UEFA’s European Championship, which was due to be played in 2020, but had to be postponed because of the pandemic, is all set to go ahead one year later than planned.
When Euro 2020 (2021) eventually kicks off on Friday 11 June, Italy faces Turkey in Rome. It will launch a month of top-class international football and begin what is set to be a hugely competitive tournament.
The Euro’s has always been a tough competition to win, but this year looks particularly hard. For instance, six of the current top ten FIFA ranked sides will feature during the summer – and these six don’t even include Germany, the Netherlands, or the World Cup runners-up, Croatia.
Then you must consider that the current holders, Portugal, who won Euro 2016 in France five years ago, are only eighth favourite in the betting market.
Then factor in that Euro 2021 will be the first European Championships contested across several countries, rather than all games being played in one host country. There is also the uncertainty of whether fans will be able to attend, so it’s clear that this tournament is going to be one of the most unpredictable but closely contested for decades.
Can the Three Lions roar to victory?
England are among the favourites and have been handed a group that they should feel confident of qualifying from, especially as they will be playing all their group games at Wembley Stadium. However, it won’t be plain sailing for Gareth Southgate’s men who will start their campaign against Croatia, the team who beat them in the World Cup semi-finals in 2018.
They then face the Auld Enemy in one of the standout games in the group stages, as Steve Clarke brings Scotland to Wembley. England then complete the group stage against the Czech Republic, who beat them 2-1 in Prague during the Euro qualifiers.
The Three Lions have been buoyed by the form of emerging players who could hit the headlines in the summer. Phil Foden has been excellent for Manchester City and can become one of the best players in the world. Could he have the same impact Paul Gascoigne did for England at Italia 90?
Jack Grealish has also been superb for Aston Villa and is another player who could light up the tournament. With Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, and Raheem Sterling all in the squad, England certainly has one of the most exciting attacks in world football.
Should they get far in the tournament, they also have the added benefit of both semi-finals and the final being played at Wembley, but can they handle the pressure and the hopes of a country desperate to end 55 years of hurt?
Will the winner come from the group of death?
Three of the more fancied nations to win Euro 2021, France, Germany, and Portugal, have all been drawn together in Group F. The fourth team, Hungary, must have cursed their luck as they saw themselves pitted against the current World champions, current European champions and a nation who have an enviable tournament record.
France were impressive in 2018 when winning their second-ever World Cup and have had an extra two years to gel as a squad. Didier Deschamps men booked their place at this summer’s tournament with relative ease, winning eight of their ten qualifiers, and in Kylian Mbappe, they have one of the most exciting players in the world amongst their squad.
Germany had a disappointing World Cup two years ago, crashing out in the group stages following defeats to Mexico and South Korea. Joachim Low’s squad did qualify for the Euro’s by winning their group ahead of the Netherlands, but in their last outing, they went down to a humiliating 6-0 defeat to Spain in the Nations League and have slipped out of FIFA’s top ten ranked teams. One thing we have learnt over the years, though, is to never write off the Germans.
Other teams to look out for
Belgium, beaten semi-finalists from the 2018 World Cup, are currently the third favourites to win Euro 2021 after securing their place at the competition with ease. They won all ten of their qualifying games, scoring 40 goals in the process and conceded just three. They should be confident of getting through their tournament group, having been drawn to face Russia, Denmark, and Finland.
Spain will also be favourites to qualify from their group in the summer. They face Slovakia, Poland, and Sweden, who held them to a draw during their qualification campaign. Italy enjoyed a perfect record in qualification with ten wins out of ten and will be involved in the tournament’s first game against Turkey before facing Wales and Switzerland.
While the Netherlands, who missed out on the last Euro’s in 2016 and the World Cup in 2018, are currently the fourth favourites to be crowned champions of Europe. They finished in second place behind Germany in the qualifications round but have been handed a group they will be confident of progressing from, which includes Austria, Ukraine, and North Macedonia.
Euro 2021 is wide open, but it is going to be an excellent tournament and provide the boost that Europe needs after such a difficult year.