Leagues are halted; players are stuck at home - where does football go from here?
Tokyo Olympics 2020 was the latest major global sporting event to be moved to 2021 because of the coronavirus epidemic. Earlier, both Euro 2020 and Copa America 2020, two of football's biggest events were scheduled to be held in 2021.
Leagues are halted; players are stuck at home - where does football go from here? The question is an intriguing one but the answer remains in the dark for now. What might be more interesting is to figure out the effect of these massive tournaments being delayed.
As benefits, teams will get more time to chalk out a better combination and youngsters will mature a bit more. On the other hand, it might just be a year too late for ageing superstars and the teams will get a year less to prepare for the World Cup in 2022.
Too late for the veterans
For a bulk of ageing players, this year's European Championship and Copa America was the last opportunity to taste silverware in their international careers. But with the tournaments being moved back a year, stars like Sergio Aguero, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Thiago Silva might not get another opportunity.
With their current form, they are an automatic choice for their national sides. However, one year often makes a big difference and another year means another season, which just might see them drop their current impressive form and not getting selected.
Youngsters are likely to take their place and this one year delay might just come as a blessing in disguise for them as they will get more time to prepare and mature themselves.
Young guns like Jadon Sancho, Trent Alexander-Arnold or Kylian Mbappe have already proven their worth on the big stages; some others like Ansu Fati, Joao Felix or Vinicius Jr are yet to do so. This extra year they are getting, might just prove to be necessary for them to get their head straight and bloom to their full potential.
Messi's best chance delayed
One of the few black spots on Lionel Messi's illustrious career is surely him not winning anything with Argentina. He reached three consecutive major finals between 2014 and 2016 but failed to win any. His arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo has already won the Euro 2016 and the Uefa Nations League in 2019, and that has added more insult to the mercurial Argentine's legacy.
Messi has started the 2019-20 season troubled with injuries and missed the starting matches. He soon caught up but often during training he has shown signs of carrying an injury.
This break might be a perfect time for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to regain full fitness. But by the time the next Copa America commences, Messi will be closing on 34. And with injuries lurking already, a year's delay might be an added tension for him.
The same goes for his counterpart Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese skipper would have crossed 36 by then and performing at his top-most level might turn out to be very difficult.
Both of them are likely to go on and play in the 2022 World Cup. But with their bodies shifting out of their prime, will the world manage to see the best of them in 2021? Well, these two have been well-known for defying the odds and the fans would hope that they would do the same again.
Hasty preparations for the World Cup
Competitions like Euro or Copa America are often used for fine-tuning a team for the biggest stage, The World Cup. For example, France finished the Euro 2016 as runners-up but a couple of years later; they went on to become the champions of the world in Russia.
That happened because Didier Deschamps got the opportunity to find out where his team needed improvement and acted accordingly. In Euro 2016, France portrayed a free-flowing style of football but at Russia, they were more conservative in their approach and made amends.
Even though the Qatar World Cup is in November-December because of the hot climate, still the teams would get roughly 15 months to prepare for the tournament. The teams might fall into haste as the World Cup will arrive in no time once the continental championships end.
Nevertheless, one delayed year also means that international teams will get a year more to set up their squad for the continental tournaments. Which in turn, promises the World Cup to be more competitive as the squads will gel together from getting a bit more time. And then, coaches can tune and tweak the teams to their likeliness and football fans can drool over three great tournaments in only 15 months.