On Tuesday, UEFA confirmed that the 18th edition of the European Championships, or Euro 2028 as it’s more commonly known, will be hosted by the United Kingdom and Ireland.
This was no great surprise, given that the bid was running unopposed after Türkiye pulled out of the race, instead launching a joint-bid to stage Euro 2032 alongside Italy, that was ultimately successful.
So, how ready are the five co-hosts for the tournament that’ll get underway in just under five years time?
None of the hosts will automatically qualify, although two spots will be left in reserve (it’s quite confusing!), meaning we could end up in a situation where a country is hosting matches, but with no home team to support.
Six of the 10 Euro 2028 host venues are located in England: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, St James’ Park, Villa Park, Etihad Stadium, Everton’s new Stadium and of course Wembley.
As was the case at Euro 2020, both semi-finals and the final are set to take place at the national stadium in London; that final took place without a hitch, right?
England aren’t worried about qualifying, on the contrary, it’s been reported that the FA have requested that they go through the usual qualification process, in an effort to be as well prepared as possible.
The expectation will be that, as primary-hosts, the Three Lions will win this tournament, even if only three Euro hosts have ever triumphed on home soil: Spain (1964), Italy (1968) and France (1984).
Given that next summer’s European Championships looks likely to be Gareth Southgate’s fourth and final tournament in charge, regardless of outcome, the FA will be under pressure to appoint the right successor.
Nevertheless, England do have a very exciting generation of players, the poster boy of which is Jude Bellingham, who will celebrate his 25th birthday during the group phase of Euro 2028.
Current squad members Levi Colwill, Reece James, Declan Rice, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and more should all be at their peak in five years time too, joined by players we don’t even know about yet.
In terms of infrastructure, Everton’s new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock is scheduled to open next year although, given everything else that’s going on that club right now, one shouldn’t count on it.
Villa Park, the Etihad and, potentially, St James’ Park too will also be expanded in capacity during the next half-decade but, all in all, England are good to go.
The Scotland national team is as strong as it’s been for generations, so could the Dark Blues be well-placed to make a deep run at a home tournament?
This year, the Tartan Army have seen their side begin a qualification campaign with five wins out of five for the first time ever, most-notably beating Spain 2-0 in Glasgow back in March.
During four years at the helm, Steve Clarke has led his country to their first major tournament for 23 years, guided them to the World Cup play-offs, and secured promotion to the top-tier of the UEFA Nations League.
Now, Scotland have all but qualified for Euro 2024, at which they’ll be aiming to get out of their group at a tournament for the very first time.
Not so long ago, the idea of co-hosting a tournament that they don’t automatically qualify for, say Euro 2020, would’ve frightened the life out of Scotland fans, but Clarke and his team have completely flipped the psyche.
The biggest frustration from Scottish football fans, and the same can be said of their Welsh and Irish counterparts, is the feeling that they’re just a side-show to a tournament that’s really all about England.
A certain Tweet from the actual Prime Minister reinforces this zeitgeist.
Murrayfield in Edinburgh, as well as both Ibrox and Celtic Park, meet UEFA requirements to host but, instead, the much-maligned Hampden Park is the only venue chosen, set to stage Scotland games but little more.
Hampden is very outdated, with a running track all the way around the pitch, and supporters behind both goals are located absolutely miles away from the action.
Many were hoping that Euro 2028 would lead to mass-renovations, increasing the capacity and modernising the stands, but the SFA more-or-less confirmed that this won’t be happening.
Back on the park, Scotland should be in a strong position to be competitive at these Euros, hoping to both feature in and win games at next summer’s Euros and then the World Cup two years later.
Major tournament football is coming to Wales for the very first time, but this is where the concerns about co-hosts potentially missing out on qualification start to seriously ramp up.
The Dragons have featured at the last two Euros, famously reaching the semi-finals on debut in 2016, but face a real fight to keep that streak going in Germany next summer.
Ahead of Sunday’s crucial clash with Croatia in Cardiff, it’s looking more likely that not that Rob Page’s team will miss out on a top two finish in Group D, thereby featuring in March’s play-offs.
Wayne Hennessey, Ben Davies and Aaron Ramsey are the only remaining members of the 2016 team still in the squad, so the Dragons need a new generation to step forward if they’re to feature in 2028.
Currently 22 years old, Brennan Johnson is the obvious next star, but many more will need to emerge in the next five years.
Assuming Wales do qualify, the choice of venue could be an issue.
The Millennium Stadium hasn’t been their home since 2009, playing only two games there over the last 14 years, a 2-0 defeat to England in 2011, and a 4-1 friendly loss at the hands of Spain in 2018.
A key factor behind the Dragons’ resurgence has been making the Cardiff City Stadium, which has significantly less than half the capacity, an absolute fortress, with the ‘red wall’ generating a spine-tingling atmosphere.
For the Euros, they’ll have to move back into the Principality Stadium, which won’t be an easy adjustment to make, meaning the FAW will, presumably, have to schedule matches there ahead of the tournament.
Republic of Ireland
Like Wembley and Hampden, the Aviva Stadium was scheduled to host matches at Euro 2020, before being forced to withdraw on the eve of the tournament due to Covid-19.
So, eight years later than planned, Dublin will stage European Championships football for the first time ever, but there are justifiable concerns that the Republic of Ireland will not be there.
The Boys in Green have previously featured at three Euros, 1988, 2012 and 2016, but were beaten in the 2020 play-offs by Slovakia, and are all but mathematically out of contention to make it to Germany next summer.
Stephen Kenny has been in charge for over three years now, but has only won five of 26 competitive matches, these coming against Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, Scotland, Armenia and Gibraltar, so hardly a star-studded list.
Many are calling for Kenny to be sacked, and this is kind of fair enough, but the biggest issue is that the talent just isn’t there.
The Irish team that featured at the World Cups of 1990, 1994 and 2002, as well as the side that reached back-to-back Euros a decade ago, was full of players getting regular minutes in the Premier League.
Right now, that could only really be said of Séamus Coleman, Matt Doherty (both of whom are in their 30s), Chiedozie Ogbene and Evan Ferguson, who’s the young star that Irish fans hope can solve all their problems.
Of course, 18 year old Ferguson could turn out to be the greatest striker football has ever seen, but even in that scenario he cannott do it all on his own.
In fairness, Gavin Bazunu, Festy Ebosele, Jason Knight and Adam Idah are all talented youngsters but, for now, Ireland are relaying on EFL Championship and League One players, which won’t be enough.
The Aviva is such a beautiful stadium, but it won’t feel the same if it’s forced to exclusively stage matches not involving Ireland come 2028.
The supporters most concerned, and rightly so, that Euro 2028 won’t go quite as envisaged are those of Northern Ireland.
The Green and White Army ended their 30-year major tournament exile at Euro 2016, reaching the knockout phase, before losing in the play-offs for both the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020.
In more recent times however, things have not gone to plan, with Northern Ireland winning only four of their last 32 competitive fixtures, these victories coming over minnows Lithuania, Kosovo and San Marino.
Following a run of five successive defeats, they’re out of the running for next summer’s Euros, and their current Nations League ranking of 43, out of 54, feels about right.
Michael O’Neill, the man who oversaw those recent glory days, is back in charge and is the perfect man to lead his country at Euro 2028, although he has plenty of work to do before then.
Like their neighbours, the talent just isn’t there at the moment and, given that Northern Ireland has a population of just 1.8 million, there’s no guarantees this’ll change.
Also, the choice of host venue is also controversial, given that, even after very recent renovation, Windsor Park’s capacity is only 18,500, significantly short of UEFA’s minimum requirements.
So, the IFA have put forward Casement Park, a stadia that’ll need to be completely rebuilt as it’s currently closed and in a state of dereliction.
The uproar is difficult to explain without going through the entire history of Irish politics, but here’s the long and short of it.
Casement Park is a Gaelic games games venue, hurling and GAA, located in West Belfast, a predominantly Irish nationalist area.
On the other hand, Windsor Park can be found in South Belfast, a primarily unionist part of the city.
From a pure sporting perspective, it’s not ideal that Northern Ireland would have to play ‘home’ matches at not their home, but it might not even get that far should this team fail to qualify.