Countdown to Euro 2020: with less than a year to go, how is the continent’s premier competition shaping up? Soccer 360 Magazine takes a peak!
Amidst the feverish atmosphere of the opening days of the 2019/20 domestic season, next summer’s European Championships might currently seem like a small object on our collective footballing horizon. But as the story of the coming campaign reaches a crescendo, Euro 2020 will begin to hurtle towards fans of international football like a freight train.
As always with Europe’s premier competition, the depth of talent on display will be unparalleled. When it comes to predicting which team will lift the Jules Rimet trophy at Wembley on the 12th June therefore, the outcome is anything but a foregone conclusion. Of course, qualifying for the tournament has not yet finished and, consequently, it’s difficult to point to a definitive ‘favorite’ at this stage.
With that being said, there’s a number of teams that the bookies have marked as preliminary frontrunners. However, as is always the case with an event this far in the future, there’s a relatively large amount of variation between bookmakers’ respective odds – Portugal for example, champions in 2016, are rated at both 14/1 and 20/1 by different highstreet betting shops. Naturally given their exploits in Russia, most vendors agree that France are the team to beat. Indeed, such is the depth in quality of the French squad, even Didier Deschamp’s second choice starting 11 would have a reasonable chance of returning home triumphant.
You’d be a brave punter to discount England, though. Gareth Southgate’s precocious side have been riding the crest of a wave since reaching the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and then the same stage in the inaugural Nations League the following summer. With the relationship between England player and fan seemingly patched up after decades of mutual resentment, the Three Lions will be hoping to capitalize and seal their first silverware in over 50 years in what is effectively, for them, a home tournament.
Belgium are another team with aspirations of continental glory. Few teams in history have had a ‘golden generation’ comparable to theirs, even fewer than have with as small a population as Belgium. Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Toby Alderveireld, Thibaut Courtois: just a few examples of the world-class talent their squad boasts. With an aging roster, however, time is running out – Roberto Martinez will be desperate make the most of the supreme talent at his disposal before it’s too late.
Given their recent tournament pedigree, one would guess that Spain would be there or thereabouts, too. Despite their failure in 2018, the same can be said of Germany. Although some have doubted their potency in the final third, It will be enthralling to watch the progression of a resurgent Netherlands team featuring, amongst others, Frenkie De Jong, Virgil Van Dijk, and Matthias De Ligt. Portugal also have an exciting squad; with Ronaldo leading the line and Bernado Silva and recent £113 million Athletico Madrid recruit Joao Felix deputizing, Fernando Santos’s men will undoubtedly be throwing their hat in the ring with the rest of the elite.
But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. After all, no teams have yet qualified for the pan-European competition. Portugal’s position after two games is particularly precarious, and Germany and the Netherlands currently lie in 2nd and 3rd place Group C respectively.
There’s drama in one of the most competitive groups, Group E, too. Hungary and Slovakia are currently edging out Croatia and Wales in the two qualification spots. The Nations League, dismissed by some as a convoluted irrelevance, will also provide some underdog teams with the opportunity to make their bow at the pinnacle of continental football – four teams will qualify through the playoffs after the conventional qualifying process has taken place.
Time and time again, football teaches us not to take anything for granted. Euro 2020 will surely not conform strictly to our predictions, and it will be all the more enthralling for it.