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    All eyes turn to the Euro 20 Championships

    Football fans are champing at the bit to feast their eyes on some top-level international action.

    With the domestic season having drawn to a close, football fans are champing at the bit to feast their eyes on some top-level international action. Of course, the European Championships were supposed to be played last summer, but the coronavirus pandemic put paid to any hopes of seeing the tournament. 12 months later, we are raring to go, and although there have been various complications caused by the pandemic, it’s set to be a cracking tournament.

    Here is what you need to know about the Euro 20 :

     

     

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    Introduction

    With the domestic season having drawn to a close, football fans are champing at the bit to feast their eyes on some top-level international action. Of course, the European Championships were supposed to be played last summer, but the coronavirus pandemic put paid to any hopes of seeing the tournament. 12 months later, we are raring to go, and although there have been various complications caused by the pandemic, it’s set to be a cracking tournament.

    This will be the second edition of the Euro to feature 24 teams. Split into six groups, the top two teams from each group will advance to the last 16, where they will be joined by the four highest ranked third-place teams. From there the Euro 20 tournament will proceed in a straight knockout format, right up to the final at Wembley Stadium in London on July 11th.

    As a celebration of the competition’s 60th birthday, this edition of the Euros will be held in multiple cities across Europe. Although a few cities were forced to withdraw for covid-related reasons, it’s still set to be a spectacular summer of football, with the semi-finals and finals taking place at Wembley.

    Of course, the most important thing is the football itself, and with six groups of teams desperate to make it through to the knockout phase, you can bet that there will be plenty of excitement and spills in the early stages of the competition. Let’s take a moment to preview each of the six groups, and analyse the strengths and weaknesses of each team.


    Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland

    The first match of Euro 2020 sees Italy and Turkey square up at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. For the Azzurri, there is some making up to do after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals. Roberto Mancini is the man in charge now, and given that they breezed through qualifying with 10 wins from 10 matches, Italy will take some stopping. There are few standout individuals in their ranks, but sometimes a solid team unit is the best thing an international side can have ahead of a major tournament.

    Turkey will also be keen to make up for their disappointing showing at Euro 2016, where they lost their first two matches without scoring a goal. Although they beat the Czech Republic in their final group game, it wasn’t enough to advance to the knockout stage as one of the best-ranked third-place teams. Turkey boast plenty of international pedigree, having reached the semi-finals of both the Euros and the World Cup in the past, so rule them out at your peril.

    Wales will be hoping to summon the spirit of their run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, while you feel that Switzerland are due a deep run in a major tournament. It’s set to be an intriguing group.

     

    Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia

     

    It’s fair to say that Belgium would have been pretty pleased when the draw came out. Roberto Martínez’s side should have no trouble in reaching the last 16, and after making it to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, the pressure of getting their hands on a major trophy is growing.

    Denmark and Russia will be keen to stop them. Both teams were left reeling from penalty-shootout defeats at the last World Cup, Denmark in the last 16 and hosts Russia in the quarter-finals. You sense that momentum will play a huge part in their respective chances, and if either can get off to a good start then belief might well carry them far in the tournament.

    Finland represent something of a dark horse. In what will be their first appearance at a major international tournament, Markku Kanerva’s side basically have a free hit. Both Denmark and Russia will feel under pressure to beat Finland, so if Teemu Pukki and co. can harness their underdog status into a motivational tool, then they certainly have the quality to make it through to the last 16.

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    Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, North Macedonia

    Just like their neighbours Belgium, the Netherlands will be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of their three group opponents. Nonetheless, there is pressure on Frank de Boer’s men to perform, having failed to qualify for both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup. They are an improved outfit now though, and if they record nine points from their three group matches then they’ll really build some confidence and belief that they can go far.

    You’d expect the fight for second to be between Ukraine and Austria. Both teams bowed out in the group stage of Euro 2016, and both failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, so the race for second could be the most interesting aspect of Group C, assuming the Netherlands are as dominant as everyone expects.

    North Macedonia are certainly the underdogs, but given that some teams will qualify from third place, they’ll be confident of getting at least one win to give themselves a chance.

     

    Group D: England, Croatia, Scotland, Czech Republic

     

    Two of their great rivals could stand in their way, however — one historic foe and one more recent enemy. The first ever international fixture was between England and Scotland in 1872, while Croatia knocked them out of the 2018 World Cup in the semi-finals, and also denied them qualification to Euro 2008 some 14 years ago. Croatia will be full of confidence on the back of reaching the World Cup final three years ago, while Scotland will be keen to impress on their return to the major tournament scene.

    Meanwhile, the Czech Republic can’t be written off, as they boast tremendous pedigree in the European Championships.

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    Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, North Macedonia

    Just like their neighbours Belgium, the Netherlands will be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of their three group opponents. Nonetheless, there is pressure on Frank de Boer’s men to perform, having failed to qualify for both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup. They are an improved outfit now though, and if they record nine points from their three group matches then they’ll really build some confidence and belief that they can go far.

    You’d expect the fight for second to be between Ukraine and Austria. Both teams bowed out in the group stage of Euro 2016, and both failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, so the race for second could be the most interesting aspect of Group C, assuming the Netherlands are as dominant as everyone expects.

    North Macedonia are certainly the underdogs, but given that some teams will qualify from third place, they’ll be confident of getting at least one win to give themselves a chance.

    Group F: Hungary, Portugal, France, Germany

    Every major tournament needs its group of death, and Group F at Euro 2020 is certainly that. With tournament favourites and world champions France, Euro 2016 winners Portugal, and 2014 World Cup victors Germany all present, it’s hard to know who will finish in first place.

    France are probably the slight favourites to come out on top, given the riches of attacking talent they possess. Karim Benzema has been called up to a major tournament for the first time since the 2014 World Cup, and along with Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann, France boast a fearsome front three.

    Portugal will have confidence from winning both the previous Euros and the inaugural UEFA Nations League, and you’d expect them to be extremely difficult to beat, with the Premier League’s FWA Player of the Year Ruben Días in the hear of their defence, Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes pulling the strings in midfield, and the flair of Cristiano Ronaldo up front.

    Germany have making up to do following their catastrophic group-stage exit from the World Cup in Russia, but they’ll be motivated to put on a strong showing in what will be coach Joachim Löw’s final major tournament in charge.

    Hungary may well relish their underdog status in the group, and they’ll be looking for that one win which could see them nick third place and a place in the last 16.

     

    It’s very difficult to pick a winner for Euro 2020. With so many strong teams present, as well as a few who could well follow in the footsteps of great underdogs in the past and lift the trophy, all we can do is tune in from June 11th and catch every moment of what promises to be a great spectacle.

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