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 first ten here.
Austria squeezed through their group which was arguably the easiest of all the groups as it didn’t feature a tier one side. Austria do contain some tier one players however including the likes of David Alaba who is the modern day swiss army-knife of a footballer – someone who is able to play well in almost any position. Currently playing left back for Bayern Munich, Alaba often finds himself playing central midfield for Austria and everything good that they do goes through him. At the top end of the pitch they rely on the enigmatic Marko Arnautovic to score their goals. Now playing in China, Arnautovic has enjoyed a decent qualifying campaign scoring 6 times in 8 games. Come the summer however Austria will likely find themselves as an also ran. They’ve got some talent in their side but no strength in depth and you’d have to think if they qualify from their group that would be seen as a real success.
Belgium are ranked the number one side in the world and it’s easy to see why. Their squad is brimming with talent and they look sure to build on their successful World Cup campaign where they finished 3rd. They possess a potent attack with players like Lukaku, Mertens, the Hazard brothers and KDB and these attack minded players are allowed to go and play knowing they’ve got the insurance of Axel Witsel, Vincent Kompany, Toby Alderweirald and Jan Vertongten behind them and the Real Madrid number 1 in goal. In fact, it’s hard to find a single weakness in the Belgium side and it feels that this tournament could be their big opportunity. The four defensive minded players that have been named have perhaps only got one more tournament in them and this golden generation is getting older. They’ve dispatched every team in qualifying with ease and are playing with a real verve. They’ll likely start as favourites to win the tournament and you can see why.
Croatia are beaten World Cup Finalists so are not to be taken lightly but you feel that their best days are behind them. Their three stand out players are not playing regularly for their club sides. Luka Modric, now 33, seems to play sporadically by Real Madrid whilst Ivan Rakitic can’t seem to get a game for Barcelona whilst Mario Mandzukic hasn’t featured for Sarri at Juventus at all and has retired from international football. The production line has slowed down in recent years and even stars like Rebic can’t seem to get a game for a poor AC Milan side. They did however win their group but it was a group they’d expect to win and they made hard enough work of it. Indeed, going into the second half of their match with Slovakia they were possibly not going to qualify at all. Having said all of this, Croatia are a good tournament team who know how to win games and you’d be foolish to write off this group of ageing stars. Perhaps they have one last hurrah in them? We don’t think they do but then they’ve been written off before and we all know what happened next.
Czech Republic sprung a surprise when they beat England a couple of months ago but they’re a long way from the dizzy heights of Euro 96 when their team were made up of the likes of Nedved, Poborsky and co. This Czech team are young and inexperienced but they are improving. They came back against a spirited Kosovo team to secure their qualification but you’d have to think they’re going to struggle on the big stage and that the best they can hope for is to qualify from the group but even that looks unlikely.
Finland have qualified for a major tournament for the first time in their history and when interviewed after the fact, striker Teemu Pukki said of the achievement “I’m speechless. This is sick. We made it!” That quote sums up the achievement well. For Finland they’ve already achieved the impossible dream and so anything from here on in is a bonus. Realistically they ought to struggle next year with only Pukki as their recognised name but a bit like Iceland from 4 years before they’re more than just individuals. As a collective they could cause some shocks as they threatened to do against Italy.
France are the world champions and in Mbappe they arguably have the best player in Europe, certainly the most promising. Blessed with talent all over the pitch it’s hard to see a weakness in France. One slight concern is at centre forward where Giroud still starts despite being third choice for Chelsea. However, in Kante, Pogba, Varane they have some of the world’s best players who should all coming into the tournament at the peak of their powers. France have though missed out on a pot one spot meaning that they will face one of England, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Germany or Ukraine in the group stages which promises to make their route to qualification all that more testing. Hugo Lloris looks 50/50 to be fit for the tournament which would leave Steve Mandanda as the number one – a player who can be brilliant but can also be woeful. Nevertheless, with the talent France possess and the confidence they’ve gained from winning the last World Cup they rightly go into Euro 2020 as one of the favourites.
Germany had a terrible World Cup but decided to stick with manager Jogi Low. However, Low rang the changes as he stated Thomas Muller, Hummels and Boeteng were no longer going to be considered for international duty. Since then it’s been a mixed bag. Beaten by France and by Holland in the Nations League and then again by Holland in September they certainly don’t strike the same fear into teams that they once did. Serge Gnabry looks at home on the world stage and they’ve still got experienced players like Kroos and Neuer but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them struggle once more despite their top seeding. We predict a surprise early exit for Germany and perhaps the end of Jogi Low’s reign.
Italy have scored 17 goals in their last 3 games and Roberto Mancini has got the feel good factor back amongst the Gli Azzuri. Playing a 4-3-3 system this Italian team is perhaps a little more adventerous than those who have gone before. Everything goes through Chelsea playmaker Jorginho but their wide forwards is what has marked this teamm apart from the incarnations that went before and in Ciro Immobile they also have a potent finisher. Still strong at the back, this Italian team could cause a surprise and go deep into the tournament. They’re perhaps not blessed with as many talented players as Italian sides that have gone before but they’re organised and in Bernardeschi and Insigne have two potential match winners.
Netherlands didn’t qualify for the World Cup and many felt it would be a long road back for the Oranje army. Two years ago it was hard to see where their next win was going to come from but like the Ajax side – which has been so impressive – they almost grew into world beaters overnight. They have two of the best central defenders in world football in Van Dijk and De Ligt and they have the best holding midfielder in the game today with Barcelona’s Frankie De Jong so effective in that role. Memphis Depay is devastating up front and they’ve also got players like Gini Wijnaldum who is at the very top of his game. Add in to the mix experienced pro’s like Daley Blind and it’s not hard to see why so many people fancy the Netherlands to do well. They’re seeded in pot two and are sure to give Gareth Southgate sleepless nights if England were to draw them in their group. They got to the Nations League final having beaten France, Germany and England on the way only to lose to Portugal and we fancy them to cause a shock or two next summer.
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