on the grandest stage of all in the Champions League.
This is a new-look England and offers a glimpse of the blueprint of the future.
It is not often in international football that fans get to witness a full and exciting transitional period as it pans out in a major tournament, but now England are set to show what the players of tomorrow can really do.
‘Home’ games could rekindle spirit of Euro ‘96
Ask any England fan of a certain vintage about the best of times supporting the national team, and they will recall with rosy eyes the heights of Euro ’96.
A feelgood factor pumped around the nation, as the Three Lions reached the semi-finals and were only denied a place in the last two because of a penalty shoot out.
A feelgood factor washed over England during Euro ’96 due to the games being at home
The weather was stunning, the team was great and confidence could not have been higher.
Now, with England playing each of their games at Wembley, there is the opportunity to recreate this feeling once more.
A collective push from team and fans could see the nation unite as one and propel the side to go that one step beyond the last tournament, when they reached the last four of the World Cup in Russia.
Fans are back!
Of course, it must be noted that the lifeblood of the game is finally back.
Football without fans is nothing, that much is a given.
Now, with the easing of coronavirus restrictions and the trial runs which have already taken place to get a number of supporters back inside the stadiums, the steps are in motion to gear up to full football stadiums once more.
Supporters are finally back in stadiums are ready to roar on their nation from the stands
This means roaring chants, banners, flags, dashes of colour and industrial sized quantities of face paint.
Everything that makes football great always culminates at an international tournament, which becomes a defacto festival of football.
Supporters are now returning at the perfect time to ensure this tradition can go ahead once again.
Matches across Europe
Though travel circumstances over the past 18 months have been wrought with confusion and difficulty, the concept of the Euros being held over multiple host cities is still a thrilling one.
Some of the best stadiums on the continent will host the finest players, allowing fans from around the whole of Europe to get in on the action.
The action is set to get underway inside the magnificent Stadio Olimpico in Rome
The cosmopolitan theme is seen as a concept for future tournaments, and a sign of things to come.
Euro 2020 therefore, pandemic aside, will be a trial run for this and reveal the ways in which this can benefit both the fans and the players.
The return of the Scots
Having had some 23 years in the wilderness from international tournament football, Scotland are set to have all the motivation they need to go on and make sure Euro 2020 is a memorable one.
Led by Liverpool star Andy Robertson, the Scots have a blend of experience and exciting talents, with personnel plying their trade throughout the various English and Scottish divisions.
The scenes which greeted Scotland’s qualification for the tournament saw the country painted blue for days on end. ‘Yes sir, I can boogie,’ could be heard on every street corner.
Scotland are back and will be able to play their football without pressure or expectation
Now, Scotland have the opportunity to make some real waves and create history.
Just as with Wales at Euro 2016, the pressure is off and no expectations surround the side. The plan is simple: go out there and play your football.
It served Wales well, of course, as they made the semi-finals in France five years ago against all the odds.
Could Scotland possibly follow suit and shock the football world? If nothing else, a tasty group game clash with England is set to provide the fireworks.
The redemption of Karim Benzema
Perhaps the most surprising call-up of any team competing in the tournament.
Benzema has been in French exile for six years following unsavoury allegations of blackmail against a former team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.
The Real Madrid striker had been told, categorically, that he would never return to the national side again, despite his constant denials of any wrongdoing.
Now, however, Didier Deschamps has swallowed his pride and completed a full U-turn.
Karim Benzema has returned from France exile and is set to spearhead the national side
Veteran striker Benzema has been simply too good this season with Real to ignore.
He may be 33 but has been hammering home the goals like no tomorrow. The mouthwatering prospect of linking him up with Kylian Mbappe has proven too good to turn down.
France have been installed as favourites for the tournament as a result, and what an end to one of football’s most strange redemption stories this could perhaps provide.
Anybody remember Joachim Low from the last European championship showdown in France?
Well, to refresh the memory, the Germany boss was caught multiple times on camera during Euro 2016 fondling his lower regions and sniffing his fingers afterwards.
Was it a stress mechanism, a sign of general discomfort or a routine habit? Nobody will ever know.
One thing is for sure though, nobody will ever forget either.
It is the little moments which can make international tournaments truly great, and Low’s red-faced episode in front of the camera serves as a reminder that even the smallest of managerial mishaps do not go unnoticed on the big stage.
Everybody loves a good goal, regardless of who scores it.
The Euros have seen some scorching efforts over the years. One could even be forgiven for thinking that players actually save them up on purpose.
At the last European championship, Dimitri Payet lashed in from long range to send the home nation into scenes of jubilation.
And who can forget Hal Robson-Kanu’s iconic turn and finish against Belgium to leave an entire stadium shell-shocked, or Xherdan Shaqiri’s breathtaking acrobatic effort from the edge of the area against Poland?
Each tournament brings a haul of goals which are immediately poster-worthy. Here’s hoping for plenty more this summer.