The European Football Championships (Euro) 2020, delayed to 2021 by the pandemic, will take place June 11—July 11 in several host cities and stadia across Europe to allow location switching if necessary. The 24 teams competing are divided into six groups of four and 16 teams will progress to a Round of 16, Quarterfinals, Semifinal, and Final.
The pre-tournament favorites to win it all seem to depend on the pundit’s country of origin, and the recent English media have England as favorites, the Spanish media have France tops but Spain in the mix, the USA media have France, England, Belgium, and Portugal as the top contenders, and Brazilian media hedge their bets stating Belgium, France, and Germany are somewhat equally in the mix.
Looking at the Group pairings you notice there are vast differences within each and between most, such as Group B with the number one ranked and the 58th ranked teams competing, while in Group F you have two of the generally accepted favorites and the last Euro champ trying to advance.
UEFA EURO 2020 – GROUPS (FIFA RANKING):
|GROUP A||GROUP B||GROUP C|
|Turkey (#29)||Denmark (#16)||Netherlands (#14)|
|Italy (13)||Finland (58)||Ukraine (24)|
|Wales (22)||Belgium (1)||Austria (26)|
|Switzerland (12)||Russia (38)||North Macedonia (62)|
|GROUP D||GROUP E||GROUP F|
|England (#4)||Spain (#8)||Hungary (37)|
|Croatia (6)||Sweden (17)||Portugal (#7)|
|Scotland (44)||Poland (19)||France (2)|
|Czech Republic (45)||Slovakia (36)||Germany (15)|
In Group A, Turkey has been on fire while Italy is coalescing at just the right time and Wales and Switzerland seem to be vying for third place. In Group B Belgium is the clear favorite with Denmark the expected runner-up, only Russia will be playing matches at home and we know what they did in the 2018 World Cup. Note too that Russia has few if any restrictions on stadium capacity. First Article
In Group C, the Netherlands are stumbling toward some semblance of a team while North Macedonia seems to be playing at least at the level of the two other teams ranked 36 and 38 slots above them. In Group D, England are allegedly higher ranked than Croatia, but if history serves the latter have the former’s number.
In Group E Sweden and Poland have the advantage of playing many more experienced roster members than Spain’s experimental squad and Slovakia, on a given day can be spoilers. This group could easily go rogue. In Group F, poor Hungary must feel like the rabbit in the snake pit. France, the current World Champions are playing on another plane than most earth-bound teams, and Germany are chomping at the bit to make up for 2018. Which brings us to Cristiano Ronaldo’s swan song tourney (if not the 2022 World Cup), and this time he has quite the supporting cast.
In Papa’s view, in Group A, Italy and Turkey will progress with the Roman legions outwitting the Turkish for first place—their match one of the tourney’s highlights. In Group B, Belgium and Denmark will prevail, but Russia will ride its home-field advantage to a top third-place finish. In Group C, the Dutch finally get their act together and North Macedonia continue their improbable performances to come in second. But Ukraine snags a top third-place spot.
In Group D, Croatia bring England back to earth, earning no worse than a tie at Wembley and defeating all others more convincingly than the Three Lions. Yet the Brits will come in comfortably second. In Group E, it comes down to who beats Slovakia the worst and Spain seems the one, leaving Robert Lewandoski’s Poland fighting Sweden for second place and his scoring prowess will power Poland to that finish line. Sweden, though, will manage a respectable top third-place finish.
Then comes the fun group. The group of death will actually be the group that produces the toughest third-place finisher, the one most likely to progress via the back door, and less tough competition, to the farthest reaches of the tournament.
France seems too strong for everyone this year, they will edge Germany 2-1 in the group’s enthralling, deciding battle but will be held to a 2-2 draw in an equally engrossing offensive battle with Portugal, leaving Germany to slither into the grass and poor Hungary to bear the brunt of some of the more lopsided score lines of the tourney. The key here will be Germany as the real spoiler, as they come in as only the second-highest ranked third-place team to qualify.
If these predictions hold up, Belgium will meet Germany with the winner becoming an instant tournament favorite—Papa feels this will be Belgium’s second coming of age as de Bruyne and Hazard meet up with Lukaku to form the dream offensive wedge that sees the remnants of the Joachim Low era Germany off. North Macedonia will play inspired football against Italy, but the Azzurri will be one step out of reach, and as they progress it will be to their demise against a puffed-up crew of Red Devils. Semifinalist—Belgium.
France will have a tougher than expected time against Russia in Bucharest but will nevertheless prevail, while England will spell the end of Lewandowski’s dream in a squeaker. Then, Mbappe and company will end England’s hopes in a lopsided confrontation. Semifinalist—France.
In the other half of the bracket, Spain will ride their luck to a squeaker over a hard-charging Ukraine in Glasgow while Croatia and Portugal play another Euro classic with Modric’s troops bowing out with class to the better mix of experience and youth available to Fernando Santos, who finally allows his troops to run amok. In the succeeding all-Iberian match up the Navigators win over La Roja in a classic in historic name only as Portugal pulls out all the stops, Santos’ young stars come of age, and they win big against their peninsula mates. Semifinalist—Portugal.
Meanwhile, the Dutch will ride on beyond Sweden while the Turks will do the same to Denmark. In another Euro classic, Holland-Turkey, whoever wins will have spent what they had and be depleted when meeting Portugal, but the Dutch seem more likely to get caught up in exacting revenge on the Turks for their 4-2 World Cup Qualifier win while the Turks will see their match as a historic opportunity not to be wasted—edge Semifinalist—Turkey.
Portugal will play their second-best match of the competition. Having found their rhythm against Spain, and confirmed their new style and stature against Croatia, they beat Turkey convincingly if not with ease. Finalist—Portugal Then they will await the next titanic match of the tourney—Belgium vs France II.
In their last semifinals match-up of consequence, in the 2018 World Cup, France won out 1-0, rescued by Samuel Umtiti’s unlikely winner in St. Petersburg. This time, the Belgians exact revenge, and the French fall victim to their one subpar performance of the tournament, at the best possible moment for Finalist—Belgium.
Unfortunately for these devils, the Blues go down swinging and in so doing take out what fight is left in their opponent. After a grueling win over Germany, a hard-fought victory over willy Italy, and an emotional win over France, sapped, toothless Belgium will then provide a fresher Portugal with a valiant but ultimately impotent effort at combat. A resurgent and reimagined Portugal, feeding off a true victory over archrivals Spain, another meaningful one over Croatia, and an authenticating one over tourney Cinderella, Turkey, Ronaldo, and his young crew will have a repeat hurrah.
Portugal—Champions of Euro 2021.