France striker Kylian Mbappe watches the friendly match between France and Bulgaria at the Stade De France in Saint-Denis on the outskirts of Paris on June 8, 2021 ahead of the UEFA EURO 2020 European Championship.
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Euro 2020 is finally here, but who will win the tournament? Sky Sports football writers give their judgments …
Ben Grounds: Format favors Azzurri
The way could be cleared for England should they move into the semi-finals at Wembley before their fans, but there is still a lot of work to be done before then. Circumstances have to some extent conspired against Southgate as a multitude of players race against time to declare themselves fit. Another valiant elimination in the quarterfinals would be tantamount.
The pressure on this golden generation of Belgium is again as Didier Deschamps has removed the small weakness in his French squad by calling back Karim Benzema, who will upgrade Olivier Giroud as a focal point.
But I guess Italy will be the surprise winner. I saw Roberto Mancini’s team dismantle the Czech Republic over the weekend and the way they approached the warm-up match was in stark contrast to England’s two friendlies in Middlesbrough.
This is the best looking Azzurri squad in years to show up after a perfect qualifying campaign, and the format prefers them. They win Group A after playing all three games in Rome and then face the third-placed group C – the so-called weakest group with the Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia – for a place in the quarter-finals.
Gerard Brand: Portugal repeats 2016 exploits
France are rightly the favorites, but I would like Portugal to continue their impressive European Championship record without having to stink through the four weeks in a similar way to what they did five years ago.
On both sides, this team is far stronger than the 2016 winners, who only won one of their seven games in 90 minutes.
Manchester City trio Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva had good seasons, as did Bruno Fernandes in Manchester and Diogo Jota in his debut year at Liverpool.
You have depth in midfield; Danilo Pereira and William Carvalho can provide grass-roots protection, and Wolves pair Ruben Neves (20 caps) and Joao Moutinho (130 caps) are pass masters at either end of their careers. This midfield is flanked by the quality of the full-back from Cancelo and Dortmund’s Raphael Guerreiro, who provided eleven assists in 25 Bundesliga starts last season.
Cristiano Ronaldo, now 36, still scored 36 goals in 44 games for Juventus last season and fits in with tournament football. In addition to the well-known names, Portugal has promising young talent in Pedro Goncalves, Joao Felix and Nuno Mendes.
The last eight winners of the major tournament had an exceptionally tight defense, conceding an average of 3.5 goals and playing to zero in about half of their games. The signs are positive for Fernando Santos’ team, who have conceded only 12 goals and conceded 11 goals in the last 20 games.
Granted, Group F is intimidating alongside Germany, France and Hungary and may justify Portugal’s rather long quotas. But this team is set up for soaking and jumping and is more than happy to give up possession of the ball. In fact, in each of their last eight tournament-level wins – including the 2019 Nations League win – they have had less possession than their opponents.
Oliver Yew: Italy’s resurgence can continue
Euro 2020 promises to be an extremely competitive tournament and this is an extremely exciting prospect for any football fan!
It will be difficult for many to look past France. “They are not the favorites, they are the super favorites,” said former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, and it’s hard to argue when you look at the 2018 World Cup winners’ squad.
England also have a lot of attacking power and their admirers, while Belgium and Portugal also have excellent squads and you just can’t write Germany off. However, I like Italy’s chances, which have recovered well from missing out on qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
Led by Roberto Mancini, Italy posted a 100 percent record of 10 wins from 10 qualifying group matches for Euro 2020, scoring 37 goals and conceding just four. They are also unbeaten in 27 games.
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They have an extremely strong squad with an excellent mix of youth and experience, which is crucial in big tournaments. Defensively solid, like most Italian teams, they will also want to set the pace of their games and with Marco Verratti, Jorginho and Nicolo Barella in the middle of the park they will certainly be a tough nut to crack.
The European Championship will certainly be the acid test of Italy’s re-emergence, but with three games at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome in Group A and a decent way to the quarter-finals, they seem to have a good chance of taking the trophy at Wembley on July 11th .
Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal in action during the international friendly soccer match between Portugal and Israel at the Jose Alvalade Stadium in Lisbon, Portugal, on Sept.
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Nick Wright: France is making home
I have trouble looking past France. Of course they got a tough draw against Germany, Portugal and Hungary in Group F, but everything else is in their favor.
It’s only been three years since Didier Deschamps took them to the world title, and although the result at the European Championships two years earlier was ultimately disappointing, it should not be forgotten that they made it to the final back then too.
This tournament pedigree is priceless, and what worries their rivals most is that while this roster is dotted with World Cup winners like N’Golo Kante, Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba, it actually looks even stronger than the one that triumphed in Russia.
That’s largely thanks to the return of Karim Benzema, who is back in the frame after a five-year hiatus to have a world-class focus in the foreground, but it’s not the only exciting take.
Kingsley Coman is back, as is Adrien Rabiot, while Wissam Ben Yedder and Marcus Thuram add quality to a frightening attack that already includes Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele. The squad depth is so great that even her second choice would have a chance to go to the end.
Concerns that Benzema’s return could upset the balance in the camp have been exaggerated in my opinion and even if the Real Madrid man can’t get started right away on his return, Olivier Giroud is still more than capable of big games to deliver. You are the side to be feared and I don’t see anyone stopping you.
Richard Morgan: Football is finally coming home
History shows how home advantage can drive teams deep into their own tournaments, and playing in front of a reduced number of their fans should provide England with the catalyst to finally end 55 years of waiting for a major international cup this summer.
It’s true that Gareth Southgate’s team will have to play at least one knockout game outside of the capital if they advance to Group D winners, but either way, no one will want to play England at Wembley.
This is an English team with all the ingredients to be one better than the semi-finals in their last tournament in Russia in 2018, and who would bet against whoever they play in the final, in the home of football ?
Don’t forget that the core of the squad that surprised many when it nearly reached the World Cup final three years ago is still there, just more seasoned, while Southgate is now also drawing on a number of Europe’s most exciting and talented young strikers can to complement them.
And should the English coach prepare key players like Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson for the knockout phase, expect the Three Lions to get stronger as the tournament progresses.
But if football really does come home this summer then prepare for some penalty shoot-out drama along the way folks…!
Peter Smith: All the parts are in place for Italy to recover with a bang
France are rightly the favorites with their high profile squad looking to secure their World Cup win, while Belgium will be a real threat with Romelu Lukaku at the helm and we should never write about Germany as Joachim Low is bringing seasoned stars back to his squad They want to leave their 2018 Russia debacle behind.
But Italy, which failed to qualify for this tournament, is revitalized and has a lot of momentum under Roberto Mancini.
The former Man City coach has fostered both team spirit and faith among Azzurri fans, with Italy going unbeaten in 27 games and winning the last eight on spin.
A highly rated goalkeeper, experienced central defenders, skilled midfielders and attackers with many goals with Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile: Italy has all the ingredients and a cheap draw.
Charlotte Marsh: The depth of France is simply unbelievable
France will have to work against Germany, Portugal and Hungary in the “group of death” at Euro 2020. But their incredible depth not only makes them Group F favorites, but also my pick for the tournament.
Their 26-strong squad is packed with serial winners at club and national level. N’Golo Kante, Olivier Giroud and Kurt Zouma go into the tournament as new Champions League winners, four from the squad won another Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich, while Thomas Lemar helped Atletico Madrid win the La Liga title.
This is before we address players from Real Madrid, Barcelona and Paris-Saint Germain who all struggled in a shortened season. Kylian Mbappe remains one of the best young players in Europe but all eyes will be on the returning Karim Benzema.
His form for Real Madrid this season made it impossible to ignore him as he hadn’t played for France in over five years. He was the second best goalscorer in the league, scoring 23 goals in 34 goals and providing nine assists – on par with Golden Shoe winner Lionel Messi.
But the fact is: No matter which 11 players Didier Deschamps will play in France’s opening game against Germany on June 15, there will be another 15 players on the bench, who are also to be expected.
After disappointment in the 2016 Euro 2016 home final, France will try to go one step further this time around – against Group F rivals and reigning champions Portugal on the way – and I wouldn’t bet against them.
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Ron Walker: France wants revenge in 2016
I’ve taken the foolproof route of evaluating the results of each group – including the top third-placed teams – in a tournament predictor to determine their respective paths to the finals.
While there is good news for England, runners-up in Group D, who will play Poland in the round of 16, there is good news but France stands in their way – and unfortunately they rush past the Three Lions for the European Championship trophy into their world to get the cup of 2018 and completed the double like in the Euro 2000 to France ’98.
If you look at the teams on paper, Les Bleus must be in there. They know how to win tournaments. 14 of the 23 who went to Russia are here, and one of those who weren’t, Karim Benzema, is returning after a 30-goal season for Real Madrid.
France’s depth of strength is intimidating in itself and many of their squad players would go to other countries’ first XIs.
Even in a group with Portugal and Germany, both of whom have had international success over the past decade, France should triumph and with Belgium or Italy probably their only really tough test on the way to the final, if they do, the only thing she is stopping the raising of the trophy is herself.