UEFA Euro 2020: Group Stage Preview and Predictions
The European Championship will finally take place during the summer of 2021 – even though the branding still says 2020. Some countries that were set to host have pulled out, but UEFA has managed to adjust. Many teams are making changes to compete in a tournament that is following the most jam-packed respective domestic campaigns to date.
Now with the European Championship on the global stage, everyone will be cheering for underdog victories, the giant nations clashing, rising players making statements, and the return of many fans to stadiums across Europe.
Get ready for the 2020 European Championship, finally, in the summer of 2021.
The Group Stage Predictions
Italy, Switzerland, Turkey and Wales
The Euros kick off on Friday June 11th, and it could be a deciding match on who will come out on top of group A as Turkey travels to Rome to play Italy. Italy, for me, is a guarantee to move onto the knockout stage, but the dark horse nations of Turkey and Switzerland will want to create their own headlines throughout the group stage.
Italy is fully loaded with talent! Roberto Mancini likes to play a more attacking, free-flowing style of football which normally counters the traditional style of Italy – defensive and tactical. The midfield is technically strong with Jorginho, Marco Verratti, and Nicolo Barella. Wild card players like Federico Chiesa will want to perform well and make a statement of intent to become one of the best young attackers coming out of Italy.
The passing phases and movements will be key to create space for their forwards like Ciro Immobile, in finishing off teams that like to sit back and dig in. Italy is strong and will excel in this tournament; however, they may be missing that final ten percent to become champions.
Turkey fits the description of “dark horse” in this competition with a group of players that hold some quality. The manager, Senol Gunes, took them to a third-place finish in the 2002 World Cup. Burak Yilmaz will lead the line after winning Ligue 1 with underdogs Lille OSC. The center-back partnership of Merih Demiral (Juventus) and Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester City) have top level experience in club football which will be well used in this tournament.
With midfielders like Hakan Calhanoglu, a dead-ball specialist, and Cengiz Under using his speed on the counterattacks, this squad is fit to push for a top 8 finish if Gunes can get his tactics right.
Switzerland’s squad that can cause some problems to any nation. Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic has moved to a new system of three in the back after the retirement of Stephan Lichtsteiner. With decent strikers Breel Embolo and Haris Seferovic, and midfielders like Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri able to seek them out, this team is not afraid to sit back and hit opponents with the counterpunch.
This country has a reputation of qualifying and doing well enough to make the first game of the knockout round, but nothing more than that. This Swiss team would not mind another result like their history suggests.
Wales are my last place team in Group A; although, they could cause an upset. The other teams must respect their top individuals, like Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. They will sit back in a 3-4-3 system and hope to counter with their wide players overloading and creating threats from wide areas. Total outsiders to advance to the knockout stage.
Italy will top the group with Turkey finishing runners-up. Switzerland will advance in a third-place spot and Wales will finish bottom of the group.
Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Russia
A lot of pressure is on Belgium to perform at this tournament as they are ranked #1 by FIFA, attributing it to their “golden generation”. That of course, is based on how well Kevin De Bruyne plays after his facial fracture that he sustained in the Champions League final. Denmark has a strong squad, and Russia are normally tactically organized to cause problems. Finland is in their first major tournament and would like to add a win to their historic start in finals.
Belgium is my group favourite, especially after beating Russia and Denmark both home and away in the qualifiers for this tournament and the Nations League. With a stack of talent like Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Axel Witsel, and Dries Mertens, it will be a shock if this nation does not advance to the knockout stage with maximum points from the three games.
Denmark and Russia are both interesting in this group because they are the two nations that will have home field advantage; Russia with two home games while Denmark gets to host all three of theirs.
Denmark boasts a strong defensive shape with Simon Kjaer, Andreas Christensen, Jannik Vestergaard, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Thomas Delaney in front of them. Yussuf Poulsen will look to control the air and dominate opponents' final third to get this defensive team some goals. Captain Kasper Schmichel is coming off a huge performance in winning the FA Cup with Leicester City and will want to use that momentum this summer.
Russia boasts a group of attacking players that will look to open games up with their scoring potential, with Artem Dzyuba leading the line after having his best club season with Zenit. Behind him is Aleksei Miranchuk and Aleksandr Golovin; they will be able to pick teams apart and move the ball around to create scoring opportunities.
Denmark and Russia meet in Copenhagen in the final game of the group and it could decide if one or both teams move on to the knockout stage. I have this as a draw with both teams advancing.
Finland is finally in a major tournament and Finns from around the world would love to have a Puuki Party during the summer. Unfortunately, they do not have much else for quality. They will be relatively defensive and will not give much space in their final third to opponents. Maybe a draw against neighbors Russia will be enough to make this historic tournament very special.
Belgium will top the group, with Denmark finishing runners-up. Russia will advance in a third-place spot and Finland will finish bottom of the group.
Austria, Netherlands, North Macedonia and Ukraine
Netherlands is going to advance to the knockout stage without breaking much of a sweat. With Ukraine, Austria, and North Macedonia completing Group C, the “Oranje” should have an easy time and build momentum. Ukraine can feel comfortable in progressing in a soft group as Austria and North Macedonia will be the outsiders to move on.
Holland manager Frank De Boer has picked a strong lineup, with Memphis Depay in attack. He will want to inspire his country as well as influence Barcelona to sign him over the summer. The strongest group of players in the Netherlands’ squad is in the midfield. Georginio Wijnaldum, Frenkie De Jong, as well as Marten De Roon can play on the field at the same time if needed. This squad is strong for the group stage, but the real questions will start to rise during the knockout rounds.
Ukrainian manager Andriy Shevchenko has had a mixed bag of results with his well-used 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 formation. Gaining a win over Spain but drawing with Kazakhstan over the year is a perfect example. Opening against the Dutch will be a challenge; however, after that, the momentum used from beating North Macedonia will help the Ukrainians defeat the Austrians on the last matchday to advance.
Rulan Malinovskyi is coming off his best club season with Atalanta, leading Serie A in assists with 12. He will use his passing range and three attacking players in front of him to cause damage.
Austria will look to get an advantage on either the Netherlands or Ukraine to advance. Sitting back in a solid 4-4-1-1 formation will make it difficult for teams to break them. However, the problem is in the attack and with Marcel Sabitzer, the only real threat, teams will try and get Austria to take another route to salvage a game – I think will be problematic for them.
North Macedonia are outsiders on the inside of this tournament. This team is capable of winning – just ask Germany, who suffered a 2-1 defeat to the Macedonians in March during a World Cup qualifier. It was a perfect result before the tournament to get your name out globally. Young prospect Elif Elmas will be one to watch as he tries to carry his nation. Other than that, the only good thing about them is getting to say their name in relatable content. NORTH MACEDONIA!
Netherlands will top the group with Ukraine finishing runners-up. Austria will not advance in a third-place spot, and North Macedonia will finish bottom of the group.
Source: Sky Sports
Croatia, Czech Republic, England and Scotland
This group is the hardest to predict – except for the winner. England are my favourites to win the group, with seven players having recently played in the Champions League final. This England squad will be playing in front of their home fans in London and the squad will surely want to “bring it home”!
Now for the hard part:
Croatia has a strong squad with most players coming back from the fantastic runners-up placing in the 2018 World Cup. Being placed in England’s group must fire up this squad to repeat the same feat and shock a few more people as they advance in the tournament. With Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, Ivan Perisic, Mario Pasalic, and Andrej Kramaric all having relatively good club seasons, they will be pushing this group to achieve something from this tournament.
Their opening match against England will rekindle that heroic performance in 2018 and start the group off with a bang.
Scotland is back in their first international tournament since World Cup 1998! I love the fact that they are placed in the same group as their “auld enemy”, England. There’s a lot of Premier League experience in this squad with Kieran Tierney, Andrew Robertson, Scott McTominay, and John McGinn – this squad will get results.
I may have put Czech Republic last in this group, but I still believe this team can win games. Tomas Soucek will be buzzing from his successful West Ham season and will look to help this midfield perform. Patrik Schick will lead the line providing quality that could hurt teams. However, two defeats to Scotland in 2020 has me putting them last in the group, with a massive chance to shock at least one nation before going home.
England will top the group with Croatia finishing runners-up. Scotland will not advance in a third-place spot, and Czech Republic will finish bottom of the group.
Source: Xinhua/Pablo Morano via Getty Images
Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden
Spain looks to be guaranteed winners of the group (that is if they can get their team vaccinated and stay healthy in this tournament), even with this squad going through a historic moment: This will be the first time entering a tournament without any Real Madrid players in the international team. The group that has featured regularly will turn to results like the 6-0 victory over Germany in November, or the victory over Kosovo in March for encouragement.
Poland has the next best squad with Ballon D”or contender, Robert Lewandowski, leading the line. He will surely want to build on this year’s resume for the greatest individual award by achieving success with his country. This team will look to play the ball into their opponent’s box as much as possible to give Robert chances, while keeping their defensive shape solid.
Sweden's chances weakened after Zlatan pulled out of this tournament due to injury, but that does not mean this squad is not far off from the qualities of Poland; they just won’t have their “Lewandowski”. Working in a well balanced 4-4-2 with players like Emil Forsberg and Dejan Kulusevski, this team can surely win against Slovakia. After that, it's pushing for either a win or draw against the other two nations to make a play for the 2nd/3rd spots.
Slovakia is part of a few teams that will be happy just being at the tournament. Milan Skriniar will be proud to lead his nation and continue to carry the momentum they have after eliminating Ireland, then Northern Ireland to be here.
Spain will top the group with Poland finishing runners-up. Sweden will advance in a third-place spot, and Slovakia will finish bottom of the group.
France, Germany, Hungary and Portugal
Finally – the group of death – this group could very well have three teams sitting at 6 points by the end of it with Hungary losing every match. France, Germany, and Portugal have loaded squads that can attack and score goals in multiple ways; lineups can be changed for different tactical situations and for the easier match against Hungary. A draw can ruin the chance for all three teams to advance and surely Portugal will have the advantage of playing Hungary first to gain a lead in the table.
France are the tournament favourites and Germany will want to send off Joachim Low with one last trophy. This is truly a “group of death”; a defeat could mean the end for one of these three powerhouse nations.
France are the tournament favourites in my opinion and have the right to be with a squad that has only become better since winning the World Cup in 2018. Karim Benzema has been called back into the squad for the first time since his 2015 exile. The man adds balance to Kylian Mbappe and Antione Griezmann, who can now attack in even more ways.
Ever since the uniting of West and East, Germany has had a highly rated squad, and this tournament is no different with a nice mix of veterans that won the World Cup in 2014 and new young players that will have to lead this squad going into the next World Cup in 2022. Manager Joachim Low will do what he wants now as this will be his final tournament in charge of his home nation, and he will want to leave on a high note.
Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry are perfect attackers to blend with the likes of Champions League winners Kai Havertz and Timo Werner. Thomas Muller will investigate the open space to allow the pace of the forwards to threaten opponents with multiple runs at once.
Portugal has a starting 11 that’s as strong as both France and Germany, but with a 26-man squad not as deep. Cristiano Ronaldo is driven to win and both Bruno Fernandez and Ruben Diaz create a strong spine to complete the squad.
Without star player Dominik Szoboszlai, Hungary are only here to play upset. A win or even a draw could end the chance of the other three nations from moving on.
France will top the group with Germany finishing runners-up. Portugal will advance in a third-place spot, and Hungary will finish bottom of the group.