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Euro 2020 will begin in June 2021, which sounds absurd. Even though the prestigious football tournament was postponed last year because of the global pandemic, UEFA decided to keep the tournament’s name.
Presumably, they’d ordered and paid for too much merchandise to justify scrapping and replacing it with something that bears the correct date. We know that Ireland won’t be there after missing out on a place through the agony of a penalty shoot-out, and Northern Ireland won’t be there either. England, Scotland, and Wales have all made the cut, though. Could one of them walk away with the trophy, or will the winners come from further afield?
With most players suffering the after-effects of effectively playing two domestic seasons back-to-back because of pandemic restrictions, and those same restrictions still playing havoc with the preparations of many countries, this looks like being the hardest Euros to predict in history. We’d probably feel safer betting our money on the “Football Star Deluxe” casino game than we would on betting on any of the entrants, such is the unpredictable nature of this year’s tournament. At least you know you’re putting your chances into the hands of fate when you are playing at popular online casinos. The problem with betting on football matches is that you can kid yourself that your knowledge might prove useful. Does it have to be that way, though? Can we give ourselves better odds of victory than the average casino player by taking a closer look at the leading contenders? Let’s give it a try, you can find some of the best UK betting sites reviewed at sistersite.co.uk
We’ll start with England just because they’re a home nation and their fans always like to believe they have a chance. With this squad, they genuinely might. England’s forward line ought to scare any defence in the world. Nobody in their right mind would relish the prospect of Harry Kane, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling, Mason Greenwood, and Phil Foden lining up against them. Foden, in particular, might be the best young player in the world right now. The question is whether manager Gareth Southgate will play to the team’s strengths. Southgate is a defensively-minded coach, and England’s defence is their weakness. The team doesn’t have a settled goalkeeper, and an injury to Harry Maguire has made a shaky backline even shakier. If England pushes forward, they could beat just about anybody if luck is on their side. If they hang back – which history tells us is what Southgate will want them to do – they’re unlikely to fulfil their potential.
The French team that won the 2018 World Cup only appears to have got better since then. Kylian Mbappe, who was one of the stars of that tournament, has another three years of experience and looks deadly. Karim Benzema has finally returned to the fold and offers even more of a threat upfront. Paul Pogba always seems to turn up for France in a way that he struggles to emulate in England with Manchester United. There’s a question mark about Hugo Lloris in goal after a bad season with Spurs, but he’s got Raphael Varane in front of them. It will take a very, very good team to stop France winning the tournament. Perhaps nobody can.
The last time the Euros were held – which was five years ago now – Portugal finished as winners. The general perception of Portugal is that the team isn’t as strong as it was then. That’s not the same as saying they’re no longer a threat, though. They still have Cristiano Ronaldo, and even at 36, he’s still one of the best players on the planet. They also have Bruno Fernandes, who almost single-handedly dragged Manchester United into a Europa League Final and Champions League qualification this season. Although nobody really values the Nations League as a competition, Portugal has also won that trophy since its Euros triumph. They’re probably dark horses this time around, but dark horses sometimes win.
We all know how good Belgium are. They were semi-finalists at the 2018 World Cup and were probably unlucky not to make the final. This is a team that contains both Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku. You can’t fail to score goals with de Bruyne putting the ball at Lukaku’s feet or on his head. Let’s not forget that they also have Eden Hazard, although both his form and his fitness appear to have deserted him since he left Chelsea for Real Madrid. Courtois is a reliable goalkeeper, too. Belgium has an astonishing amount of strength in depth for such a small country and is overdue to win major international honours. This could be the tournament in which their time finally comes.
Never, ever, write off the Italians. They might have dropped off a little – perhaps more than a little – in the past decade, but this squad still contains Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, and Marco Verratti. They still have Bonucci and Chiellini at the back. Gianluigi Donnarumma is unlikely to give much away between the posts. Italian teams have a long history of winning when it matters most, and there’s only one tournament in the world that’s bigger than the Euros. More importantly, they’re coming into the tournament on the back of an unbeaten run that stretches back 25 games. They might not be as exciting to watch as the great Italian teams of the past, but they still pose a threat, and it’s one that ought to be taken seriously.
Surprises are always possible at this tournament. We learned that when Greece famously went all the way in 2004. That being said, we’d be surprised if anyone other than one of the five teams we’ve named ends up victorious. You’ll notice that we’ve left Spain and Germany out, and with good reason. The Spanish team that won the World Cup in 2010 has gone backwards at speed since then, with no real goal threat and a squad that doesn’t contain a single Real Madrid player. Germany recently lost to Macedonia and appear to be out of both time and ideas under departing boss Joachim Low. If either of them wins it, we’ll look like fools, but stranger things have happened. Soon, though, the talking will be over. The tournament is upon us, and we can’t wait to get started!