Euro 2020 - Our Picks
Euro 2020 (a year late) is due to kick off this week. As ever, there is widespread excitement throughout Europe. We’ve narrowed down the contenders to our top 3 picks for the tournament…
In terms of the favourites for the tournament you simply cannot look past the French. As much as I’d like to sit here and provide a unique and alternative pick, I just cannot disregard the French. Although Deschamps‘ men may not offer the swashbuckling Football some of us may want to see, they are a side with enormous talent. Most importantly, they are a side with tournament winning know-how and with many of their World Cup winners still very much in the prime of their careers I see no reason as to why they cannot go and obtain a further addition to their trophy cabinet.
With Kante and Pogba in the midfield, you’ll struggle to find a more potent and complete midfield with both the offensive side and defensive side of the game more than accounted for. Kylian Mbappe who seems to shine brighter the bigger the stage will offer as much attacking threat as any other player in the tournament. Add in the likes of Griezmann and the returning Benzema and you are left with an incredibly strong front 3 (not to mention the presence of Giroud on the bench.)
For all their attacking talent, it’s the defence that sets the French apart. Lloris in between the goalposts with the likes of Varane and co in front of him is as good as you’ll see in the tournament.
It will be incredibly difficult to stop the French machine and I simply do not see it happening.
Whilst France remain the favourites for the tournament, their biggest threat to the trophy lies with them in their “group of death“ in the shape of Portugal. In terms of tournament winning know-how, Portugal themselves are the current European Champions. Not to mention the Nations League trophy they added to their collection.
The Portuguese side that lifted Euro 2016 were far inferior to the current incarnation of the Portuguese National Team. Premier League stars such as Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota, Bernardo Silva and João Cancelo amongst others certainly have the ability to send shivers down the spine of any opposition. Not to mention a certain Cristiano Ronaldo who has more than 100 international goals to his name.
Going through the side, there seems to be a good mix of creativity and steel in the Portuguese ranks. With many of the players coming off brilliant individual seasons. The likes of Renato Sanches and Jose Fonte are both coming off the back of strong seasons where they pipped PSG to the Ligue 1 title. Ruben Dias was rated as the best player in the Premier League this season as he and his City teammates romped to the Premier League title. Bruno Fernandes broke the record for the most goals scored by any Central Midfielder in Europe’s top 5 leagues. A record previously held by Frank Lampard. Add in the experience from the likes of Pepe (who showed us in Porto’s UCL run that he’s far from finished) and Moutinho and you’re left with a very strong and balanced side who have tasted tournament success before. I haven’t even mentioned João Félix or the impressive Nuno Mendes who will no doubt be looking to make a mark at the tournament.
Given the number of match winners in the team and the general strength in pretty much every area of the pitch, Portugal have to be seen as the biggest threat to the French. Luckily, we won’t have to wait too long to see how they stack up given the fact they are in the same group!
Yes. I can hear the groans from here. But I truly do believe after France and Portugal it is England who are most well equipped to win the tournament. And truth be told, is that even a controversial opinion at this stage? The only other side you could make an argument for is Belgium perhaps? (I do realise it is now almost a certainty that a side other than the ones I have mentioned above will go on to win the tournament.)
Many of us still have nightmares about the Croatia semi-final in 2018 and how agonisingly close England came to a World Cup final. The hope and belief is that England will now kick on and regularly compete for the biggest prizes on offer.
In terms of attacking talent, England are as good as anyone around. Boasting the likes of Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling. They genuinely have an embarrassment of riches in the forward areas, genuine match winners who can turn a game at the drop of a hat.
There will be a lot of clamour for a front 3 of Grealish, Kane and Foden. However, Harry Kane has always played better with players running in behind him. And despite the criticism Rashford has faced, he still ended the season with 36 goal contributions despite carrying multiple injuries for large parts of the season. He is someone that can be huge for England. Add in the likes of Grealish and Foden who are absolute joys to watch and you have an incredible set of forwards to place around one of the very best number 9s in the world in Harry Kane.
Declan Rice seems destined for the very top of the game as does Jude Bellingham and both represent strong midfield options. Add in the experience and leadership of Jordan Henderson and the midfield area isn’t looking too bad at all. And then comes Mason Mount, a player who is constantly underrated by the masses yet a player who was key to Chelsea winning their second European Cup and a player who will no doubtedly be key to Gareth Southgate and England over the summer.
The problem area for England comes in the defence and in goal. Southgate seems to have really stuck with Jordan Pickford. Unfortunately, I simply cannot trust Pickford as a goalkeeper. He has made continuous high profile errors in goal for club and country and will be a point for genuine worry for England fans over the summer. Then comes the back four, Mings seems almost certain to start the opener despite a rather error prone season at Aston Villa. England’s best hopes in defence will lie with fitness of Harry Maguire who recently returned to training. A Maguire return would be huge for England and all off a sudden the back four won’t look as weak as it does currently. Full-Back (yes, that again...) is an area England do seem to have more than covered. With England boasting as much depth as one could imagine for the Full-Back area.
The draw will certainly be key, a 2nd place finish represents a far more favourable route to the final. However, that will not be in Southgate’s thoughts at this stage. Instead, he alongside his coaching staff will be focused on finally bringing Football home (sorry it had to be thrown in somewhere…)