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European Championship

Ronaldo peak years to England young guns: The impact of Euro 2021 upheaval

19:00 GMT 18/03/2020
Cristiano Ronaldo Infantino
UEFA's decision to push the tournament back a year was a necessary step welcomed by everyone in the game and will have a knock-on effect on some teams

On Tuesday, UEFA announced that this summer's showpiece event, Euro 2020, had been postponed until next year.

The move was made in order to give Europe's domestic leagues time to complete their 2019-20 seasons, after the Covid-19 outbreak forced the cessation of football across the continent.

It was a drastic but necessary decision welcomed by every major stakeholder in the game.

The focus is now on saving lives and ensuring that everyone can return to normal as soon as the devastating pandemic passes.

However, as Goal outlines below, the 12-month postponement of the Euros is likely to affect some players, coaches and administrators more than others...

Hazard & injured stars

The decision to push the tournament back 12 months means those players who would have otherwise missed the Euros through injury could well be fit.

Ousmane Dembele was a member of the France squad that won the 2018 World Cup in Russia but the Barcelona winger was ruled out of Euro 2020 after suffering a serious hamstring tear last month.

However, the 22-year-old is now back on course to make his first appearance at the tournament, provided he can get over his persistent injury issues of course.

Nicolo Zaniolo should also make his European Championship bow next year, with Italy.

The Roma attacking midfielder had been in great form before suffering a season-ending cruciate ligament injury in a game against Juventus in January, and his unavailability would have been a major hindrance to the Azzurri's hopes of victory.

Belgium certainly wouldn't have been the same side without Eden Hazard either.

The Real Madrid winger looked like being the most notable absentee from this summer's Euros, after being forced to undergo an ankle operation earlier this month.

The postponement, though, means that the 29-year-old Hazard should have one more crack at the Euros while still in his peak years.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Of course, the term 'peak years' doesn't really apply to Cristiano Ronaldo, who continues to defy the ravages of time with his remarkable goalscoring feats at the age of 35.

Indeed, only last month the Juventus forward equalled the Serie A record for scoring in consecutive appearances (11).

In that context, then, it would not be in the least bit surprising to see Ronaldo leading the Portugal attack at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, let alone next year's Euros.

He certainly looks in far better shape – in a very literal sense – to still be performing at the very best of his ability than fellow thirty-somethings Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla in 12 months' time.

The question with Ronaldo, though, will be how long he can keep up his ridiculous scoring rate for club and country.

There is certainly no denying that having the Euros this summer would have suited him better, given his recent form and the fact that he will be 36 next year.

Ronaldo may appear superhuman, a gifted individual with an outrageous work ethic, but the rigours of playing professional football at the very highest level for nearly two decades will eventually catch up with him.

It's just a matter of when, and whether it does so before he usurps Ali Daei at the top of the all-time international goalscorers' list.

England

Even before Gareth Southgate's squad was hit with a spate of injuries to key forwards, there was the nagging suspicion that Euro 2020 might be arriving slightly too soon for a nation blessed with such an exciting crop of youngsters.

Jadon Sancho (19) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (21) are already established stars but Callum Hudson-Odoi (19), Declan Rice (21), Mason Mount (21), Fikayo Tomori (22) and Tammy Abraham (22) will all be more experienced after another year of top-flight football.

In addition, Phil Foden (19) could well be a regular starter for Manchester City by the time Euro 2021 rolls around, while Dean Henderson (23) should also have displaced Jordan Pickford as England's first-choice goalkeeper by then.

Then, there's the fact that star forwards Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane are both presently out injured and it seemed that, at the very least, both would be lacking match sharpness for this summer's Euros.

With both back on board, and Sancho & Co. only likely to improve in the next year, England should have a formidable squad for Euro 2021, a tournament, let us not forget, that will conclude in London.

The Three Lions' primary target was always Qatar 2022 but next summer now looks like an excellent opportunity for Southgate to deliver the country's first major tournament win since the 1966 World Cup.

Coaching contract uncertainty

A number of players who had intended to call time on their international careers after Euro 2020 can simply just decide to stick around for another year.

However, what becomes of the coaches whose contracts were set to expire this summer remains unclear. Things could easily get a bit messy, as they already have done in Denmark.

Age Hareide led the Scandinavians to qualification for Euro 2020 and it had already been announced last June that he would step down after the tournament.

However, the fond farewell the Norwegian had hoped for has now turned into a break-up.

Essentially, the Danish Football Association elected to honour its existing agreement with Kasper Hjulmand, that he would take over on August 1 of this year.

Unsurprisingly, Hareide has been left disappointed by the manner of his departure, admitting, "I'm most upset with the timing of the original announcement."

Mick McCarthy may end up just as frustrated with the Football Association of Ireland's (FAI) forward-thinking.

It brought McCarthy back for a second stint as Republic of Ireland boss in 2018 but announced at the same time that Stephen Kenny would succeed the former defender at the helm after Euro 2020, whether the national team qualified or not.

As a result, nobody is yet sure whether McCarthy will continue until 2021 if Ireland make it through the play-offs, or whether Kenny will take up the reins in August.

Gianni Infantino and the FIFA Club World Cup

What happens to the Under-21 and Women's version of the Euros, both of which were pencilled in for next summer, remains to be seen. However, it seems FIFA's revamped Club World Cup will have to be moved.

The 24-team tournament is the brainchild of FIFA president Gianni Infantino and it had already been the subject of a huge backlash.

The European Club Association had stated that its members were "firmly against any approval of a revised Club World Cup at this point in time and confirm that no ECA clubs would take part in such a competition".

The tournament – reportedly discussed between UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin and his FIFA counterpart on Tuesday – will not go ahead in China as scheduled.

Infantino will, of course, try to ensure that the expanded Club World Cup is merely postponed but it's now possible that it might never get off the ground.