The build-up to Euro 2020 is in the final stages, with just less than 30 days before Europe’s best players turn up for their country for the biggest international football event after the World Cup.
After it was delayed last year due to the covid-19 pandemic, the tournament finally kicks off on June 11, with Italy taking on Turkey in the opening match at the Stadio Olimpico.
Twenty-four teams will also compete for the grand prize after UEFA decided to expand the competition in 2016. However, unlike the 2016 edition hosted by France, the 16th edition of the Euros does not have a designated host as games would be played across different stadiums in Europe, with the semifinal and final taking place at Wembley.
The 24-teams have already been divided into six groups of four teams each. Ahead of the opening match, Freshsportts predicts the top two teams in each group.
Group A (Italy and Turkey)
Italy are the top seed in this group and have been drawn against Turkey, Switzerland and Wales. It’s a tricky group on paper as the three teams are capable of causing an upset.
However, since missing out on the 2018 World Cup, Italy have been a different team under Roberto Mancini. The four-time world champions are unbeaten under the former Manchester City manager and are one of the two teams that qualified for the competition with a 100% record.
Also, given they would be back the home crowd as they play all their group games in Rome, Italy should have no problem coming out on top in their group.
Turkey and Switzerland are favourites to pick the second spot-although Wales, who got to the semifinals in 2016, will not be pushovers either,
But Turkey have built a solid team led by Burak Yilmaz, who is also spearheading Lille’s title charge in Ligue 1. In fairness, all three teams have an equal chance of finishing second, but Turkey are likely to just nick it.
Group B (Belgium and Denmark)
Belgium are one of the favourites for the tournament, so they are dead certs to finish top of group B that has Denmark, Russia and Finland.
The Red Devils have a star-studded squad that includes players like Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne. They finished top of their qualifying group with a 100% record, beating Russia twice in the process.
Roberto Martinez side should have no problem seeing off their rivals in group B. Denmark are the favourites to finish second behind the Red Devils.
The Danes have a better squad than Finland and Russia, although both teams will fancy their chances. But with players like Christian Eriksen, Andreas Christensen and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in their ranks, Kasper Hjulmand’s side should just be able to grab the second spot.
Group C (Netherlands and Austria)
Holland failed to qualify for the Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, but they are back on the big stage.
They’ve been handed a relatively easy draw on paper with Austria, North Macedonia and Ukraine in their group. Although they’ll be missing the services of their captain Virgil Van Dijk, the Oranje still have enough quality to beat the other three teams.
The battle for second place is likely to go down the wire, but Austria should nick it. North Macedonia have shown they can hurt the big teams after stunning Germany in the World Cup qualifiers, while Ukraine also held France to a draw.
It’s a tricky one, but Austria’s quality may just help them to secure the second spot,
Group D (England and Croatia)
England are the joint-favourites and have been placed in a group that includes Croatia, Czech Republic and Scotland.
The Three Lions should come out on top, but their opening game against Croatia will be key. The two sides met in the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup, with Croatia coming out on top.
But England will be confident of winning this time as they play at home and have a better squad. Croatia should also have no problem finishing second behind the Three Lions, having finished as runners-up at the last World Cup.
They also topped their qualifying group while most of the players that played in Russia are still in the squad.
Group E (Spain and Poland)
Spain are the joint-most successful team in the competition’s history but have suffered disappointing exits in their last three international competitions.
They have been placed in a difficult group that includes Poland, Sweden and Slovakia. However, they play their games at home, and that should hand them a massive boost to finish top of their group.
Poland and Sweden are likely to slug it out for the second spot, but the Poles have an edge with Robert Lewandowski in their ranks.
Group F (France and Germany)
This is the group of death and a difficult one to call. France, the current world champions, have been drawn against defending champions Portugal, former world champions Germany and Hungary.
Hungary are likely to be the whipping boys in the group, which leaves France, Germany and Portugal to fight it out for the top two spots.
France’s undeniable strength gives them the edge, which leaves Germany and Portugal to battle for the second spot. The Germans are just likely to nick it as they play better as a team, even though their form going into the tournament is worrying.