• Euro 2020 begins month-long festival of football, beginning with Italy v Turkey in Rome on Friday 11 June
  • Six Groups of four teams combine for a total of 36 pool games
  • Top two from each pool will then progress to last 16, together with the four best third-placed finishers
EURO 2020 – With a festival of football across the continent almost upon us, we break down every Euro 2020 Group, plus predictions.

 

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After COVID-19 forced the postponement of the 16th UEFA European Championships last summer, the wait is almost at and end for the beginning of Euro 2020.

In its first incarnation as an expanded competition, 24 teams will face-off in six Groups A-F, with 36 initial games staged in 11 different venues across the continent.

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The last 16 will then see the best two teams in each pool progress, together with the four sides with the most points who finish third.

The quarter-finals will then take place in Germany, Russia, Italy and Azerbaijan, before both semi-finals and final are staged at the home of football, Wembley Stadium. The final takes place on Sunday 11 July.

Euro 2020 will have a unique flavour with no less than 11 different host cities, that even during a still on-going pandemic, should provide for terrific entertainment and colour.

So, as the tournament is primed to begin on Friday 11 June at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, just what are the groups looking like, who are the favourites, and who might meet an shock early exit?

 

In the second of Britwatch’s extensive Group previews, here we showcase D-F, including England, Scotland, Spain and the Group of Death, involving France, Portugal and Germany.

 

Group D

And so we move onto Group D and the repeat of Euro 96’s Battle of Britain at Wembley 25 years ago, as England and Scotland are paired together in a tricky looking pool with World Cup runners-up Croatia and the plucky and resilient Czech Republic.

For Three Lions fans, memories of Paul Gascoigne‘s stunning solo goal against the Scots – not least the post-goal dentist chair celebration – still burn fervently, as England look to replicate or improve on a fourth-placed finish in Russia three years ago.

(if by some freak occurrence you have not seen Gazza’s goal under the Wembley arch that Saturday afternoon in June 1996, you can see it below)

 

Opinion seems to be divisive over whether this is the best England side since their golden era of the late 90s and mid 00s, but what cannot be refuted, is England do have some of the best players in Europe.

Harry Kane is again likely to carry the burden of goals this summer for boss Gareth Southgate, but he maybe able to look behind in attack, for sources of goals elsewhere, and in greater number than before.

Not least in Phil Foden, who is finally becoming the player he was tipped to become some years ago.

The Manchester City man’s permanent position is in some confusion, but Foden is set to be one of the standout players of the Euros, and can run at defences with the verve and vigour of few others in the tournament.

As does Mason Mount, fresh from winning the European Cup with Chelsea a few mere weeks ago in Lisbon. Mount and Foden could be a formidable tag-team for England.

Wide play will be just as key however, and Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling will be relied upon to open up teams.

If Sterling continues his poor form of the past season, Jack Grealish may come in to prove why so many England fans are demanding he starts regularly in England colours, after two impressive warm-up games.

Borussia Dortmund’s other representative in Jude Bellingham could become a bit of an X factor player for England during the tournament, who despite his 17-year-old status, is as dominant a presence in midfield as any team possess.

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Widely documented in the Euros build-up, England’s right-back position does not lack options, and though Trent Alexander-Arnold has been forced out through injury, one of Reece James, Kieran Trippier or Kyle Walker may have been preferred in any event.

The sticking point for England at the Euros may be penetration in the final third, but also, a familiar one of defensive question marks.

With Harry Maguire set to miss the opening games of the tournament, that leaves the onus on a hugely improved John Stones, but whether Tyrone Mings,Β Conor Coady and now Ben White can share the burden, remains to be seen.

Furthermore, can Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice be the shield in front of the back three, four, or even five this summer?

A scenario where England progress as Group D winners is a very realistic one, but this is an awkward Group to negotiate.

The bigger problem the hosts face looking ahead, is that one of France, Germany or Portugal lie in wait in the last 16. If they do finish top however, they will meet at Wembley.

 

For neighbours north of the border in Scotland, Euro 2020 marks the Scots return to tournament competition, and are a side who could yet be genuine spoilers in amongst this quartet.

Like England – except against the Three Lions – the Scots will play their Group games on home soil at Hampden Park, and Steve Clarke‘s men are spoilt for choice in the left-back area, with few countries boasting such a class in that position.

Now skippered by Andy Robertson, Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney as been deployed as a wing-back to accommodate both men, as Liam Cooper and Grant Hanley make up what next season, will be an all-Premier League back line.

In fact, such has been the rise of Scottish football of late, that in all likelihood, when Scotland line up to face England on June 18, the entire starting XI will play in the top two tiers of English football.

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The Scots’ chief threats are likely to be Che Adams after he pinned his colours to the Saltire, and also Lyndon Dykes, who has enjoyed a solid season with QPR in the Championship.

The other threats England will know all about include Ryan Fraser, who, though having not recaptured his form for Bournemouth at Newcastle, can be a prominent figure, as could Southampton’s Stuart Armstrong.

Chelsea’s burgeoning talent Billy Gilmour and Aston Villa’s John McGinn are the perfect foils for one another in central midfield, whilst Ryan Christie is one of the few in the starting XI who are likely to begin their opening Group game who play in Scotland.

So can Scotland make the knockouts after a 23-year exodus from major tournament competition? If their current form is anything to go by, it is a distinct possibility after holding the Dutch and beating an improving Luxembourg this past week alone

Scotland cannot be underestimated.

 

Croatia may be current World Cup runners-up, but Zlatko Dalic‘s side are not the same one that were beaten 4-2 in Moscow’s finale three years ago.

Having lost seven games since last June however, the Croats still boast a vast array of attacking options however, and are again led by the veteran but still classy Luka Modric, and few players still see the game like the Real Madrid man does.

Joined by Inter’s Marcelo Brozovic – now Serie A winner – in the engine room, Hoffenheim’s Andrej Kramaric is a vastly improved version of the striker that struggled to make an impact at Leicester some years ago, having scored 14 times for Vatreni.

Ivan Perisic may be a bit-part player this summer, but only because Mislav Orsic could take his place on the wing, and as Spurs fans will relate, the Dinamo Zagreb dynamo will have to be shackled.

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Ante Rebic is starting to spread his wings at Milan also, whilst Nikola Vlasic is making waves in the Russian Premier League, with Chelsea Mateo Kovacic a constant.

Defensively, Croatia are starting to look a little long in the tooth though, with Domogoi Vida and Dejan Lovren now both in their 30s, and both Dominik Livakovic and Lovre Kalinic look uncertain in goal.

That said, Croatia should book their place comfortably in the last 16, but this particular quartet looks increasingly difficult to call.

 

Completing the Group D line up are the Czech Republic, who came closest to winning the Euros 25 years ago at Euro ’96.

Spear-headed by Patrik Schick, the Bayer Leverkusen striker can be a real handful, but is nevertheless inconsistent at the top level.

West Ham United fans have seen what a difference both Vladimir Coufal and Tomas Soucek and their presence has made in east London, and again the duo at both right-back and in midfield, will be focal points for the Czechs.

Burnley’s Matej Vydra was also instrumental in Chris Wood‘s sterling conclusion to the season at club level, as Vladimir Darida and Jakub Jankto continue as a solid unit in the middle of the park.

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Antonin Barak has been a sleeping force for Hellas Verona too this past term, and Spartak Moscow’s Alex Kral has been spoken of in the same breath as legend Pavel Nedved, already catching the attentions of Europe’s top clubs.

Likely to be obdurate this summer, their confidence will have taken a hit with a 4-0 loss to Italy in Rome, but come tournament time, the Czechs are unlikely to be as giving.

This Group has so many narratives in truth, and favourites England in particular, need to be wary.

 

Prediction: 1. England 2. Croatia 3. Scotland 4. Czech Republic

 

Group E

Euro 2008 winners Spain are next and make up perhaps one of the more favourable draws in Group E’s offering of Poland, Sweden and Slovakia.

With Sergio Ramos‘ best days behind him and with Gerard Pique also omitted from Luis Enrique’s squad, the switch of Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte from French colours, transforms La Roja’s back line and therefore their chances.

Set to partner Pau Torres in the heart of defence, the Villarreal centre-back will be accompanied by Champions League-winning Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta and Jordi Alba in the full-back areas.

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Though this current era for Spanish football heralds no Xavi, Iniesta, nor Guti, their new era is, nevertheless, molding its own bold new one, with not a single Real Madrid player making the final 24.

Whilst Sergio Busquets is now a doubt after testing positive for COVID-19,Β Thiago Alcantara and Rodri make up a mobile and dynamic midfield, with Koke, Fabian Ruiz and Barcelona prodigy Pedri further alternatives.

In attack, Spain boast one the most in-form strikers across Europe in Gerard Moreno – who Manchester United are all too aware of – with Alvaro Morata, Ferran Torres and livewires Dani Olmo and Adama Traore in support.

Spain are not regarded in any way as a side that could win the Euros, but as former winners, Luis Enrique‘s side know how to get the job done, and given a chance in the latter stages, will be a threat.

With the news that Spain have now been forced into quarantine however, their plans have taken a decided hit. Will it derail their plans? Time will tell.

 

Sweden are another ones of those sides who have been a regular fixture at the European Championships for some time, and even without Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the Euros, could make waves across the continent.

Their options up front similarly, are numerous, but Alexander Isak looks best poised for a fruitful summer, having made a name for himself in Spain.

The Swedes are likely to play two up top however, with Juventus’ Dejan Kulusevski as the spark as shadow striker, meaning Marcus Berg and Mainz’s Robin Quaison are likely to scrap it out for a supporting role.

Leipzig’s Emil Forsberg and the now 36-year-old Seb Larsson occupy the central midfield, with the latter having lost none of his magic.

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At the back, the Swedes are amongst the tallest units in the competition, with leader and captain Andreas Granqvist to partner Viktor Lindelof.

Marcus Danielson could be a surprise package of the summer with a penchant for goals from set-pieces, indeed the Dalian Pro centre-back has become prolific in China, and again netted against Armenia in the build-up.

Impressing in that game, Pierre Bengtsson‘s deliveries from the left wing could also become a foot-note for Sweden, but it is the lack of youth within the set-up that could prove a problem.

If we consider Spain as likely candidates to top the standings, Sweden are best set to finish second.

 

That however, will depend on the rather checkered performances of Poland and furthermore be largely determined by one Robert Lewandowski.

Having broken Gerd Muller‘s record for most Bundesliga goal in a season, the Polish striker – arguably the best number nine in the world right now – has been just as prolific for his country, netting 66 goals in 118 games.

It should be noted, rather alarmingly however, that Lewandowski has scored just once in a major tournament since Euro 2012, when Poland hosted with Ukraine.

Arkadiusz Milik‘s late withdrawal is a huge blow having rediscovered his goal-scoring touch for Marseille, so Karol Swiderski and Jakub Swierczok will be the alternatives up top.

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Napoli’s Piotr Zielinski again lines up behind in midfield, as Leeds’ Mateusz Klich and Brighton’s Jakub Moder could be ones to watch for Paulo Sousa‘s charges.

Spoilt for choice over Wojciech Szczesny or Lukasz Fabianski to play stopper, the Poles’ defence remains as resolute as ever, and Kamil Glik and Jan Bednarek are not easy customers – at both ends of the field.

Again, Polish progress will be down to whether they can score the goals or not, but surely this time Lewandowski will be on song. If he is, Poland still retain the biggest threat in front of goal at the tournament.

 

Completing this section of the draw come Slovakia, who in truth, few are expecting to up-root many trees.

They do possess though, the existential talents of Marek Hamsik, who surprised all by moving to the Swedish top flight earlier this year. Hamsik is still a class operator; watch out for his set-piece wizardry.

Ondrej Duda almost single-handedly steered Koln toward avoiding automatic relegation in the Bundesliga and impressing in glimpses for Norwich, will have keen observers playing at number 10.

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In defence, the Slovaks can boast one of the finest defenders around in Milan Skriniar, whilst between the sticks, Martin Dubravka has become one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the Premier League for Newcastle.

Augsburg’s Laszlo Benes may also catch the eye, but are those individual enough for Slovakia to make it out of Group E? Perhaps not.

 

Prediction: 1. Spain 2. Sweden 3. Poland 4. Slovakia

 

Group F

Lastly, buy by no means least – and we really mean it – it’s the Euro 2020 ‘Group of Death’ as Germany face reigning World champions France, holders Portugal and Hungary in Group E.

You really do have to feel for Hungary to be dropped into this particular powder keg, with Italian Marco Rossi, knowing his side are up against it to progress even in third place.

That’s not to say the Hungarians lack quality, but the sheer quality they will face is daunting, even though they play their three games in Budapest.

In one sense, given their status as rather large underdogs, Hungary could surprise with almost no pressure on their shoulders, and they do have players that could cause problems.

Willi Orban is amongst the the best in the air at set-piece and the Leipzig defender has a number of goals for club and country.

Without talisman Dominik Szoboszlai, Hungary will be pinning their creative hopes on Laszlo Kleinheisler, whilst the veteran and captain Adam Szalai, has 23 goals for his country, with Freiburg’s Roland Sallai perhaps Hungary’s brightest star.

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All that could be academic however, as they first face defending champions Portugal, who many fancy to replicate Spain’s 2008 and 2012 wins, and retain the European Championship.

A side once reliant upon a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, the Juventus forward is now approaching the twilight of his career, but is now ably supported by a stellar Portuguese cast.

Anchored by Bruno Fernandes, Portugal now have a strong Premier League representation, with no less than nine other players plying their trade in the English top flight.

With Diogo Jota and the still rather underachieving Joao Felix the big hopes in Iberia, Manchester City’s dominant centre-back Ruben Dias will be partnered in defence by the veteran and relentless Pepe.

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The plethora of talent in Portugal’s midfield and attack elsewhere is simply scary also.

Sergio Oliveira and Pedro Goncalves (Pote) have been the star attractions in Primera Liga this term, with the latter touted as the new Ronaldo.

With William Carvalho retaining his position as enforcer-in-chief, the option for coach Fernando Santos to play Danilo Pereira alongside him, or opt for one of Wolves’ combative but industrious duo in Ruben Neves or Joao Moutinho, is tantalising.

Even from the bench, Portugal can call upon the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt goal machine Andre Silva and Goncalo Guedes.

Everywhere you look in this Portugal side screams quality, and even in goal in either Rui Patricio or Anthony Lopes, the Selecao are going to take some shifting from their perch.

Perhaps the biggest issue Portugal face is who will take their penalty kicks, with Ronaldo, Fernandes, Sergio Oliveira and Pote all spot-kick experts.

The further advice perhaps here then is this: Don’t take the Portuguese to a shootout.

 

Holders, check. reigning World champions? gulp.

The pressure and expectation is all on the French this summer, who are rightly backed as favourites to accomplish as Spain did in 2008 and 2010, and become both champions of the world and Europe.

Indeed, if its possible, Les Bleus looks more dangerous in personnel this summer than they did three years ago.

Kylian Mbappe will of course be the focus for the French, but the return of Karim Benzema to the fold sees a genuine goalscorer with more than just raw pace, back in the picture.

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If the Real Madrid man should splutter in front of goal, Didier Deschamps has both Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud up his sleeve, and that is without mentioning Monaco’s Wissam Ben Yedder, Kingsley Coman, or Ousmane Dembele.

The French midfield of N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Adrien Rabiot adds another level of strength to their ranks, whilst in defence, Sevilla’s Jules Kounde could be the next big thing off the gallic conveyer belt, for a player who will have more than a number of suitors for his signature next term.

Raphael Varane and Kurt Zouma look to be the choice centre-back pairing, and together with Lucas Digne and Benjamin Pavard at full-back, well, France look a better team than they did when they lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy in 2018.

 

If the task to make the last 16 from this particular portion of the draw wasn’t tough enough, 1996 winners Germany are then thrown into the mix.

Though Die Mannschaft are far their imperious best, everyone knows by now never to underestimate the Germans and in Jogi Low‘s final tournament in charge, could Germany send out his era in style?

That will largely depend on the improved exploits of Chelsea’s misfiring Timo Werner – but not exclusively – and like with Benzema, Thomas Muller‘s recall is something the German press and the fans have been clamouring for.

Kai Havertz has yet to convince that his place as a false number nine holds merit, but his star shines just as bright behind the striker or on the wing, as Low has experimented with as of late.

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Bayern Munich’s vast role call of names continue with the still improving Serge Gnabry, who if anything has more of an impact for club than country, with Jamal Musiala set to rival those vying for breakout star of the tournament, having opted to switch allegiances from England.

Now regulars Joshua Kimmich and Toni Kroos continue to be the lubricant for the cogs in the machine in midfield, as Leon Goretzka positions himself to pick up the torch when required.

Historcially, Germany have been synonymous with a water-tight back line, and though Niklas Sule still has a sizeable question mark over his head, both Antonio Rudiger and Mats Hummels are forming a blooming partnership.

Atalanta’s Robin Gosens has effortlessly filled the gap at left-back also.

 

So who might be victors of the Group of Death?

Portugal may just have the edge to top the standings here with the sheer plethora of quality at their disposal. In truth though, you can probably throw a blanket over the three heavyweights. In any event, the trio should all make it into the knockouts.

Sorry Hungary.

 

Prediction: 1. Portugal 2. France 3. Germany 4. Hungary

 

Euro 2020 begins on Friday 11 June in Rome.

 

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