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Germany eyes huge party as it hosts Euro 2024 amid global turmoil

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MUNICH: Germany is gearing up to host the Euro 2024 football championship under high security as global threats cast a shadow, but on the field, the home team will be looking to prove they are finally back in form.

Six weeks before the start of the Paris Olympics, Germany will be the centre of the European football world’s attention when the hosts face Scotland in the curtain-raiser in Munich on Jun 14.

While 2022 World Cup finalists France are favourites alongside England, Germany are enjoying new-found belief after wins against the French and the Netherlands in March.

The team’s young coach, 36-year-old Julian Nagelsmann, was to have left the international set-up after the tournament but in a sign of his confidence in the team he is moulding, he has signed on until the 2026 World Cup finals despite reported interest from former club Bayern Munich.

It augurs well too that Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen will be in the Europa League final against Atalanta on May 22, while Borussia Dortmund will face Real Madrid in the Champions League final at Wembley Stadium in London on Jun 1.

On Thursday (May 16), both Germany and France will announce their 26-man Euro 2024 squads, with England doing so the following Thursday.

As the lead of the tournament organising committee, former Germany defender Philipp Lahm said he was looking forward to a “big festival together” but admitted the tournament would be better if Germany performed well.

“It always helps when the home team is in the tournament for a long time,” the 2014 World Cup-winning captain told AFP in a recent interview.

MAMMOTH TASK

Euro 2024 takes place three years after the previous tournament, which was postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hosted in countries across the continent with the final at Wembley, the 2021 edition took place in front of drastically reduced capacity.

This time around, there will be no more restrictions – and the stadiums are expected to be packed.

An estimated 2.7 million fans will attend 51 matches across 10 stadiums, culminating in the final at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium on Jul 14.

But even more will be outside the grounds, with each host city setting up fan zones ready to welcome the 12 million supporters expected to come to the country.

ATTACK THREATS

The tournament however also takes place against the backdrop of a tense global climate with major conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, making securing the event a mammoth task.

Germany has been on high alert for attacks since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in October.

An attack in Moscow, claimed by the Islamic State group, at the end of March which claimed 144 lives, had cast a further shadow over security at the tournament.

The Champions League quarter-final first legs in Paris, London and Madrid in April were all held under close surveillance after an apparent threat made by Islamic State.

Likewise, additional security measures were in place for the “Der Klassiker” match between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in March at the Allianz Arena, which hosts the opening match of the Euros.

The background is reminiscent of the lead-up to Euro 2016 in France which took place just after attacks in Paris and Brussels, including an attempted suicide bombing at the Stade de France during a France-Germany game.

Officials will however be hoping Euro 2024 will be like the 2016 edition, which took place safely in a jubilant atmosphere of celebration.

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