Assessing Euro 2020’s heavyweights

After a year long delay, Euro 2020 is finally upon us with a genuine top level tournament threatening to take place.

After the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the tournament last summer, 24 nations will finally take place across the continent as we seek to crown the champions of Europe for the first time since Portugal lifted the trophy in 2016.

With so many stars packing the tournament with quality at the vast majority of teams, some squads are far more stacked than others. With that said, there are several teams who will believe they have a genuine chance of winning the competition this summer.

All the usual heavyweights are involved this year so lets take a look at the top contenders for the trophy this summer at Euro 2020.


NETHERLANDS

The Dutch squad looked set to develop into something genuinely exciting under Ronald Koeman, reaching the UEFA Nations League final and bringing through yet another generation of exciting youngsters.

Then Koeman left for Barcelona and was replaced by Frank De Boer, arguably the worst manager in football right now still getting jobs at the top level. It didn’t help that Virgil Van Dijk got a horror injury before the tournament started that ruled him out for a year and it’s even less helpful that goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to sit the tournament out.

They’re preparing to play in a 3-5-2 system with Memphis leading the line up front and in form, but they just don’t look well drilled right now. Despite that though, they have got a lot of quality in the side. Youngster Ryan Gravenberch will almost certainly be a breakout star in the tournament, while Matthijs De Ligt will look to improve his reputation as one of the best young defenders in Europe.

Unfortunately for them though, De Boer is such a huge negative factor when it comes to them that this tournament will come too soon for them to see any sort of success. With any such luck, it’ll be De Boer’s first and last tournament as boss.

GERMANY

It’ll be the final tournament of Joachim Löw’s 15-year tenure as Germany boss this summer and he’ll look to go out with a bang.

After finishing as runners-up at Euro 2008 and winning the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Low’s time in charge comes to an end when he is replaced by Hansi Flick after this tournament. But in front of him, he has selected a stacked squad full of young talent and experienced quality blending together.

After a horror show last time out at World Cup 2018 in Russia, Low will be counting on the quality of the likes of Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels in the spin of his team but with the fresher generation of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Joshua Kimmich, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane supporting them.

Tactically they look sharp in a 4-2-3-1 or in a three-at-the-back system with wing-backs and they look clinical going forward too with such quality options in attack. They’ve been chucked into the group of death in this tournament, but with the four best third-placed teams able to qualify they will feel they have a great chance of getting through and then beating anyone in a one-off game.

ITALY

It’s been a while since Italy were deemed a genuine threat at an international tournament but Roberto Mancini has absolutely got them there again.

The former Manchester City boss has developed a squad that is filled with quality in key areas and blessed with physical attributes as well as lots of technical skill. Led by veterans Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in defence, with the youthful Gianluigi Donnarumma behind them and Marco Verratti in front, they are a force to be reckoned with.

They then have the brilliance of Nico Barella, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Manuel Locatelli in midfield too while Federico Chiesa, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernadeschi can support the attack of Andrea Belotti and/or Ciro Immobile.

They have great depth, a great togetherness and are currently on a 27-match unbeaten run stretching back to 2018. They know how to keep a clean sheet with nine in their last 11 fixtures and with goals all over the pitch as well as an ability to either be defensive or go on the front foot, they’re real dark horses for the competition.

SPAIN

This is Luis Enrique’s second spell in charge of the Spanish national team, but his first tournament after his shock resignation back in 2019 saw him leave the role for six months.

During that spell and this current one though, Enrique has been able to put together a string of highly impressive performances using a variety of players and has even left some big names out. Despite naming only 24 players for a 26-man squad, the likes of Sergio Ramos and Saul Niguez weren’t selected.

Even without them though, Spain look good. Defensively they look well organised and press well, while on the ball they move it quickly and have lots of interchanging movement among their players. One thing they do lack is a lethal striker. Gerard Moreno hit 30 in all competitions for Villarreal this season but he doesn’t really suit Spain’s style of play and it’s Alvaro Morata who tends to start as the striker.

Spain have a chance of becoming the darkest of horses in the tournament, however their lack of a real goalscorer blunted their attack in the friendly against Portugal in the warm-up game. With players testing positive for COVID-19 just days before the tournament starts too, their preparation will be affected and I don’t think they’ll be successful this time although they will be entertaining.

ENGLAND

The England squad is arguably at it’s strongest since the golden generation that saw Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and David Beckham all lining up alongside each other back in the Euro 2004 era.

With bags of attacking talent and some solid defensive options, Gareth Southgate has got a great chance of improving on the World Cup semi-final run that they managed to put together in 2018. Their preparations took a hit when Trent Alexander-Arnold was forced to withdraw with a thigh injury, but Southgate drafted in Brighton’s Ben White to cover in midfield and defence.

Jack Grealish is in the form of his life in attack while Mason Mount and Phil Foden are coming off the back of a Champions League final to end their brilliant seasons in attack, supporting Harry Kane who had the best season of his career all-round.

There is genuine hope and belief that England could turn in a Euro 96-esque performance this summer, getting to the latter stages and causing the big sides real problems. There is expectation on them to perform but with Southgate in charge they may struggle.

He prefers to work towards the strengths of his opponent to nullify, rather than exposing their weaknesses with his great squad and against the top sides that could be the difference in winning and losing.

BELGIUM

One of the deepest squads in the tournament, Belgium have got some insane quality amongst their ranks for this tournament.

Thibaut Courtois is among the best goalkeepers in the world, Yannick Carrasco has excelled as a wing-back for Atletico this season winning La Liga, Kevin De Bruyne and Youri Tielemans have had fantastic seasons domestically while Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard would get into most teams when fit.

Robert Martinez has developed a great style of play with the ‘Red Devils’ which has seen them capable of dominating possession and counter-attacking in style, while defensively they can be a very solid side too with plenty of experience.

Skill, quality, a lethal goalscorer, fantastic creators in midfield and experienced, quality defenders, Belgium will be disappointed to not be challenging for honours at the very least at Euro 2020.

PORTUGAL

The current reigning European champions, Portugal are in the middle of a golden generation once again. After winning the tournament in 2016, the Selecao have developed even greater depth in their squad and are genuinely quality against any opposition now.

Cristiano Ronaldo is still leading the line at 36 years old but is coming off the back of a Serie A golden boot campaign, while Bernardo Silva, Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo all enjoyed stellar campaigns with Manchester City.

Bruno Fernandes will be looking to improve his international form after scoring just twice for the national team in 28 appearances, while Joao Felix will be keen to finally perform to the standard everyone knows he can.

Fernando Santos is still in charge which means Portugal are still very hard to beat, but it also means they can be limited in attack against the top opposition which could see them struggle in the latter stages. In the group of death too, that could see them struggle early on and ultimately they’ll likely fall short.

FRANCE

Without a doubt the strongest squad and the favourites to win the tournament, World champions France are back with a vengeance.

Beaten at the Euro 2016 final by Portugal on home turf, France bounced back to win the World Cup in style and have developed one of the greatest pools of players to select their squad from ever. Now with Didier Deschamps still at the helm, they’ll look to make history as just the third team to be World and European champions simultaneously.

With a very similar squad to 2018, the biggest factor is the return of Karim Benzema after five years away from the international scene following legal and political issues. It’s pretty hard to improve the World champions, but Benzema is the calibre of player who can.

His potential link up with Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba make it nigh on impossible to see France not make the final at the very least and anything but winning it would be deemed as a failure among neutrals and French fans.

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