UEFA Euro 2020 first look and early predictions

Twenty-four teams will compete in 51 matches across 12 cities from London, Bilbao to Baku – the European international squads will take part in the most popular sporting event of 2020.

With the majority of qualifying stages already played out, the Euro 2020 competition is creeping up on Soccer fans.-The remaining 16 teams left in qualification stages (Iceland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Georgia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Belarus, Scotland, Israel, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland) will have their final opportunity to qualify for the tournament in March.

I think it’s safe to say the teams mentioned above have little to no chance of winning the tournament, so let’s take a look at the already-qualified teams who have a considerable chance of winning this year’s Euro 2020 trophy.

The Group Stage

The group stage of the event will commence in June 2020 and will kick-start the summer-long international football tournament. With play-off positions set to take place in March and four remaining places up for grabs, it doesn’t take a tactical mastermind to figure out the group winners with maybe the consideration of one or two “shocking” results; international football is slightly less demanding when predicting a winner in the early stages.

The most difficult group to predict would be F with Portugal, France and Germany all competing for a place in the final will easily become the most entertaining set of matches to watch.

Group A

Italy, Turkey, Switzerland and Wales

Naturally, Italy will enter group A as the favourites to pick up the first-place position, but don’t jump the gun. Turkey has a great chance of spoiling the Italians party, and with Switzerland lurking in the background… I wouldn’t be so confident in this Italian side that hasn’t been finding results on the pitch in recent years. Failing to qualify in the world cup and League of Nations, respectively… does tend to leave Italy overlooked in this competition.

With that being said, qualification for Italy into the Euro 2020s has been a breeze. It could be the ideal tournament for Italian football to take a rightful place back at the highest level. Italy finished 12 points clear with 37 goals scored and just four conceded! If those results continue, Italy should have no problem fending off the Turks and the Swiss.

Group Winner: Italy

Second Place: Turkey

Group B

Denmark, Finland, Belgium and Russia

Strong favourites to win the group and one of ‘the’ favourites to win the entire tournament are Belgium and for good reason. They avoided dropping a single point in qualification, bagging them a 10 game win streak. The Belgians only threat in this group should be Russia who has already suffered defeat at the hands of Roberto Martinez and his squad (x2) in the qualifying stages.

I see no true test for Belgium in the group stages here, but I expect the rise in the level of competition to be a shock for the Belgians once they pass the groups. It’s been an easy thus far, that won’t last forever.

Group Winner: Belgium

Second Place: Russia

Group C

Holland, Ukraine, Austria and Playoff Winner D

Another side who is often overlooked would be Holland. Failing to reach the Euro 2016 tournament and World Cup ’18, it’s easy to discredit the Dutch nationals. But take a closer look at their skill-level this term and you’ll see a squad oozing with talent.

Ballon d’Or runner-up and defensive marksman Virgil van Dijk defies defending attributes and success with his dominant presence playing at the back four. It’s almost unheard off, but the defender continues to claim his G.O.A.T status deep in the trenches of defensive Soccer.

I think Holland will win their group undefeated and have no troubles until the final stages.

Group Winner: Holland

Second Place: Ukraine

Group D

England, Croatia, Czech Republic and Playoff Winner C

World Cup Semi-Finalists England stormed through the qualifying stages under boss Gareth Southgate. Only one game was lost in qualifying and they scored 37 goals in the meantime. With the recent injury news of star striker, Harry Kane could damage England’s attack in the long-run but should give the English no trouble in qualifying through the group stages.

Group Winner: England

Second Place: Croatia

Group E

Spain, Poland, Sweden and Playoff Winner B

Another team who should sail through their group stages are Roberto Moreno’s squad. Spain had no troubles making it into the Euro’s and are faced with a group that doesn’t have enough weapons to leave the Spanish in disarray. They finished five points clear of their qualifying group and managed to avoid any losses with just two draws. Spain is the only club to win the Euro’s and win the competition twice, consecutively!

The Polish and the Swedes won’t make it an easy task for the Spanish, but the lack of firepower in both sides, respectively won’t have enough to put Spain out of the tournament.

Group Winner: Spain

Second Place: Sweden

Group F

France, Germany, Portugal and Playoff Winner A

Easily, Group F falls under the ‘hardest to predict’ category with the three big boys (France, Germany & Portugal) all falling into the same group. Defending champions Portugal has the demanding task of taking on World Cup winners France and resurging Germany. Surprisingly, each team has had their own struggles during qualifiers.

Portugal were unable to finish above Ukraine and ended up in second, whilst France and Germany both had to battle for first place finishes. Turkey gave France a run for their money at the same time Germany found struggles with Holland in their way.

The weakest link when comparing current form would have to Germany, they may even miss their shot in the finals if they don’t manage to earn more points than the other group’s third-place finishers (four third place teams with the most points will qualify into the final 16).

Group Winner: France

Second Place: Portugal

Underdog predictions side with the current Champions

Reigning European champions Portugal will enter this year’s tournament and could be a sure bet with star striker Cristiano Ronaldo seeking a few more record-breaking moves for his country.

Ronaldo has 99 international goals for Portugal and is 10 goals shy of scoring the most international goals of all time. He holds the current record for most goals in the Euro’s (9, joint with Platini) and most games played (21) and the most tournaments with at least one goal (4). His records extend into worldwide duty but if we were to list all of Ronaldo’s accomplishments, we’d be here all day.

The bookmakers aren’t siding with a Portugal win this year, a generous price of 16/1 – 17.00 – +1600 is available for punters. But can Fernando Santos prove the doubters wrong yet again? He led his country to victory in the Euro 2016 and the 2019 Nations League; doubting this man would be a mistake and when evaluating Portugal and their group (F) it seems like their ticket into the finals could be the toughest path of them all.

Portugal have drawn France and Germany into their group which could be a disastrous outcome or a blessing in disguise. If Portugal were able to qualify into the final stages of the tournament and get past two of the biggest sides in the tournament, their confidence would be in the perfect position to continue a dominant reign.

Although it doesn’t sound appropriate, considering Portugal are more than capable of causing another upset…the best underdog bet, in my opinion, has to be the defending champions. Portugal could become the second team ever to retain the title and join their neighbouring country Spain in boasting that lavish record.

Football’s probably not coming home
Current England manager Gareth Southgate just about to miss a penalty in Euro 1996 Finals, causing England to crash out of the Semi-Finals against Germany

England hasn’t won a major international trophy since 1966 and just as we head into the New Year, one of the most important players on the squad has suffered an injury that will keep him out of action. Manager Gareth Southgate knows about disappointment all too well, the inexperienced penalty kicker at the time had previously taken one penalty and missed it. Taking the Semi-Final pen he took his second of all time, and what do you know; he missed.

Without dwelling on the past, does the current England squad and managerial expertise have enough to take the trophy this year? England will hold a huge home advantage this year as the Euro 2020 will divide its venues across the continent for the first time.

Luckily for England, they will play their three group matches at Wembley stadium in London and if able to make it through to the finals; Wembley has been booked to host the Semi-Finals and the Finals of Euro 2020.

Let’s be serious, this England squad is young and inexperienced from the squad down to the manager Southgate. I wouldn’t be surprised if we won the group stage; Germany placed second in their group and then beat us on penalties in the final 16. At this stage of his career, I don’t think Southgate has the tools England will need to conquer teams like France or Holland.

The squad I have faith in to take the Euro 2020 trophy this year would have to be France. Players such as Killian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Anthony Martial, N’golo Kante and Paul Pogba will prove too much for the majority of the teams up against them, just as they did in the World Cup.

The World Cup and Euro double would be a huge accomplishment for French football which was already stolen from them once before when Portugal defeated them in the Euro ’16 finals. Could this be France’s year to take it all? I believe they have the best squad, so long as the well-oiled machine of the World Cup can return in 2020 I think this tournament is France’s to lose.

Euro 2020 Prediction: France

Euro 2020 Favourable Underdogs: Portugal and Holland

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