Euro 2020 begins on the 11th of June as sports bettors and fans gear up for national teams to go at it hammer and tongs, to see who will reach the showcase final due to take place on the 11th of July at Wembley Stadium. Unlike at the World Cup, where online tipsters usually have an easy job of predicting who will progress from groups, escaping a group at the Euros is no mean feat. This is because even smaller nations have gone through a gruelling playoff process to reach the main draw, meaning they have what it takes to catch the oddschecker pundits and experts by surprise with some shock performances.
Here we go through the tournament draw with a fine-tooth comb, on the hunt for those teams who have what it takes to reach the knockout stages, as well as those nations that might just fall by the wayside despite what the pre-tournament odds say.
Group A – Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, and Wales
At first it would seem that Italy are the sure fire favourites to progress from Group A, but look a little deeper and there are signs that things could get tough for the Azzurri.
The first reason for this is the rise of Burak Yılmaz, who at the time of writing has propelled his Lille side into being the frontrunners for the Ligue 1 title. Although his Turkish side is without the stars it might once have boasted, they still are a very difficult team to beat. This is also due to the fact that they have a superb young defensive line, with Leicester’s Çağlar Söyüncü, Liverpool’s Ozan Kabak, and Juventus’ Merih Demiral all making it hard for strikers to put a dent in the Turkish armour.
The Swiss are also a side which perennially punches above its weight, as well as having flair players like Xherdan Shaqiri who can score match winning goals.
That just then leaves Wales, who having lost their manager Ryan Giggs, will be trying to once again make the most of veteran stars Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, although it is unclear how many more times those men can be called upon to produce superhuman performances.
Group A is shaping up to be closer than most expect, with Turkey adopting a new attacking style under Şenol Güneş, while the Swiss and Italians rely on strong backlines to see them home in high-pressure games.
When the dust settles Turkey and Italy should have enough in the tank to make it through to the knockout stages, but not without a few hiccups along the way.
Group B – Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and Russia
Belgium are one of the biggest underperformers in world football, as they are unable to find the magic formula that can mesh together the talents of Lukaku, Hazard, De Bruyne, and Courtois. However, now that they are flying under the radar somewhat, and Group B is one of the weakest in the tournament, they seem set to reach the knockout stages with ease.
This means that all that is left to decide is who will join the Belgians in progressing further? Denmark are led by newly crowned Serie A champion Christian Eriksen and FA Cup winner Kasper Schmeichel, who are both showing world class form in the runup to the Euros. They do look a little lightweight upfront, though, with Martin Braithwaite still not really convincing as a Barcelona striker.
That leaves Russia and Finland. The Finns have been on something of a winless streak since qualifying for Euro 2020, and even got stuffed 5-1 by Poland back in October, so their chances of progressing appear limited at best. The Russians have looked similarly underwhelming, meaning that Denmark and Belgium will probably be left to duke it out for top spot in Group B.
Group C – Austria, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Ukraine
Netherlands are the obvious favourites to progress from Group C, even though they are not the force they once were. However, players such as Memphis Depay, who are keen to impress clubs like Barcelona over the summer, will be bringing their A-game.
That leaves the door open for a European minnow to join the men in orange in the KO stages. Despite having David Alaba at their disposal, the Austrian national team have a woeful record at European Championships, having never escaped the group phases. This could mean that Andriy Shevchenko could lead his Ukrainian charges to a famous tournament run, or North Macedonia could stun the footballing world with a giant killing feat for the ages.
It was the North Macedonians who put the footballing world on notice in March, beating the Germans 2-1 in Duisberg, thanks in part to a Goran Pandev strike. Call us crazy, but Netherlands and North Macedonia are our picks to make it through.
Group D – Croatia, Czech Republic, England, Scotland
There are plenty of parallels being drawn between Euro 96 and Euro 2020 for England, because home advantage could once again see them through to a semi-final. However, Group D is tough, where local rivalries and old ghosts could haunt them.
2018 World Cup semi-final foes England and Croatia should sneak through to the next round, but their fans could be in for bumpy rides.
Group E – Poland, Spain, Slovakia, and Sweden
With Zlatan Ibrahimović ruled out of Euro 2020 with injury, making him more likely to be improving his golf game this summer rather than preparing for the tournament, the door appears to be wide open for Spain and Poland to progress in Group E.
Group F – France, Germany, Hungary, and Portugal
If some of the groups in the rest of the draw appear a little light on firepower, it is because three of Europe’s major forces have all been drawn in what is undoubtedly Euro 2020’s group of death.
France are practically unbeatable on their day, and Portugal have only improved as a side since they won Euro 2016.
Hungary supporters will hold out little hope of their men making an impact in the group and Germany seem to be waiting on Joachim Löw to bring his reign as national head coach to an end, but that could lead to a nostalgic rear-guard action from the Germans. It is an intriguing group and one that is impossible to predict.