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Data: UEFA; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

The UEFA European Championship, still called Euro 2020 despite a one-year delay, kicks off today as Italy hosts Turkey at Rome's Stadio Olimpico (3pm ET, ESPN).

What's happening: Unlike any of the previous 15 iterations, this year's tournament will be a pan-continental affair, with Rome acting as just one of 11 host cities.

  • The cities: London; Rome; Munich; Baku, Azerbaijan; St. Petersburg; Budapest; Seville; Bucharest; Amsterdam; Glasgow; and Copenhagen.

The big picture: Even before the pandemic, this was going to be a uniquely challenging event to organize.

  • A continent-spanning tournament to celebrate Euro's 60th anniversary was admirable in theory, but it was a logistical nightmare to oversee operations in such wide-ranging countries with their own laws and politics.
  • The pandemic, in addition to causing a delay, made everything that much more difficult with countries' discrete safety protocols, travel requirements and infection rates.

The backdrop: In 2012, Turkey was the only nation to bid on Euro 2020, but because they also bid on the 2020 Olympics, UEFA feared it might ultimately withdraw from hosting Euro if it secured the Olympics.

  • As a hedge, then-UEFA president Michel Platini proposed the novel concept of multiple host cities, and though he was ultimately sacked amid the 2015 FIFA corruption scandal, his idea lived on.
Turkish soccer team training Thursday in Rome. Photo: Ali Balikci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The state of play: All their hard work has paid off, and today's kickoff is definitely worth celebrating as these 24 nations begin a month-long, 51-match battle for the title of best on the continent.

  • Format: The top-two finishers in each group, plus the four best third-place finishers, advance to the knockout round — a 16-team, single-elimination race to the finish. Full schedule and tournament details.
  • Fan capacity: Venues range from 20% (Munich) to 100% (Budapest). London's Wembley Stadium is currently at 25%, but UEFA hopes they'll be able to increase that when they host the semis and finals.

Between the lines: Here are the teams and players to watch as the tournament unfolds over the next month.

  • France, the reigning World Cup champs, are the betting favorite and have one of the world's premier players in 22-year-old striker Kylian Mbappé.
  • Belgium are a popular pick as well, with three of SI's four experts choosing them to reach the final behind Manchester City superstar Kevin de Bruyne.
  • Portugal are the reigning Euro champs and still have some guy named Cristiano Ronaldo.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Jun 10, 2021 - World

Europe's soccer governing body to allow map with Crimea on Ukrainian jerseys

Ukraine's Roman Yaremchuk in a friendly match against the national team of Cyprus in Kharkiv. Photo: Vyacheslav Madiyevskyi/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) said Thursday it would allow Ukraine players to wear new jerseys that display a map of Crimea, despite Russia's objections, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: As of last month, Russia had only withdrawn a few thousand troops from its border with Ukraine, after the country amassed its highest number of troops in the region since annexing Crimea in 2014, per the New York Times.

Mike Allen, author of AM
3 mins ago - Politics & Policy

America's youth turn left

Expand chart
Reproduced from John Della Volpe (Data: Exit polls, Roper Center for Public Opinion Research). Chart: Axios Visuals

Gen Xers have always been a swing voting group, but their kids — Gen Z, sometimes called Zoomers — overwhelmingly back Democrats.

What they're saying: "Generational replacement will not be kind to Trump’s Republican Party," John Della Volpe, polling director at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, and CEO of SocialSphere, told me.

Mike Allen, author of AM
10 mins ago - Economy & Business

Charted: GOP surged as Biden slumped

Expand chart
Reproduced from Gallup. (Independents were asked their party leaning.) Chart: Axios Visuals

Gallup polling found a huge shift in party preference over the course of 2021, from a 9-point Democratic advantage in the first quarter to a 5-point Republican edge in the fourth quarter.

Why it matters: It's the biggest swing in one calendar year for Gallup's 30 years of tracking.