After a colourful and vibrant opening ceremony, which peaked with Andrea Bocelli's rendition of the classic 'Nessun Dorma', Euro 2020 finally got started on Friday night a full year behind original schedule.
With the finals having been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this has become one of the most highly-anticipated sporting events ever, and it began with a bang in Rome as Italy turned in a dazzling display in Game One...
Italy open the Euros with a convincing win
Roberto Mancini's Italy dominated for long spells as they eventually saw off a stubborn Turkey 3-0 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
In the tournament's first game, Merih Demiral turned a Domenico Berardi cross into his own net shortly after the break to give Italy a thoroughly deserved lead after having bossed the first half without showing a clinical edge. But they would be handsomely rewarded before long, with Ciro Immobile mopping up to fire home after Leonardo Spinazzola's initial effort had been blocked. Lorenzo Insigne was a constant threat for the Italians, and he struck a third 12 minutes from the end with a thumping finish across Turkish keeper Ugurcan Cakir.
Those backing Italy in to short odds prior to the tournament might not have been far off the mark.
Southgate calls on England to unite
England boss Gareth Southgate has told the BBC that he hopes a successful campaign can bring together a divided nation after recent years of political conjecture and the fall-out from the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"I think it's time for the country to unite, full stop, that's how I see it," Southgate explained. "If the team can be a catalyst for that, then that's brilliant. I think the England team is often the catalyst for bringing people together, bringing communities together, bringing families together. In the process of doing that we want to play well, we want to win, we want to excite people, but not all of that falls upon us.
"We've had lots of division, and sometimes we need to remember what a strong island we are, what a strong nation we are, and there were moments at the beginning of the pandemic when people did pull together and I think we should always be striving towards that."
Scotland to take a knee at Wembley
Steve Clarke has revealed that his Scotland side will take a knee against social injustices when they take on England at Wembley in Group D next Friday. The team had reverted to standing against racism heading into their World Cup qualifying campaign earlier this year, and while they will continue that approach in their two group fixtures at Hampden Park, for their clash with the Three Lions in London they will join their England counterparts in kneeling.
"In light of divisive and inaccurate comments being perpetuated by individuals and groups, whose views we denounce in the strongest terms, we have reflected today as a group," Clarke said in an open letter to supporters. "We will continue to take a stand - together, as one - for our matches at Hampden Park. For our match at Wembley, we will stand against racism and kneel against ignorance."
Sections of England fans have drawn criticism in recent weeks following their decision to boo England players taking a knee, with Gareth Southgate having to reiterate the reasoning for his team making the gesture.
De Bruyne and Witsel to both miss Russia clash
Belgium confirmed on Friday that both Kevin De Bruyne and Axel Witsel will be absent from their side's opening Group B game against Russia. De Bruyne suffered a fractured nose and eye socket after a collision with Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger during Manchester City's defeat in the Champions League final a fortnight ago. It was an incident which left Belgium boss Roberto Martinez very frustrated at the time, with the former Everton manager commenting: “Rüdiger is very, very fortunate. When you look at the replay, there’s no clash of heads. He’s properly leaving the shoulder against Kevin."
And De Bruyne will now miss the first game of Belgium's assault on the championship, with the national team's Twitter feed confirming that he and Witsel will sit out the first match having not travelled to Russia with the rest of the squad, instead staying at the Belgian base in Tubize.
Witsel has missed the last five months of action after rupturing his Achilles tendon playing for Borussia Dortmund but was deemed fit enough to be included in Martinez's final 26-man squad. However, he has not recovered fully enough to step out at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg on Saturday.
Llorente's fourth negative Covid test frees him to return
Spain’s disrupted preparations were handed a welcome boost with defender Diego Llorente re-joining the squad after testing negative for Covid-19 for a fourth time.
The Leeds United star, along with captain Sergio Busquets, tested positive earlier in the week, although his four negative tests since indicate that the initial result was incorrect.
Luis Enrique was forced to field a squad made entirely of under-21 players in their final warm-up match against Lithuania on Tuesday, which the youthful side won 4-0. Spain kick-off their Euro 2020 campaign against Sweden in Seville on Monday evening.