The international spotlight will fall on Belgium and the Netherlands when they become the first countries to co-host the UEFA European Football Championship finals this summer.
Eight stadiums in eight different cities, four Belgian and four Dutch, will welcome visitors from all over Europe and beyond for the duration of this football carnival.
Supporters flocking to Belgium will head to the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, the Jan Breydal Stadium in Bruges, Charleroi’s Stade Communal and the Sclessin Stadium in Liege.
The King Baudoin Stadium in Brussels, the Belgian capital, will host the tournament’s opening match between Belgium and Sweden and the first semi-final. The 50,000-capacity King Baudoin Stadium is the home of the national team and was completely renovated in 1996, although it retains its original 1930 façade.
Nominated the European Capital of Culture in 2000, Brussels is a busy centre of business and diplomacy, host to the European Union and Nato.
The 30,000-capacity Sclessin Stadium in Liege was built in 1984, with two new stands added in the last decade. It is the home of Royal Standard de Liège, one of Belgium’s oldest teams. Liege, the one-time centre of the Belgian mining industry, is a busy university city in the north-east of Belgium.
The Stade Communal in Charleroi, home of Sporting Charleroi, also holds 30,000 and has undergone major recent renovations, with three new stands built in 1998 and 1999. Charleroi is the largest city in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, and is the country’s third biggest city.
The Jan Breydel Stadium in Bruges is the home of Bruges’ two professional clubs, Club Brugge KV and Cercle Brugge KSV. The stadium has undergone major renovations in recent years, its capacity rising from 18,000 to 30,000. Bruges is one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval cities, its winding streets and canals earning it the tag “the Venice of the North”.
The four destinations for football fans in the Netherlands will be Rotterdam’s De Kuip Stadium, the Amsterdam ArenA, the Philips Stadium in Eindhoven and the Gelredome in Arnhem.
The De Kuip Stadium will host the final on 2 July. The home of Feyenoord, it dates back to 1937 but its modern features include a removable roof, a heated pitch and 50,000 seats.
Rotterdam lies on the River Meuse and is a bustling port city, the second biggest in the Netherlands.
The futuristic Amsterdam ArenA, home of AFC Ajax was completed in 1996. This remarkable 50,000-seater stadium has a retractable roof which can be opened and closed in just 15 minutes – and features a vast sporting and leisure complex.
Amsterdam is the biggest city in the Netherlands and its cultural capital. Its fine architecture and centuries-old canals are testimony to the city’s past as one of the world’s great trading centres.
The tournament’s other state-of-the-art venue is the Gelredome in Arnhem. The home of Vitesse Arnhem, this 30,000-seater stadium is only two years old and features a retractable roof and pitch. Arnhem is the capital of the Gelderland province in the east of Holland.
The eighth and final venue is Eindhoven’s 33,000-capacity Philips Stadium, home of PSV Eindhoven. PSV are backed by Philips, the electronics giant based in the city, hence the stadium’s name and its excellent corporate and conference facilities. Eindhoven is a young city renowned as an international centre of technology.