Euro 2020 – Part Two
England scored 11 goals in 2 games and by doing so topped the group and secured a Pot One seeding. With Euro 2020 now just over six months and qualification secured for many nations we thought we’d take a look at who England could face and rank each nations chances of landing Euro glory. 20 teams have qualified so far and we take a look at the second ten here. The first ten can be viewed here.
Poland won their group but made hard work of it. They lost to Slovenia and only just edged out Macedonia but ultimately they did enough to qualify. Poland have arguably the best striker in the world in Robert Lewandowski who has never been in better form but they’re an ageing side who recently have had a poor knockout record. They were poor in Russia having been knocked out after just two games – this despite being ranked 8th in the world. They’ll want to silence their critics after that tournament (and a miserable Nations League) but the chances of them doing so seem remote.
Portugal are the current holders and are arguably stronger than what they were four years ago. In Ronaldo they still have one of the best players in the world – the Messi Ronaldo debate can be left for another day – but they also have his heir apparent in Joao Felix who is Portugal’s next big star. As well as those two they have creator in chief Bruno Fernandes who’s long been linked with moves to Manchester United and Spurs. Bernardo Silva is often spoken about as one of the great midfielders with Guardiola going as far as saying last season that he was the one City player who was undroppable. A £60m full back in Joao Concelo and you can begin to see why Portugal are so well thought of. They’re also the inaugural winners of the Nations League. The only negative is the fact they came runners up in their group to Ukraine but then Portugal have been notoriously poor when it comes to qualifying and often only seem to really get it together in the knockouts.
Russia were the big shock of the World Cup. Host nations often do well but pre tournament it was felt that Russia would seriously struggle but instead they knocked out Spain and came incredibly close to a semi final – losing on penalties to Croatia. Russia smashed Scotland, Cyprus, Kazakhstan and San Marino and only struggled against world number one Belgium. Given the quality of the opposition they defeated it’s difficult to judge just how good this Russian side are but the players that got them to a World Cup Quarter Final remain, as does the coach, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see them perhaps qualify from their group.
Sweden have been at every European Championship except for Euro 96 so they know how to get qualification done. As ever, they’re well organised but they lack that x-factor. They did however qualify from a tough group which included Spain, Norway and Romania but they did so with organisation and hard work and one feels that won’t be enough to take them through the rounds at the Euro’s. This team did get to the World Cup Quarter Final’s but at the top end of the pitch they were lacking and with Berg and Isak as their two main threats it feels like they still haven’t got enough quality to really punish teams. One interesting aside is Seb Larsson will amazingly be starting at his 4th European Championship in a years time but that in itself gives a glimpse as to where Sweden are.
Switzerland are a similar team to Sweden in many respects. In fact, the two met each other in the last 16 at the World Cup with Sweden coming out on top. Switzerland do have the x-factor with Xedran Shaqiri and they also have experienced players like Xhaka, Schar and Rodriguez but they’ve had these players for years and never really threatened to challenge at a championship. They still lack a goalscorer with strikers Seferovic and Embolo never really convincing. It feels like Switzerland will again possibly get out of their group but will go no further than that.
This is a new Turkey team with legendary coach Senol Gunes refreshing the team by bringing in a number of new faces and only keeping Burak Yılmaz and Emre Belözoglu from the older generation. This tactic of playing the youth paid dividends as Turkey qualified from a tough group that featured France, Iceland, Albania, Moldova and Andorra. It was the Andorra game where it looked to be going wrong for Turkey only for them to score in the 85th minute to break the deadlock. A draw away in France was the highlight of a fierce qualifying campaign and given they’ve got so many new players it’s almost impossible to predict how they will do in the knockouts. Traditionally Turkey have done quite well and their passionate support can often carry them far. They’re certainly not a team you’d want to get in your group but it remains to be seen just how far they can go.
Ukraine were the surprise package of the qualifiers having overcome Portugal and Serbia to top Group B. They beat Portugal 2-1 to secure their qualification and any team that does that has to be treated seriously. Looking through their team there doesn’t appear to be many stand out names with only four players playing in Europe’s top 5 leagues. In fact, 15 of the 23 play for either Dynamo Kyiv or Shakthar Donetsk but clearly their a team going places having also won their Nations League Group. Still, it would be a surprise should they qualify from the Euro’s knockout group and go into the knockout rounds.
Wales and in particular Ryan Giggs appeared to be in trouble a few months ago after losing to Croatia and Hungary leaving themselves a mountain to climb. However, climb it they did. A late goal to win against Azerbaijan was followed by a 1-0 win against Belarus. They then went to Slovakia and drew (having led) and then avoided defeat against Croatia. This meant they had to win their final two games against Azerbaijan and Hungary to secure qualification and Giggs gambled with the selection of Wigan forward Kieffer Moore but it was to be an inspired selection as Moore was almost unplayable over the two games. Blessed with the likes of Ramsey, Allen and Bale Wales are a very good side. However, recent additions – Daniel James, Harry Wilson and Ethan Ampadu take them up another level and whilst they’re unlikely to achieve the heroics of 4 years ago their talent and team spirit means that nobody will want to play them and they should go fairly deep into the tournament.