Euro 2020 Preview: Odds, picks and must-watch matches

The 2020 UEFA European Championship kicks off tomorrow. Held every four years, this tournament is one of the most prestigious competitions in world football. Featuring some of the best players in the game, the tournament will be played in eleven cities across eleven different countries as a special celebration of the tournament’s 60th edition.

And yes, while the tournament is being played in the summer of 2021, it will retain the 2020 name after the Covid-19 pandemic forced UEFA to delay the competition for a year.

The Speedway Soccer crew previewed the tournament in their latest podcast. You can listen to that on your favorite podcast app, or watch a special live-streamed version on our socials Friday morning at 11:45 central.

Format

This year’s edition will follow the same format as the 2016 edition. 24 teams are split into six groups of four teams. The group stage is a traditional round robin format; each team will play the other three sides in the group once. A win is worth three points, a draw gets a single point, and a loss is worth zero.

At the end of the group stage, the top two teams from each group automatically advance to the knockout rounds, while the four third-placed sides with the best record will also advance.

Group A

Italy 🇮🇹 (FIFA Ranking: 7)

The outlook: Lead by Roberto Mancini, the Italians have rebounded after their 2018 World Cup qualification disaster. Not your father’s Italy, the Azzuri have their trademark defensive solidity with added attacking prowess. They won all 10 of their Euro qualifying matches, scored 37 goals and conceded just four. They’re a side to recon with.

Key players: Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), midfielder Marco Veratti (PSG), midfielder Jorginho (Chelsea), midfielder Nicolò Barella (Inter Milan)

Predicted XI (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Florenzi, Bonucci, Chiellini, Spinazzola; Barella, Jorginho, Verratti; Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne

Predicted finish: 1st

Odds to win: 8-1

Turkey 🇹🇷 (FIFA Ranking: 29)

The outlook: Şenol Güneş is back in charge, the same manager who lead them to a third place finish in 2002. Their squad is better than they often get credit for, and seem a likely candidate to advance from the group. They may lack the consistent firepower to challenge at the highest levels, but solid defending and danger from set pieces will keep them competitive.

Key players: Forward Burak Yılmaz (Lille), defender Ozan Kabak (Liverpool), defender Çağlar Söyüncü (Leicester City), midfielder Hakan Çalhanoğlu (AC Milan)

Predicted XI (4-3-3): Çakır; Çelik, Demiral, Söyüncü, Meraş; Yazıcı, Yokuşlu, Tufan; Çalhanoğlu, Yılmaz, Karaman

Predicted group finish: 2nd

Odds to win: 50-1

Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 (FIFA Ranking: 17)

The outlook: Under interim manager Robert Page, they play in a 3-4-3 system with a few big name players, but they tend to sit in a lower block and defend first. They’ve won six matches by a score of 1-0 since September, and they understand what will give them the best chance to win.

Key players: Winger Gareth Bale (Tottenham), winger Daniel James (Manchester United), midfielder Aaron Ramsey (Juventus), defender Joe Rodon (Tottenham)

Predicted XI (3-4-3): Ward; Mepham, Rodon, B. Davies; Roberts, Ampadu, Ramsey, N. Williams; Bale, Wilson, James

Predicted group finish: 3rd

Odds to win: 150-1

Switzerland 🇨🇭 (FIFA Ranking: 13)

The outlook: Switzerland has plenty of high-level talent, but despite their ranking, they haven’t been very successful in recent international play. It’s hard to see where the goals will come from, but they’re a defensively sound team with potential to surprise.

Key players: Midfielder Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), midfielder Xerdan Sharqiri (Liverpool), defender Ricardo Rodríguez (Torino), forward Mario Gavranović (Dinamo Zagreb)

Predicted XI (3-4-3): Sommer; Akanji, Elvedi, Schär; Mbabu, Frueler, Xhaka, Rodríguez; Shaqiri, Seferović, Embolo

Predicted group finish: 4th

Odds to win: 80-1

Group B

Belgium 🇧🇪 (FIFA Ranking: 1)

The outlook: Under manager Roberto Martinez, Belgium has one of the most talented roster in the world. They won every match in qualifying, lead by a high-flying attack featuring Romelu Lukaku, who’s been one of the best goalscorers in Europe over the last couple seasons.

Key players: Forward Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan), midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), winger Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), midfielder Youri Tielemans (Leicester City)

Predicted XI (4-3-2-1): Courtois; Alderweireld, Denayer, Vertonghen; Meunier, Tielemans, Dedoncker, T. Hazard; E. Hazard, De Bruyne; Lukaku

Predicted finish: 1st

Odds to win: 6-1

Denmark 🇩🇰 (FIFA Ranking: 10)

The outlook: Denmark are surprisingly highly ranked, but the sum seems to be greater than the whole of the parts. While they do have talented players, they don’t have the top end roster to compete with the likes of Belgium, France or England. Still, every tournament has a surprise team, and in a relatively lite group, they seem primed to advance.

Key players: Midfielder Christian Eriksen (Inter Milan), defender Simon Kjær (AC Milan), midfielder Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (Tottenham), forward Yussuf Poulsen (RB Leipzig), goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City)

Predicted XI (4-3-2-1): Schmeicel; Wass, Kjær, Christensen, Mæhle; Delaney, Højbjerg; Poulsen, Eriksen, Braithwaite; Dolberg

Predicted finish: 2nd

Odds to win: 25-1

Finland 🇫🇮 (FIFA Ranking: 54)

The outlook: Finland have never played in a European championship before, and have the second-longest odds to win the thing. They’re a plucky side lead by Norwich City cult hero Teemu Pukki, and would be on of the stories of the tournament if they advanced.

Key players: Forward Teemu Pukki (Norwich City), midfielder Robin Lod (Minnesota United), midfielder Fredrik Jensen (Augsburg), winger Lassi Lappalainen (CF Montréal)

Predicted XI (3-4-1-2): Hrádecký; Arajuuri, Toivio, O’Shaughnessy; Ahlo, Kauko, Lam, Raitala; Schüller; Pukki, Lod

Predicted finish: 3rd

Odds to win: 500-1

Russia 🇷🇺 (FIFA Ranking: 38)

The outlook: Russia are somewhat of an unknown. They didn’t have to qualify for the 2018 World Cup as a host nation, and will need results against both Belgium and Denmark to advance.

Key players: Midfielder Aleksandr Golovin (AS Monaco), midfielder Aleksei Miranchuk (Atalanta), forward Anton Zabolotny (CSKA Moscow)

Predicted XI (3-4-2-1): Shunin; Semedov, Dzhikiya, Kudryashov; Fernandes, Ozdoev, Zobnin, Zhirkov; Miranchuk, Golovin; Dzyuba

Predicted finish: 4th

Odds to win: 100-1

Group C

Netherlands 🇳🇱 (FIFA Ranking: 16)

The outlook: This roster has plenty of talent, as you’d expect given the Dutch history of player development. However, they’ll be without captain and key defender Virgil van Dijk, and manager Frank de Boer has turned what should be an exciting attacking side into a pragmatic and over-thinking team. If they can pick up steam in arguably the weakest group in the tournament, they could turn some heads.

Key players: Midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum (PSG), defender Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus), defender Stefan de Vrij (Inter Milan), forward Memphis Depay (Lyon), midfielder Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)

Predicted XI (5-3-2): Stekelenburg; Dumfires, de Ligt, de Vrij, Blind, Wjindal; Wijnaldum, F. De Jong, de Roon; Weghorst, Depay

Predicted finish: 1st

Odds to win: 14-1

Ukraine 🇺🇦 (FIFA Ranking: 24)

The outlook: Under AC Milan legend Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine has become a pragmatic, defend-first side playing out of a back five. Their roster is a bit of an unknown, with 18 players from their domestic league. Without a major favorite in the group, though, a result against the Netherlands would set them up to win the group.

Key players: Midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko (Manchester City), midfielder Andriy Yarmolenko (West Ham), forward Roman Yaremchuk (Gent)

Predicted XI (3-4-3): Bushchan; Zabaryni, Kryvtsov, Matvienko; Karavaev, Stepanenko, Zinchenko, Mykolenko; Yarmolenko, Yarenchuk, Malinovskyi

Predicted finish: 2nd

Odds to win: 80-1

Austria 🇦🇹 (FIFA Ranking: 23)

The outlook: They’ve never advanced from the group stage in Europe, but with a weak group to compete in, a result in their first match would make them favorites to advance. They have plenty of talent, but have never seemed able to put it together in tournament play.

Key players: Midfielder/defender David Alaba (Real Madrid), forward Marko Arnautović (Shanghai Port), forward Marcel Sabitzer (RB Leipzig), midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger (Bayer Leverkusen)

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Bachmann; Lainer, Hinteregger, Dragović, Ulmer; Laimer, Baumgartlinger; Lazaro, Sabitzer, Alaba; Arnautović

Predicted finish: 3rd

Odds to win: 100-1

North Macedonia 🇲🇰 (FIFA Ranking: 62)

The outlook: The clear minnows of the tournament, North Macedonia was a surprise qualifier thanks to their performance in the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League. With a population of just over 2 million, the Lynxes are relative unknowns in their first major tournament, but have grabbed some impressive results in World Cup qualifying, incluring a 2-1 win on the road in Germany in March.

Key players: Forward Goran Pandev (Genoa), midfielder Elf Elmas (Napoli), midfielder Boban Nikolov (Lecce), defender Ezgjan Alioski (Leeds United)

Predicted XI (3-4-1-2): Dimitrievski; Bejtulai, Musliu, Velkovski; Ritovski, Ademi, Bardi, Alioski; Elmas; Pandev, Trajkovski

Predicted finish: 4th

Odds to win: 500-1

Group D

England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 (FIFA Ranking: 4)

The outlook: England are experiencing a bit of a golden generation. Led by manager Gareth Southgate, the Three Lions have a wave of young talent playing at the highest levels for their clubs. After a surprising run to a fourth place finish at the 2018 World Cup, they’re primed to make waves at the Euros.

Key players: Defender Harry Maguire (Manchester United), defender John Stones (Manchester City), midfielder Mason Mount (Chelsea), midfielder Jack Grealish (Aston Villa), forward Harry Kane (Tottenham), winger Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

Predicted XI (3-4-2-1): Henderson; Walker, Stones, Maguire; Trippier, Phillips, Rice, Shaw; Mount, Sterling; Kane

Predicted finish: 1st

Odds to win: 11-2

Croatia 🇭🇷 (FIFA Ranking: 14)

The outlook: The 2018 World Cup runners up struggled somewhat in qualifying, with an aging core of key players. However, they still have the talent to make a deep run, and will only need to string together a handful of results.

Key players: Midfielder Luka Modrić (Real Madrid), midfielder Mateo Kovačić (Chelsea), midfielder Marcelo Brozović (Inter Milan), defender Dejan Lovren (Zenit Saint Petersburg), forward Ante Rebić (Inter Milan)

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Livaković, Vrsaljko, Ćaleta-Car, Vida, Barišić; Modrić, Brozović, Rebić, Kovačić, Perišić; Kramarić

Predicted finish: 2nd

Odds to win: 33-1

Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 (FIFA Ranking: 44)

The outlook: Scotland are back at their first major tournament since 1998. Lead by manager Steve Clark, they have some exciting young talent and will go into the group with a real shot at advancing out of third place. They’ll also play two of their group matches at home, which should be a major boost.

Key players: Defender Andy Robertson (Liverpool), defender Kieran Tierney (Arsenal), midfielder Scott McTominay (Manchester United), midfielder Ryan Fraser (Newcastle United), forward Ché Adams (Southampton)

Predicted XI (3-4-1-2): Marshall; Hendry, Hanley, Tierney; O’Donnell, McTominay, McGinn, Robertson; Christie; Adams, Dykes

Predicted finish: 3rd

Odds to win: 200-1

Czech Republic 🇨🇿 (FIFA Ranking: 40)

The outlook: The Czechs will be vying with Scotland for that third place spot. They play very direct and are always lethal on set pieces, which makes them a prime matchup for both England and Scotland.

Key players: Defender Vladimír Coufal (West Ham), midfielder Vladimír Darida (Hertha BSC), midfielder Tomáš Souček (West Ham), midfielder Antonín Barák (Hellas Verona) forward Patrik Schick (Bayer Leverkusen)

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Vaclik, Coufal, Kalas, Čelůstka, Bořil; Král, Souček; Barák, Darida, Jankto; Schick

Predicted finish: 4th

Odds to win: 150-1

Group E

Spain 🇪🇸 (FIFA Ranking: 6)

The outlook: Spain brought in former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique after a disappointing 2018 World Cup, and he’s moved away from the “tiki-taka” style of their peak in from 2008-2012. Instead of relying on established La Liga veterans, he’s build his team around younger, lesser known players, many of whom play abroad. He also made the shocking decision to not call up a single Real Madrid player, an unheard of choice in Spanish history. Their group isn’t one of the stronger ones, and they have a bevy of talent. It’s a bit disingenuous to call them a “dark horse”, but they seemed prime to make a run.

Key players: Defender Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City), midfielder Thiago (Liverpool), forward Ferran Torres (Manchester City), midfielder Rodri (Manchester City), defender Marco Llorente (Leeds)

Predicted XI (4-3-3): Simon; M. Llorentes, Torres, Laporte, Alba; Koke, Rodri, Thiago; Torres, Morata, Olmo

Predicted finish: 1st

Odds to win: 8-1

Sweden 🇸🇪 (FIFA Ranking: 18)

The outlook: It looked like Zlatan Ibrahimović might make a dramatic return to his national team for the Euros, but a knee injury will keep him out. And honestly, it might be better for the Blue and Yellow. Head coach Janne Anderson has turned this side into a cohesive unit, making an impressive run to the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup. After Spain, they seem in pole position to advance to the knockout rounds.

Key players: Defender Victor Lindelöf (Manchester United), midfielder Albin Ekdal (Sampdoria), midfielder Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig), midfielder Dejan Kulusevski (Juventus), forward Alexander Isak (Real Soceiadad)

Predicted XI (4-4-2): Olsen; Lustig, Lindelöf, Danielson, Augustinsson; Larsson, Ekdal, Olsson, Forsberg; Isak, Berg

Predicted finish: 2nd

Odds to win: 100-1

Poland 🇵🇱 (FIFA Ranking: 21)

The outlook: They have arguably the best striker in the world in Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, but his supporting cast has never been able to match his quality. They should have enough to qualify as a third-place team, but they’re very much an unproven commodity internationally.

Key players: Forward Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny (Juventus), midfielder Mateusz Klich (Leeds United), midfielder Piotr Zieliński (Napoli), forward Arkadiusz Milik (Marseille)

Predicted XI (3-5-1-1): Szczęsny; Bereszyński, Glik, Bednarek; Jóźwiak, Krychowiak, Klich, Moder, Rybus; Zieliński; Lewandowski

Predicted finish: 3rd

Odds to win: 80-1

Slovakia 🇸🇰 (FIFA Ranking: 36)

The outlook: Head coach Stefen Tarkovic has had a few decent results with this squad in qualifying, and they do have players in some top leagues around the world. They’ll challenge Sweden and Poland for second in the group.

Key players: Goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka (Newcastle), defender Milan Škriniar (Inter Milan), midfielder Marek Hamšík (IFK Göteborg), midfielder Stanislav Lobotka (Napoli), forward Róbert Boženík (Feyenoord)

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Dubravka; Pekarik, Skriniar, Satka, Hancko; Kucka, Lobatka; Duda, Hamsik, Mak; Bozenik

Predicted finish: 3rd

Odds to win: 350-1

Group F

France 🇫🇷 (FIFA Ranking: 2)

The outlook: The best group in the tournament is lead by the best team in the tournament. France has a level of depth and talent almost unheard of at the international level. They could field a full team of players who didn’t make the cut and still make a deep run. They’re the reigning World Cup champions and Euro runners up, and should be disappointed with anything other than a trophy.

Key players: midfielder N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea), midfielder Paul Pogba (Manchester United), forward Kylian Mbappé (PSG), forward Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), defender Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid), forward Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

Predicted XI (4-3-3): Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Kimpembe, Hernandez; Rabiot, Kanté, Pogba; Griezmann, Benzema, Mbappé

Predicted finish: 1st

Odds to win: 9-2

Portugal 🇵🇹 (FIFA Ranking: 5)

The outlook: Portugal are the reigning champions of this tournament, and while Cristiano Ronaldo is finally starting to lose the inevitable battle with age, this side still has loads of top-tier talent. They’re always defensively sound, but they have the attackers to really compete and are a better all-around side than when they won the trophy five years ago.

Key players: Forward Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), midfielder Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), defender Rúben Dias (Manchester City), defender João Cancelo (Manchester City), midfielder Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Patricio; Cancelo, Dias, Pepe, Guerreiro; Pereira, Neves; B. Silva, B. Fernandes, Jota; Ronaldo

Predicted finish: 2nd

Odds to win: 8-1

Germany 🇩🇪 (FIFA Ranking: 12)

The outlook: They’re still reeling from their group stage failure at the 2018 World Cup. Manager Jogi Low is stepping down after this tournament, and they’re due for a fresh start. Despite their issues, though, this is still one of the more talented sides in the world, and until the last cycle have been a sure thing in international tournaments. They need a strong showing perhaps more than anyone.

Key players: Defender Mats Hummels (Dortmund), midfielder Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), midfielder Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), midfielder İlkay Gündoğan (Manchester City), forward Kai Havertz (Chelsea), forward Thomas Müller (Bayern Munich)

Predicted XI (3-4-3): Neuer; Ginter, Hummels, Rüdiger; Kimmich, Gündoğan, Kroos, Gosens; Sané, Müller, Gnabry

Predicted finish: 3rd

Odds to win: 8-1

Hungary 🇭🇺 (FIFA Ranking: 12)

The outlook: It’s unfortunate that Hungary was drawn into Group F, because they have a decent enough team to advance from some of the other groups. As it is, they’ll probably be a punching bag for France, Portugal and Germany.

Key players: Goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi (RB Leipzig), defender Willi Orbán (RB Leipzig), midfielder Ádám Nagy (Bristol City), midfielder Dániel Gazdag (Philadelphia Union), forward Ádám Szalai (Mainz)

Predicted XI (4-1-4-1): Gulácsi; Lang, Botka, Orbán, A. Szalai; Nagy; Lovrencsics, Kleinheisler, Gazdag, Holender; Sallai, Á. Szalai

Predicted finish: 3rd

Odds to win: 350-1

Matches to watch

Turkey vs Italy – Friday, June 11 – 2:00 PM central – ESPN
The opening match of the tournament, Turkey will look to upset Italy. The opening matches of international tournaments are traditionally exciting, and this should be no different.

England vs Croatia – Sunday, June 13 – 8:00 am central – ESPN
A rematch of the 2018 World Cup semifinals sees a rejuvenated England take on an aging Croatia. Can England’s “golden generation” get their tournament off to a positive start?

Spain vs Sweden – Monday, June 14 – 2:00 PM central – ESPN
Spain will get their toughest test of the group against a Sweden side that has the talent to go on a deep run.

France vs Germany – Tuesday, June 15 – 2:00 PM central – ESPN
What more do you need to say? Two heavyweights with plenty of history. It should be a good one.

Denmark vs Belgium – Thursday, June 17 – 11:00 AM central – ESPN
The top two sides in Group B go head-to-head. A Danish result here would make the tournament even more interesting.

England vs Scotland – Friday, June 18 – 2:00 PM central – ESPN
Two sides with a strong dislike for each other and centuries of political and geographical history meet in a competitive tournament for the first time since 1996. Can’t miss stuff.

Portugal vs France – Wednesday , June 23 – 2:00 PM central – ESPN
A rematch of the 2016 final closes out the group stage, with a good chance that the winner of this one clinches first place.

Pod picks

Ben Wright

Semifinalists: England, Turkey, Belgium, France
Dark horse: Turkey
Winner: Belgium
Golden Boot: Kylian Mbappé

Jonathan Slape

Semifinalists: Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, France
Winner: France
Golden Boot: Kylian Mbappé

Lucas Panzica

Semifinalists: Italy, Belgium, Portugal, France
Dark horse: Denmark
Winner: Italy
Golden Boot: Romelu Lukaku

Davey Shepherd

Semifinalists: Italy, England, France, Turkey
Dark horse: Turkey
Winner: France
Golden Boot: Harry Kane

Andy Simmons

Semifinalists: France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands
Winner: France
Dark horse: Switzerland
Golden Boot: Romelu Lukaku

Chris Ivey

Semifinalists: Italy, Belgium, Germany, France
Winner: France
Dark horse: Denmark
Golden Boot: Ciro Immobile

Justin Melo

Semifinalists: Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands, France
Winner: Portugal
Dark horse: Ukraine & Sweden
Golden Boot: Romelu Lukaku

TreJean Watkins

Semifinalists: France, Germany, Spain, Netherlands
Winner: France
Dark horse: Italy
Golden Boot: Robert Lewandowski

Will Boling

Semifinalists: Italy, France, England, Wales
Winner: Italy
Dark horse: Wales
Golden Boot: Harry Kane

Bracket challenge

Join our FotMob predictor challenge via this link, or use the code ESGVGTV in the app.

How to watch

All 51 matches will be shown on ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2. ESPN will air 39, ESPN2 will air seven, and ABC will show five. Each telecast will include a 30 minute pregame and postgame show, while “EURO Tonight” will broadcast on ESPN/ESPN2 following the last match of the day. A full schedule with information on how to stream can be found at WorldSoccerTalk.com.

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