The excitement and fervour surrounding the start of the European Championship is even more palpable after a 12-month delay.
When Europe became gripped last summer, it was the claws of a deadly pandemic, not the euphoria tournament football brings.
Yet the rearranged Euro 2020 tournament finally gets underway this Friday evening, with talkSPORT bringing you live commentary of every game.
For three of the home nations, there is a massive opportunity to etch their names into history as England, Scotland and Wales will all vie to be fighting for a chance to lift the famous trophy on July 11 at Wembley.
Although there will be some fans in each of the 11 host cities, the vociferous din of British supporters will be heard by all 78 of the players chosen to represent their countries.
Jose Mourinho has signed to talkSPORT for exclusive coverage of the tournament, with the legendary manager sitting down to analyse what exactly to expect from the home nations when they begin their European conquest. He also picks his winner, too and it’s not Cristiano Ronaldo and co.
Euro 2020 Group Stage
- North Macedonia
- Czech Republic
England fixtures – Group D
The Three Lions will be bidding to end a 56-year wait for silverware in this summer’s European Championship
Croatia – June 13, 2pm
Scotland – June 18, 8pm
Czech Republic – June 22, 8pm
Jose on…the England squad and Harry Kane
“I think the squad is amazing. England has to go with everything.
“It’s not like with some others where you can feel a good starting 11 and then, during the competition, they will be in trouble with an injury or a suspension.
“I would say Harry, I think, is the one that has on his shoulders a lot. The country expects a lot from him, he expects a lot from himself.
“He is the captain, he wants to win something – he’s not doing that with the club! Of course, he is going to try to do everything with the Three Lions. But it is a generation full of good players.
“Even the young players, the whole squad is amazing.
“Gareth [Southgate] is getting a lot of experience at this level; a few years and a few important competitions as a national team manager and that is an incredible experience for him.
“England I would say is with Brazil, the two most difficult national countries to coach because of what people expect from the team.
“He has a great assistant and that is very important in modern football now, we cannot be lonely in our jobs, We have to be surrounded by good people and Steve Holland is a fantastic assisstant for Gareth.”
Jose on…England’s weakness and dealing with expectation
“The weakness, I would say, is the pressure. They have to fight against it, it’s a difficult country because we expect a lot from them.
“I think culturally, instead of supporting them from day one until the last day, from the one we start with some negativity around them.
“I think they have to be very strong emotionally to cope with that pressure.
“The good phase at home, the semi-finals and the final at home has to be now, because it was in ’66 and in ’96.
“But it wasn’t probably because of a penalty shootout, which is something very very unpredictable. I think they have to push with everything and of course, I wish them the best.”
Wales fixtures – Group A
There would have been grimaces in Wales when they were pitted alongside Italy, Turkey and Switzerland in a super-competitive Group A
Switzerland – June 12, 2pm
Turkey – June 16, 5pm
Italy – June 20, 5pm
Jose on…respecting Wales for overachieving
“To expect big things from Wales, I’m not expecting.
“I think, of course, they are a team with a reduced area of recruitment – there are not many Welsh players that they can recruit so when they reach the Euros, when they reach these competitions, the only thing we can say is ‘respect, lots of respect.’
“With a small group of players, they are doing amazingly well, especially on that generation with Chris Coleman – they did it so, so well.”
Jose on…The importance of Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale
“I think they depend on their stability as a team. Of course, Ben Davies, Joe Rodon, these kind of guys that play in the Premier League – they bring that know-how, they bring that stability.
“Then over the years they rely a lot on Gareth Bale and Ramsey, probably the two most talented players of the country.
“When I look to the season, how many matches Ramsey played, there is lots of injuries. When you look to Gareth, how many great performances he had, how many goals he scored against the best teams, not many or none?”
Jose on…what to expect from Wales
“I think really, it’s not an easy situation for a country that doesn’t have many options. But they have the pride, they have the group, the organisation.
“Tactically, they are always very well organised and they know the way they play, the how to try to create a situation to get the best out of these more talented players in attack.
“Of course this kid [Dan] James, they have to rely a lot on him because he is fast, he is the one that can break defenders.
“But, it will be hard for them to even qualify for the next phase, I believe.”
Scotland fixtures – Group D
After 23 years, ten doomed qualifying campaigns, penalties in Serbia and friendlies against the Netherlands and Luxembourg, Scotland are ready to once again take their place at a major tournament.
Czech Republic – June 14, 2pm
England – June 18, 8pm
Croatia – June 22, 8pm
Jose on…Scotland’s Premier League quality
“In this moment, Scotland has a nucleus of important players in the Premier League and playing in important clubs in the Premier League.
“You look to [Kieran] Tierney of Arsenal, [Andy] Robertson of Liverpool, [Scott] McTominay of Manchester United – they are a Premier League level team.
“I think they are better than in the past 20 years. I know there are other good teams in the group, but maybe it can be England first and then Scotland second?”
Jose on…Steve Clarke and his passion
“You know, my assistant, a guy that gave me everything – I hope that I also gave him something!
“But he gave me everything in terms of the emotion and the positivity that he bring to my work at that time.
“Of course Scottish, he feels it deeply, he is not a foreign manager coming to do a job. He is a Scottish guy, feeling deeply the situation. The group of boys are living a dream at a national team level.
“I believe that a big spirit there and you could even feel it when they were fighting for qualification, the penalty shootouts, the difficult matches in Serbia, the crucial matches against good teams.
“I believe that is going to be very hard to beat them.”
Jose on…Scotland’s one obvious weakness
“Probably the weakness is that they don’t have a star player that is going to score crucial goals for them.
“Let’s say the players with more quality are the left-back, the defensive midfielder, they are players that are going to give them the stability that they need.
“But then, they have good players I am not saying that Che Adams is not a good player, not at all. But that Harry Kane, that Mbappe, that Ronaldo, these guys that can make the difference. These guys are probably where they are going to miss.”
Jose on…Scotland’s family of ‘brave guys’
“Their spirit is a spirit that I know well because I did a few coaching courses when I was a young guy in Scotland.
“I know the mentality, I know the passion, I know the way they approach competition. I believe they are really a family of brave guys.
“They are going to fight for points and even against England, I believe that they are going to be able to give England a hard time.”
And the winner is…
The special one has opted for a special team in France, the current world champions with Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann up top.
France – Group F
Karim Benzema has returned to the France side after resolving his differences with coach Diddier Deschamps to form a potent attacking trident
Germany – June 14, 8pm
Hungary – June 19, 2pm
Portugal – June 23, 8pm
“I cannot see any weakness, the only weakness, the coach fights it.
“The weakness is, they have so many good players, that probably the noise around the team from the media, from the public, is a big one.
“‘Why do you play this [player], you don’t play the other [player]?’ They are all so good, but Didier is strong and he knows what he wants and I think he beats this kind of controversy the goes around teams.
“They have to win it. If not, it’s an unsuccessful Euros.”