Euro 2020 Preview

After a wait of a year, Euro 2020 will kick off on Friday 11th June when Turkey will face Italy in Rome. The tournament which was postponed for a year due to the pandemic will be played in 11 cities including London with Wembley being used.

Portugal are the defending champions having won the event in 2016, with VAR being used at the event for the first time.

There will be 24 teams taking part in the tournament who have been split into six groups of four. The group winners and runners up and the best four third place sides will advance to the last 16.

Wales end up in Group A

Group A consists of Italy, Turkey, Switzerland and Wales.

A tough group that contains no clear underdog either. None of the sides here are likely just to roll over. So, it has the makings of being a tight group.

Four times World Cup winners Italy will be favourites to win the group. After a clean sweep performance during their qualifying programme. However, they haven’t lifting the European Championship since 1968.

The Italians have much attacking options available to them. Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile look favourites to start. The Italians as in the past will look to their defence to the key for success. Veteran defender Leonardo Bonucci should start most games with Alessandro Florenzi also a likely starter.

Mancini doing a fine job with Italy

Under manager Roberto Mancini Italy have a fine chance of going a long way in this event and erasing years of hurt waiting for a European Championship Trophy.

Wales had a great tournament back in 2016, reaching the semi-finals before losing to eventual winners Portugal.

Star man has to be Gareth Bale, the Real Madrid forward on loan most recently to Tottenham is a match winner on his day. Cardiff City striker Kieffer Moore was joint top scorer with two goals during qualifying. Wales look a little uncertain at the back, which may well hamper their chances of qualifying for the knock out stages.

Switzerland qualify once again

A regular in this tournament are Switzerland who have only ebver reached the last sixteen once back in 2016. Their a solid side who can trouble other sides. Switzerland topped a fairly easy qualifying pool. Rangers forward Cedric Itten was their top scorer in the qualifiers with three goals. However, he was snubbed from their provisional squad.

Turkey head into the finals on a back of an impressive qualifying campaign. They finished second in their group behind France, even taking four points off them.

Turkey only lost just once in ten qualifiers, so must be taken a serious threat. Leading scorer in the qualifiers Cenk Tosun misses out due to injury. Veteran captain and striker Burak Yilmaz is the star turn for the Turks.

Turkey do play a very open game so will be vulnerable at the back, which other sides could well take advantage off.

Can the fancied Belguim side finally deliver?

Group B consists of Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Russia.

Belgium’s golden generation of players will be hoping that finally this will be their year. The side have always been one of the favoured sides to do well, but never seem to perform on the big stage.

Could this be the year for them? Having stayed Number one in the FIFA ranking for three years now, their form has been dazzling having breezed past teams during the qualification round.

Roberto Martinez’s men won a full house 10 out of 10 in qualifying, helped by Romelu Lukaku’s seven goals.

Is now the time for Belguim to deliver

Failed attempts in major tournaments will always haunt Belgium. Their best in the Euros was back in 2016 where they reached the quarter finals. In 2018 in the World Cup they finished third but are looking to finally lift a major trophy their squad carry the likes to do so.

Denmark ended their group undefeated and finished second behind Switzeraland, having lost only once since October 2020. In the last eight fixtures they have scored 23 times and conceded just six.

In defence they will have the likes of rock solid Kasper Schmeichel in goal and will also thrive on the backing of their noisy fans in three home matches.

The last time Russia featured back in the Euros was back in 2012. They should certainly have the hunger for wanting success this time around.

They look good enough to defeat the so called minnows but may struggle against the big boys.

Finland make their debut in a European Championships

For the first time ever, Finland will be making their debut at the European Championships. They finished runners up behind Italy in their qualifying group by winning six of ten matches.

They will rely on their talisman striker Teamu Pukki who scored ten goals in qualifying.  Finland go into the event having no wins in their last five games which will be a worry to coach Markku Kanerva.

The Orange machine looking to get back to the good times once again

Group C consists of Netherlands, Austria, Ukraine and North Macedonia

The Netherlands qualified for Euro 2020 after finishing second to Germany. Having replaced Ronald Koeman a year ago manager Frank de Boar will be under pressure to deliver success quickly.

Having failed to qualify for the previous two major tournaments, Holland will be expected to at least get out of this group. The Dutch will look towards Barcelona’s excellent Frenkie de Jong and Juventus’s Matthijs De Ligt to guide them to future success.

A key player who will be missing due to injury is Virgil van Dijk. Such a vital part of this Dutch defence. Confident to say they will get out of the group but may struggle against one of the more favoured sides.

Time for Austria to break their duck

Austria will enter Euro 2020 aiming to win their first ever victory at a Euros final tournament. Head coach Franco Foda has come in for a lot of criticism for his defensive tactics. As an attacking force they may well struggle in Euro 2020.

North Macedonia will be entering the finals of the Euros for the very first time. The minnows are no pushovers having recently defeated Germany in a World Cup qualifying match. Captained by the ageing 37-year-old Goran Pandev, the target for them will be to win a game in the group.

Ukraine arrive at Euro 2020 after being eliminated from the group stage of both Euro 2012 and 2016. Losing five of their six matches in the process. Despite this poor record Ukraine will take heart from their qualifying record of finishing top of the group ahead of Portugal.

Is now the time for Southgate’s youngsters to come of age

Group D consists of England, Croatia, Scotland and Czech Republic

England for the first time ina very long time will go into the event as favourites to win Euro 2020. Having the favourites tag always puts more pressure on a side and this could be England’s undoing.

Gareth Southgate has chosen an exciting young squad who could go a long way in the tournament. After a run to the semi finals of the 2018 World Cup Southgate will continue his policy of going with exciting youth.

The burning question will be can this exciting and talented group of young players thrive on the main stage and not bottle under the pressure that will await them.

Playing all three group games at Wembley will help and the potential to play most at Wembley, should they go all the way.

Beware of the dangerous Croatian side

Croatia look on paper the only side to deny England winning the group.

The 2018 World Cup finalists defeated England on the way to that final and must be feared. As always, they will look towards the evergreen 35-yaer-old Luka Modric as their key playmaker.

The Czech Republic are not the force they once were. However, they did achieve a victory against England during qualification for this event and also held Belgium to a draw in a World Cup qualification match in March.

This will be Scotland’s first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup. Scotland will boast a squad full of Premier League experience and will certainly be up for the game against England in the group.

Is the time now righ for Spain to make it four times winners

Group E consists of Spain, Sweden, Poland and Slovakia

Three times Euro winners Spain will be favourites to top their group. Their last three major tournaments have produced a poor showing from the Spanish. The squad has a fine mix of youth and experienced and were undefeated in qualifying by winning eight games from ten.

Defensively wise Spain look a solid side. Manager Luis Enrique made a shock choice before the tournament begun by omitting the experienced Sergio Ramos from his squad. The defence though has been boosted by Laporte who has switched allegiance from France.

They should certainly make it into the knock out stages and after that you just never know.

The tight defence of Sweden could well help their chances of progress

Sweden have been resolute in defence through qualifying and in the 2018 World Cup where they reached the last eight.

They will boast a very experienced squad, perhaps to experienced with 12 players over the age of 30. They look like they may struggle to get out of the group.

Poland enter the finals with coach Paulo Sousa having managed only three games in charge. They breezed through the qualifying stages thanks mainly to the brilliant Robert Lewandowski. A good chance of getting out of the group stage.

Slovakia enter the Euros on the back of some inconsistent form. They had to rely on the play-offs to book their place in Euro 2020. Having qualified for their first ever Euros in 2016, it will be a tough ask for them to get out of the group stage.

Group F consists of Germany, France, Portugal and Hungary.

The dreaded group of death

In any major tournament there is always a so called group of death. In Euro 2020 this is definitely the dreaded group of death.

Joachim Low will be leaving the German national side in the summer and will be hoping to go out with a bang.

After a horror show in the World Cup in Russia the Germans will be looking to improve. Germany still have a very strong side on paper. The likes of Joshua Kimmich, Toni Kroos  and Ilkay Gundogan ooze class in midfield. The problem with Germany will centre around their defence which will leak goals.

French flair the side to beat

The best time in World football France will be looking to replicate the work of previous French greats by winning the World Cup and European Championships in succession.

They are stacked in quality in every department with the likes of Hugo Lloris, N’Gola Kante, Paul Pogba and the great Mbape along with Karim Benzema make them clear favourites and the side to beat.

On paper the holders Portugal come into the competition with a side better than in 2016.

Despite finishing third in qualifying behind Ukraine they made it to Euro 2020 via the play-offs. Bruno Fernandes- who has been a revolution for Manchester United- is a player to watch.

Portugal will be aiming to be only the second side to retain the European Championships after Spain. If they can get out of the group of death, they may well be on their way to achieving this.

Hungary go into the Euros in buoyant mood after reaching the finals via the play-offs against Iceland with a last-minute winner.

At Euro 2016 they sprung a big surprise by winning their group but this time around that would be an even bigger shock. Best hope for Hungary looks likely to be one of the best third placed finish sides.

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