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[News Focus] Year of soccer, Olympics, elections coming up

SEJONG -- The 2010s will terminate in about 50 days, and South Korean politics will face a turbulent time from the beginning of the 2020s as the nation has already entered the election mode for the 21st Assembly.

In 2020, the general election for the National Assembly is slated for April 15, while there will be a presidential election in the US on Nov. 3.

Meanwhile, next year will also feature big international sports events.

People in Europe and across the globe are waiting for opening of the Euro 2020 soccer tournament, scheduled for June 12-July 12. Though it is a Europe-only competition, the event, held every four years, is called “the World Cup without Brazil and Argentina” among some soccer fans.

The Euros are drawing more attention as 12 countries will jointly host matches for the first time since the championship began in 1960. Given that only 24 countries will qualify for the event, the ratio of the number of hosts to qualifiers will reach 50 percent this time.
Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal poses after his team beats France during the Euro 2016 final at Stade de France, though he was subbed in the first half of the match from an injury. (Reuters)
Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal poses after his team beats France during the Euro 2016 final at Stade de France, though he was subbed in the first half of the match from an injury. (Reuters)

The 12 hosts are England, Azerbaijan, Germany, Italy, Russia, Netherlands, Spain, Romania, Hungary, Denmark, Ireland and Scotland.

After group preliminaries featuring 24 countries, a knockout stage with 16 teams will be held in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Bilbao in Spain, Bucharest in Romania, Budapest in Hungary, Copenhagen in Denmark, Dublin in Ireland, Glasgow in Scotland and London in England.

Quarterfinals will be held is Baku in Azerbaijan, Munich in Germany, Rome in Italy and St. Petersburg in Russia. London is the host city for the semifinals and final, and there will be no third-place playoff.

While six, Belgium, Italy, Russia, Poland, Ukraine and Spain, have qualified for the 24-team list at the present stage, most qualifiers will be decided by Nov. 19, when the qualifying round that started in March is complete. Playoffs from March 26-31, 2020 will decide the final four qualifiers.

The draw for the group stage is slated for Nov. 30 at the Romexpo in Bucharest, Romania. Over the past three decades, the winners for the Euros were Netherlands in 1988, Denmark in 1992, Germany in 1996, France in 2000, Greece in 2004, Spain in 2008, Spain in 2012 and Portugal in 2016.

While Italy has not won since 1968, when the tournament was held in Italy, England never won it. Other winners include Czechoslovakia in 1976 and USSR in 1960.

During the last Euro in 2016, Portugal beat France 1-0 in the final, which was held in Saint-Denis, France, though its playmaker Cristiano Ronaldo was subbed after 23 minutes in the first half of the match due to a knee injury from a defender’s tackle.

An interest is whether France, the winner of the 2018 FIFA World Cup led by Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba, will take the Euro 2020 trophy.

Spain, the winner of 2008 Euros, 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euros, was crushed by Netherlands 1-5 in the Group B preliminaries and failed to advance to 16-team knockout tournament in the 2014 Brazil World Cup. In 2004, Greece surprised world soccer fans by taking the title.

France, which took the 2000 Euro trophy after winning the 1998 World Cup, was eliminated in the group preliminaries without scoring in the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup.
(Graphic by Kim Sun-young/The Korea Herald)
(Graphic by Kim Sun-young/The Korea Herald)

Between July 24 and Aug. 9, the 32nd Summer Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo.

An interest among South Korea sports fans is whether its national baseball team will snatch the gold again, following the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when it beat Japan in the semifinal and Cuba in the final. Baseball has been revived for the 2020 Games after being excluded from the official events list in 2012 London and 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

For football, the Korean national team beat Japan 2-0 to grab the bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Another big event for Korean sports fans in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is women’s golf, in which Korea took gold in the 2016 Rio Games.

In men’s and women’s judo, Korean competitors will continue their rivalry against their Japanese counterparts, who have the benefit of home turf.

By Kim Yon-se (