After many major sporting events were cancelled in 2020, fans turned to esports for their yearly fix.
One of the world’s most prestigious soccer tournaments, Euro 2020, was pushed back a year. Instead, players competed virtually with fans watching at home rather than in the stadiums. The European Championships is the pinnacle of the European international soccer season, coming around once every four years. This year, the action will finally take place across Europe, with the esports version of the tournament also scheduled.
But it may not be the soccer game you expected to watch.
Most video gamers will identify the FIFA franchise from EA Sports as the leading soccer simulator, but hardened fans have always preferred KONOMI’s Pro Evolution Soccer, shortened to PES. For the UEFA eEURO tournament, players will compete on PES 2021 Season Update, which boasts the Euro 2020 official license. KONAMI has focused its effort on the esports world of later, even renaming the game eFootball PES 2021.
Rather ironically, the original UEFA eEURO tournament did take place, with Italy the inaugural winners in the absence of any physical action. Their team consisted of four players: Naples17x, Nicaldan, Genoa_Npk02 and AlonsoGrayfox.
After the win, AlonsoGrayfax told UEFA’s official site: “It was incredible to have come to this point, and now we have won it. I cannot express my feelings in words. The decisive game for us was the one against France in the semi-finals. That victory gave us self-confidence. I’m proud to be Italian, and I’m proud to be Sardinian. It’s incredible, I still cannot believe we did it – it’s a dream.”
This year, while teams take to the field in real life, gamers will once again come up against each other in the virtual world for a second successive tournament in a row and as yet, the holders have not even qualified.
Ten countries have already booked their places for the tournament, which takes place in London on July 9–10. They are Croatia, France, Greece, Israel, Montenegro, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, and Spain. They will be joined by another six countries set for a playoff, with previous winners Italy still hoping to qualify via that method, as well as Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, all of whom are amongst the favorites in the real tournament.
Sadly, for the eEURO tournament hosts England, they will not be at the virtual event. In the physical tournament, England are favorites in the current Euro 2020 Winner Odds, but they will not be represented in the virtual competition. That means no chance of the €40,000 ($48,000) top prize for the hosts of the eEURO final, and the physical final, which is set to take place at Wembley.
Teams have between two and four players, and when the six qualifiers are decided this month, the draw will be made. They will be placed into four groups of four at the draw, expected in late May or early June, where they will each play a series of three games. The top two from each group will then advance to the knockout phase, which will again be a series of three games in the quarterfinal and the semi-final. The final itself will be a best of five competition, where Serbia will hope to go one better than last year.
It promises to be an exciting tournament enjoyed across the world, and it may even help eFootball PES to once again become a serious player in the world of soccer games.