Get the ball rolling
Matthew Smith, Sports Editor
The countdown is over — 24 teams, 51 games, 31 days, 11 cities ... only one winner. Euro 2020 is — finally — ready for the big kick-off on Friday as Turkey take on Italy in Rome. In what is one of the most anticipated events on the sporting calendar in an age, this European Championship has more than its fair share of intrigues to make it a competition like no other before.
First there is the added fervour surrounding the belated kick-off following the tournament’s postponement last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Uefa and local organisers are now confident Euro 2020 can go ahead safely with fans and coronavirus protocols firmly in place. In another mouthwatering twist, this year’s event will take place in 11 cities across Europe — from Glasgow to St Petersburg, London to Istanbul — making it the first time the Euros will be a truly continental event.
Then there is the matter the action on the field. All the giants of the game in Europe will be there. England, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Germany and Portugal are all brimming with talent and confidence in what promises to be one of the most open tournaments in decades.
Who will emerge as champions? Your guess is as good as ours — take a look for yourself ...
Meet the teams
Italy have got to be a sure-fire bet into top the first group and Mancini's men may find their sternest test in Euro 2020's opening game against Turkey on Friday night. The fight for second place could be dependent on the star players shining on the big stage for each of Turkey, Wales and Switzerland.
COACH: Roberto Mancini
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Donnarumma, Alex Meret, Salvatore Sirigu. Defenders: Francesco Acerbi, Alessandro Bastoni, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Federico Bernardeschi, Emerson. Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Alessandro Florenzi, Leonardo Spinazzola, Rafael Toloi. Midfielders: Nicolo Barella, Bryan Cristante, Manuel Locatelli, Jorginho, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Stefano Sensi, Federico Chiesa, Marco Verratti. Forwards: Andrea Belotti, Domenico Berardi, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, Giacomo Raspadori
World Cup: Winners (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006), Runners-up (1970, 1994)
European Championship: Winners (1968), Runners-up (2000, 2012)
STAR PLAYER: Marco Verratti
Dubbed the successor to Spaniard Andres Iniesta, the Paris St-Germain player controls the Italian midfield with one-touch passes. His ball control and ability to set up defence-splitting passes make him Italy’s most valuable player.
COACH: Senol Gunes
Goalkeepers: Mert Gunok, Altay Bayındır, Ugurcan Cakır. Defenders: Zeki Celik, Merih Demiral, Caglar Soyuncu, Umut Meras, Ozan Kabak, Rıdvan Yılmaz, Kaan Ayhan, Mert Muldur. Midfielders: Okay Yokuslu, Yusuf Yazıcı, Ozan Tufan, Dorukhan Tokoz, Hakan Calhanoglu, Taylan Antalyalı, Orkun Kokcu, İrfan Can Kahveci. Forwards: Cengiz Under, Kenan Karaman, Enes Unal, Burak Yılmaz, Abdulkadir Omur, Halil Dervisoglu, Kerem Akturkoglu.
World Cup: Semi-finals (2002)
European Championship: Semi-finals (2008)
STAR PLAYER: Caglar Soyuncu
A two-footed centre-back with the soul of a striker, Soyuncu’s impressive passing skills and technical ability have been on show at Leicester City. At 25, he is the rock in the Turkish defence and his performance will be crucial to the team’s fortunes.
COACH: Rob Page
Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey, Danny Ward, Adam Davies. Defenders: Ben Davies, Joe Rodon, Chris Mepham, Chris Gunter, Rhys Norrington-Davies, Neco Williams, Connor Roberts, Ben Cabango, Tom Lockyer, Ethan Ampadu. Midfielders: Joe Allen, Joe Morrell, Matthew Smith, Jonathan Williams, Aaron Ramsey, Harry Wilson, David Brooks, Dylan Levitt, Rubin Colwill, Daniel James. Forwards: Gareth Bale, Tyler Roberts, Kieffer Moore.
STAR PLAYER: Gareth Bale
His credentials are impressive: Four Champions League titles and two La Liga titles with Real Madrid. Once the most expensive player in the world, Bale, 31, is the Welsh spearhead in the tournament.
COACH: Vladimir Petkovic
Goalkeepers: Yann Sommer, Yvon Mvogo, Jonas Omlin. Defenders: Kevin Mbabu, Silvan Widmer, Nico Elvedi, Manuel Akanji, Ricardo Rodríguez, Loris Benito, Fabian Schar, Becir Omeragic, Eray Comert, Jordan Lotomba. Midfielders: Denis Zakaria, Remo Freuler, Granit Xhaka, Ruben Vargas, Steven Zuber, Djibril Sow, Christian Fassnacht, Edimilson Fernandes, Xherdan Shaqiri, Admir Mehmedi. Forwards: Breel Embolo, Haris Seferovic, Mario Gavranovic.
European Championship: Semi-finals (2016)
STAR PLAYER: Xherdan Shaqiri
The Swiss-Alabanian, called the Alpine Messi and Shaq Attack, will shoulder the Swiss challenge at the Euros. Switzerland’s most decorated player, Shaqiri, 29, has pace, ball control and good finishing. He has won a bundle of titles playing for Basel, Bayern Munich and Liverpool.
A fascinating group which has Belgium, the No. 1 team in Fifa rankings, looking favourites to top the group with Russia and Denmark in contention for the second position. The onus is Kevin De Bruyne’s men, who finished third in the last Fifa World Cup, to land a major championship before the golden generation bows out.
COACH: Roberto Martínez
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet, Matz Sels. Defenders: Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Timothy Castagne, Jason Denayer, Thomas Meunier, Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen. Midfielders: Nacer Chadli, Yannick Carrasco, Kevin De Bruyne, Leander Dendoncker, Eden Hazard, Thorgan Hazard, Dennis Praet, Youri Tielemans, Hans Vanaken, Axel Witsel. Forwards: Michy Batshuayi, Christian Benteke, Jeremy Doku, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, Leandro Trossard.
World Cup: Semi-finals (2018)
European Championship: Runners-up (1980), semi-finals (2018)
STAR PLAYER: Kevin De Bruyne
The Manchester City midfielder was injured in the Champions League final loss, fracturing his nose and eye socket. He is still expected to be the key creative force for Belgium. He scored four goals and had seven assists in six Euro 2020 qualifying matches.
COACH: Kasper Hjulmand
Goalkeepers: Jonas Lossl, Frederik Ronnow, Kasper Schmeichel. Defenders: Joachim Andersen, Nicolai Boilesen, Andreas Christensen, Mathias Jorgensen, Simon Kjaer, Joakim Maehle, Jens Stryger Larsen, Jannik Vestergaard. Midfielders: Anders Christiansen, Thomas Delaney, Christian Eriksen, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Mathias Jensen, Christian Norgaard, Robert Skov, Daniel Wass. Forwards: Martin Braithwaite, Andreas Cornelius, Mikkel Damsgaard, Kasper Dolberg, Andreas Skov Olsen, Yussuf Poulsen, Jonas Wind.
European Championship: Winners (1992)
STAR PLAYER: Christian Eriksen
The 29-year-old attacking midfielder will be the one expected to create scoring chances. Eriksen has made more than 100 international appearances for Denmark and became a key part of the Inter Milan team that won its first Serie A title in 11 years this year.
COACH: Stanislav Cherchesov
Goalkeepers: Yuri Dyupin, Matvei Safonov, Anton Shunin. Defenders: Igor Diveev, Georgi Dzhikiya, Mario Fernandes, Vyacheslav Karavaev, Fedor Kudryashov, Andrei Semenov. Midfielders: Dmitri Barinov, Denis Cheryshev, Daniil Fomin, Aleksandr Golovin, Daler Kuzyaev, Andrei Mostovoy, Maksim Mukhin, Magomed Ozdoev, Rifat Zhemaletdinov, Yuri Zhirkov, Roman Zobnin. Forwards: Artem Dzyuba, Aleksei Ionov, Denis Makarov, Aleksei Miranchuk, Aleksandr Sobolev, Anton Zabolotny.
European Championship: Winners (1960, as USSR)
STAR PLAYER: Alexander Golovin
The Monaco midfielder was a standout star for Russia at the 2018 World Cup and has become the main creative spark in the national team’s midfield.
COACH: Markku Kanerva
Goalkeepers: Lukas Hradecky, Anssi Jaakkola, Jesse Joronen. Defenders: Paulus Arajuuri, Robert Ivanov, Thomas Lam, Daniel O’Shaughnessy, Jukka Raitala, Joona Toivio, Jere Uronen, Leo Väisänen Sauli Vaisanen. Midfielders: Nikolai Alho, Fredrik Jensen, Glen Kamara, Joni Kauko, Robin Lod, Rasmus Schuller, Pyry Soiri, Tim Sparv, Robert Taylor, Onni Valakari. Forwards: Marcus Forss, Lassi Lappalainen, Joel Pohjanpalo, Teemu Pukki.
STAR PLAYER: Teemu Pukki
The Finland forward led his country into their first international tournament and scored 26 goals this season to help Norwich get promoted to the Premier League. He was even more prolific in Euro 2020 qualifying with 10 goals in 10 games, finishing one goal behind the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and two behind England striker Harry Kane.
The 1988 champions Netherlands, one of the football elite, will be keen to make amends after the catastrophe of failing to qualify for the 2018 Fifa World Cup. They will be the natural favourites to top the group, while it could be a toss-up between Ukraine and Austria for the second spot.
COACH: Frank de Boer
Goalkeepers: Marco Bizot, Tim Krul, Maarten Stekelenburg. Defenders: Nathan Ake, Daley Blind, Matthijs de Ligt, Stefan de Vrij, Denzel Dumfries, Patrick van Aanholt, Joel Veltman, Owen Wijndal. Midfielders: Frenkie de Jong, Marten de Roon, Ryan Gravenberch, Davy Klaassen, Teun Koopmeiners, Quincy Promes, Jurrien Timber, Donny van de Beek, Georginio Wijnaldum; Forwards: Steven Berghuis, Luuk de Jong, Memphis Depay, Cody Gakpo, Donyell Malen, Wout Weghorst
European Championship: Winners (1988)
STAR PLAYER: Memphis Depay
The forward is coming off the best scoring season of his four-plus years at Lyon, with 20 goals in the French league and is expected to join Barcelona once his contract expires at the end of this month. Depay is fleet-footed as well as being dangerous from free kicks and is a much more mature player from the one that struggled in a short spell at Manchester United from 2015-17.
COACH: Andriy Shevchenko
Goalkeepers: Georgiy Bushchan, Andriy Pyatov, Anatolii Trubin; Defenders: Oleksandr Karavaev, Serhiy Kryvtsov, Mykola Matviyenko, Vitaliy Mykolenko, Denys Popov, Eduard Sobol, Oleksandr Tymchyk, Illia Zabarnyi, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Midfielders: Roman Bezus, Yevhen Makarenko, Ruslan Malinovskyi, Marlos, Mykola Shaparenko, Taras Stepanenko, Heorhii Sudakov, Serhiy Sydorchuk, Viktor Tsygankov; Forwards: Artem Besedin, Artem Dovbyk, Roman Yaremchuk, Andriy Yarmolenko, Oleksandr Zubkov.
STAR PLAYER: Oleksandr Zinchenko
The central midfielder for Ukraine is preparing to captain his country for the first time at a major tournament. He has the experience of being a Premier League title winner with Manchester City and started this season’s Champions League final, with manager Pep Guardiola a fan of his positional play and ability on the ball in tight spaces.
COACH: Franco Foda
Goalkeepers: Daniel Bachmann, Pavao Pervan, Alexander Schlager; Defenders: David Alaba, Aleksandar Dragovic, Marco Friedl, Martin Hinteregger, Stefan Lainer, Philipp Lienhart, Stefan Posch, Andreas Ulmer; Midfielders: Julian Baumgartlinger, Christoph Baumgartner, Florian Grillitsch, Stefan Ilsanker, Konrad Laimer, Valentino Lazaro, Karim Onisiwo, Marcel Sabitzer, Louis Schaub, Xaver Schlager, Alessandro Schopf, Christopher Trimmel; Forwards: Marko Arnautovic, Michael Gregoritsch, Sasa Kalajdzic.
STAR PLAYER: David Alaba
He had been a key member of Bayern Munich’s defence. For Austria, he is mostly used as an attacking midfielder and doesn’t always carry his club form to the national team. With already a commitment to join Real Madrid after Euro 2020, spotlight will be on him.
COACH: Igor Angelovski
Goalkeepers: Stole Dimitrievski, Risto Jankov, Damjan Siskovski; Defenders: Egzijan Alioski, Egzon Bejtulai, Visar Musliu, Kire Ristevski, Stefan Ristovski, Darko Velkovski, Gjoko Zajkov; Midfielders: Arijan Ademi, Enis Bardi, Darko Churlinov, Eljif Elmas, Feran Hasani, Tihomir Kostadinov, Boban Nikolov, Milan Ristovski, Stefan Spirovski; Forwards: Daniel Avramovski, Goran Pandev, Marjan Radeski, Vlatko Stojanovski, Aleksandar Trajkovski, Ivan Tričkovski, Krste Velkovski
STAR PLAYER: Goran Pandev
The 37-year-old veteran scored the goal that earned North Macedonia a spot at Euro 2020, sparking wild celebrations ahead of the country’s first appearance at a major tournament. He was a striker with Inter Milan team that became the first Italian club to win the treble in 2010, claiming the league title, the cup and the Champions League and has now represented his country for 20 years.
England will meet familiar foes Croatia, seeking revenge for that 2018 World Cup semi-final defeat. They beat them in the Uefa Nations League and will hope for another favourable result but the highlight of this group is the renewal of relations with fierce rivals Scotland. Czech Republic will fancy their chances to get to the knockout stages but Gareth Southgate’s men are the favourites to top the lot and they should be followed by Croatia.
COACH: Gareth Southgate
Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson, Sam Johnstone, Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale. Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Chilwell, Conor Coady, Ben Godfrey, Reece James, Harry Maguire, Tyrone Mings, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Ben White. Midfielders: Jude Bellingham, Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice, James Ward-Prowse. Forwards: Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Mason Greenwood, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling, Ollie Watkins
World Cup: Winners (1966)
European Championship: Semi-finals (1968, 1996)
STAR PLAYER: Harry Kane
He was the Golden Boot winner at the 2018 World Cup and he should get more goals before a rumoured big money move from current club Tottenham to possibly Man City. Having got to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals before stumbling to Croatia, many are predicting England to go all the way in Euro 2020. Expectations are high, as always, but it will feel like a home tournament as they are playing all of their group matches at Wembley which should give them an advantage. Gareth Southgate has assembled a young, exciting squad and with the likes of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford, they sure have an attacking threat.
COACH: Zlatko Dalic
Goalkeepers: Lovre Kalinic, Dominik Livakovic, Simon Sluga. Defenders: Domagoj Vida, Dejan Lovren, Sime Vrsaljko, Borna Barisic, Duje Caleta-Car, Josip Juranovic, Domagoj Bradaric, Mile Skoric, Josko Gvardiol. Midfielders: Luka Modric (pictured), Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic, Milan Badelj, Mario Pasalic, Nikola Vlasic, Luka Ivanusec. Forwards: Ivan Perisic, Andrej Kramaric, Ante Rebic, Josip Brekalo, Bruno Petkovic, Mislav Orsic, Ante Budimir
World Cup: Runners-up (2018)
STAR PLAYER: Nikola Vlasic
He showed glimpses during his brief stint in the Premier League with Everton that he could go on to be a top player, and he now is. In fact Ivan Rakitic hung up his boots because of the CSKA Moscow man. Luka Modric is still rolling back the years in midfield and will be pulling the strings again, ably assisted by the defensive Marcelo Brozovic. Nikola Vlasic will provide a goal threat as will Bruno Petkovic. There is no doubt about it that Croatia will again be a force to be reckoned with.
COACH: Jaroslav Silhavy
Goalkeepers: Ales Mandous, Jiri Pavlenka, Tomas Vaclik. Defenders: Jan Boril, Jakub Brabec, Ondrej Celustka, Vladimir Coufal, Pavel Kaderabek, Tomas Kalas, Ales Mateju, David Zima. Midfielders: Antonin Barak, Vladimir Darida, Adam Hlozek, Tomas Holes, Jakub Jankto, Alex Kral, Lukas Masopust, Jakub Pesek, Tomas Soucek, Petr Sevcik. Forwards: Patrik Schick, Michael Krmencik, Matej Vydra, Tomas Pekhart
World Cup: Runners-up (1934, 1962)
European Championship: Runners-up (1996)
STAR PLAYER: Tomas Soucek
The West Ham man was arguably the buy of the season. Tall, energetic and with an eye for goal, the midfielder has flourished in the Premier League and will look to keep the good form going at Euro 2020. This is their seventh consecutive European Championship and given that just a handful of Czechs play for major European clubs, it is an incredible achievement. Coach Jaroslav Silhavy’s squad is built around team spirit and organisation but will that be enough if they are to progress to the knockout stages?
COACH: Steve Clarke
Goalkeepers: Craig Gordon, David Marshall, Jon McLaughlin. Defenders: Nathan Patterson, Stephen O’Donnell, Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Greg Taylor, Liam Cooper, Grant Hanley, Declan Gallagher, Scott McKenna, Jack Hendry. Midfielders: Billy Gilmour, Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay, Stuart Armstrong, John McGinn, John Fleck, David Turnbull. Forwards: Che Adams, James Forrest, Ryan Christie, Ryan Fraser, Lyndon Dykes, Kevin Nisbet
STAR PLAYER: Andy Robertson
The Liverpool left back has had a meteoric rise and is now one of the best in Europe. As captain of Scotland, a lot rests on his shoulders but he has the personality and ability to handle the pressure. It has been 22 years since Scotland last played at a major tournament (1998 World Cup) and they will want to do well in this, their third European Championship. Coach Steve Clarke has some talent in the squad with the likes of Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney and John McGinn. The clash with England will be massive.
Spain have won this tournament three times and been runners up once. They clearly like it and do well but their form since 2012 has been poor. Luis Enrique’s men are still the favourites to top the group and joining them in the last 16 should be Poland but Sweden will run them very close.
COACH: Luis Enrique
Goalkeepers: David De Gea (pictured), Unai Simon, Robert Sanchez. Defenders: Jose Gaya, Eric Garcia, Aymeric Laporte, Jordi Alba, Diego Llorente, Marcos Llorente, Cesar Azpilicueta. Midfielders: Fabian Ruiz, Pedri, Sergio Busquets, Rodri Hernandez, Koke, Marcos Llorente, Thiago Alcantara. Forwards: Dani Olmo, Mikel Oyarzabal, Ferran Torres, Gerard Moreno, Alvaro Morata, Adama Traore, Pablo Sarabia
Word Cup: Winners (2010)
European Championship: Winners (1964, 2008, 2012)
STAR PLAYER: Thiago Alcantara
In his first season in the Premier League the Liverpool man suffered with injury but showed flashes of his best towards the end of the campaign. The 30-year-old will bring some much needed experience to the squad which has a lot of young talent. Spain have gone three consecutive tournaments without winning a knockout game and the pressure will be on coach Luis Enrique to change that. They don’t seem to have a settled first eleven but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any good players, far from it in fact. Look out for Barcelona winger Pedri. He may only be 18, but he is already being touted as the future at Camp Nou.
COACH: Paulo Sousa
POLAND: Goalkeepers: Lukasz Fabianski, Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Skorupski. Defenders: Jan Bednarek, Bartosz Bereszynski, Pawel Dawidowicz, Kamil Glik, Michal Helik, Tomasz Kedziora, Kamil Piatkowski, Tymoteusz Puchacz, Maciej Rybus. Midfielders: Przemysław Frankowski, Kamil Jozwiak, Mateusz Klich, Kacper Kozlowski, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Karol Linetty, Jakub Moder, Przemyslaw Placheta, Piotr Zielinski. Forwards: Dawid Kownacki, Robert Lewandowski (pictured), Arkadiusz Milik, Karol Swiderski, Jakub Swierczok
World Cup: Semi-finals (1974, 1982)
STAR PLAYER: Robert Lewandowski
He may be getting on a bit but he is still a goalscoring machine and he is in the form of his life. How Poland get on will largely depend on how he performs. Coach Jerzy Brzeczek has rebuilt the squad with the addition of several new faces with a lot resting on the shoulders of 20-year-old winger Sebastian Szymanski. Krystian Bielik and Krzysztof Piatek have both had good seasons but they will need Lewandowski to fire if they have any hope of progressing.
COACH: Jane Andersson
Goalkeepers: Karl-Johan Johnsson, Kristoffer Nordfeldt, Robin Olsen. Defenders: Emil Krafth, Victor Lindelof, Marcus Danielson, Martin Olsson, Ludwig Augustinsson, Pontus Jansson, Filip Helander, Mikael Lustig, Andreas Granqvist. Midfielders: Emil Forsberg, Ken Sema, Viktor Claesson, Dejan Kulusevski, Sebastian Larsson, Albin Ekdal, Kristoffer Olsson, Jens-Lys Cajuste, Mattias Svanberg, Gustav Svensson. Forwards: Marcus Berg, Alexander Isak, Robin Quaison, Jordan Larsson
World Cup: Runners-up (1952)
European Championship: Semi-finals (1992)
STAR PLAYER: Sebastian Larsson
The veteran midfielder is approaching the twilight of his career but his experience will be crucial in helping the youngsters come through. Getting to the quarter finals of the 2018 World Cup was impressive and coach Janne Andersson will hope he can continue to build on that success. Mainz forward Robin Quaison is handy in front of goal and with Victor Lindelöf of Manchester United keeping it tight at the back, they may feel they can advance but losing Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be a major blow. But they have Jordan Larsson in attack – yes, son of the legendary Henrik.
COACH: Stefan Tarkovic
Goalkeepers: Martin Dubravka, Marek Rodak, Dusan Kuciak. Defenders: Peter Pekarik, Lubomir Satka, Denis Vavro, Milan Skriniar, Tomas Hubocan, Jakub Holubek. Midfielders: Marek Hamsik (pictured), Stanislav Lobotka, Patrik Hrosovsky, Juraj Kucka, Ondrej Duda, Robert Mak, Vladimir Weiss, Laszlo Benes, Lukas Haraslin, Tomas Suslov, Matus Bero, Erik Jirka. Forwards: Michal Duris, Robert Bozenik, David Strelec
STAR PLAYER: Marek Hamsik
For the past decade, midfielder Hamsik has been the standout Slovak player. Much will be expected of him again if Slovakia are to make it to the last 16 but at 33-years-old, can he rise to the occasion? Coach Stefan Tarkovic’s squad is captained by Hertha Berlin defender Peter Pekarik who has Inter Milan defender Milan Skriniar back there with him. They will deploy a defensive 4-1-4-1 formation and look to midfielder Stanislav Lobotka of Napoli to provide the spark while the flair will come from Hamsik - perhaps more so for his distinctive mohawk hairstyle!
How on Earth did serial winners France and Germany get lumped in the same group as defending champions Portugal? This is clearly the toughest group in terms of the sheer quality on offer from this trio of superstars. It could come down to moments of individual brilliance from players such as Kylian Mbappe (France), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Ilkay Gundogan (Germany) to decide who comes out on top.
COACH: Didier Deschamps
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris, Mike Maignan, Steve Mandanda. Defenders: Lucas Digne, Leo Dubois, Lucas Hernandez, Presnel Kimpembe, Jules Kounde, Clement Lenglet, Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Kurt Zouma. Midfielders: Ngolo Kante, Thomas Lemar, Paul Pogba, Adrien Rabiot, Moussa Sissoko, Corentin Tolisso. Forwards: Wissam Ben Yedder, Karim Benzema, Kingsley Coman, Ousmane Dembele, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Marcus Thuram
World Cup: Winners (1998, 2018)
European Championship: Winners (1984, 2000)
STAR PLAYER: Kylian Mbappe
Despite the depth of quality, especially with Karim Benzema back in the fold, the young striker is in a class of his own and is often likened to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in their heyday. He thrived in Russia when France won the World Cup in 2018 and he should rise to the top once again, with a more-mature 22-year-old head on his shoulders
COACH: Joachim Low
Goalkeepers: Bernd Leno, Manuel Neuer, Kevin Trapp. Defenders: Matthias Ginter, Robin Gosens, Christian Gunter, Marcel Halstenberg, Mats Hummels, Lukas Klostermann, Robin Koch, Antonio Rudiger, Niklas Sule. Midfielders: Emre Can, Leon Goretzka, Ilkay Gundogan, Kai Havertz, Jonas Hofmann, Joshua Kimmich, Toni Kroos, Florian Neuhaus. Forwards: Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller, Jamal Musiala, Timo Werner, Leroy Sane, Kevin Kolland
World Cup: Winners (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)
European Championship: Winners (1972, 1980, 1996)
STAR PLAYER: Joshua Kimmich
Again you are spoilt for choice with Germany, with the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Timo Werner, Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller all vying for a starting place. But young Kimmich gets the nod as he has hauled in the trophies with the Germans as he moved through the youth ranks and has proven himself as a seasoned winner and a strong leader with Bayern Munich at the age of 26 as he pulls the strings in the middle of the park, while regularly getting in on the goals too.
COACH: Marco Rossi
Goalkeepers: Peter Gulacsi, Adam Bogdan, Denes Dibusz, Balazs Toth. Defenders: Gergo Lovrencsics, Adam Lang, Attila Fiola, Willi Orban, Attila Szalai, Szilveszter Hangya, Endre Botka, Akos Kecskes, Bendeguz Bolla, Csaba Spandler. Midfielders: Adam Nagy, Laszlo Kleinheisler, Filip Holender, David Siger, Dominik Szoboszlai, Loic Nego, Daniel Gazdag, Andras Schafer, Tamas Cseri. Forwards: Adam Szalai, Nemanja Nikolic, Roland Sallai, Roland Varga, Kevin Varga, Janos Hahn, Szabolcs Schon
World Cup: Runners-up (1938, 1954)
European Championship: Semi-finals (1964)
STAR PLAYER: Adam Szalai
You have to feel for poor Hungary being lumped in with there three giants in Group F. Much of the pressure to deliver an upset will be on 33-year-old captain Szalai. The striker has done well for Hungary, but has suffered a slump in form with club Mainz this season.
COACH: Fernando Santos
Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes, Rui Patricio, Rui Silva. Defenders: Joao Cancelo, Nelson Semedo, Jose Fonte, Pepe, Ruben Dias, Nuno Mendes, Raphael Guerreiro. Midfielders: Danilo Pereira, Joao Palhinha, Ruben Neves, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Moutinho, Renato Sanches, Sergio Oliveira, William Carvalho. Forwards: Pedro Goncalves, Andre Silva, Bernardo Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diogo Jota, Goncalo Guedes, Joao Felix, Rafa Silva
World Cup: Semi-finals (1996, 2006)
European Championship: Winners (2016)
STAR PLAYER: Cristiano Ronaldo
There is only one man Portugal turn to at major competitions. Ronaldo has shattered many records over the past two decades in the game and continues to add to his tally — both with Portugal and domestically with Juventus after years of success at Real Madrid and Manchester United. He is as driven as ever as he attempts to chase down Iran’s Ali Daei’s all-time international goal record on 109 (Ronny is on 103 for Portugal). While his 36-year-old bones may be beginning to creak, the host of youthful stars in the squad such as Ruben Dias, Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix, might just help him pass Daei’s milestone at the Euros.
WHO WILL WIN? VIEW FROM THE GULF NEWS EXPERTS
Shyam A. Krishna, Senior Associate Editor
It’s not easy to overlook talented France and star-studded Belgium when picking the Euro 2020 winners. But my vote goes to Germany, simply because they have always been standout performers on the big stage.
Forget the 2018 World Cup blowout and the misery that followed. Germans have the talent and the skill to lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy this year.
In Joachim Loew, they have a coach who have hauled Germany from the dumps of 2006 to the World Cup pinnacle in 2014. After the World Cup debacle in Russia, he has rebuilt the German side with a bunch of talented players, and the Euro qualification run has been encouraging. So it shouldn’t be a surprise if they win their first Euro since 1996.
The Germans are in Group F, dubbed the group of death, where they will have to scrap it out with World Cup winners France and defending champions Portugal. But they will prevail. History tells us that.
Gautam Bhattacharyya, Senior Associate Editor
After the golden generation of Spain won three back-to-back major championships in Euro 2008, the Fifa World Cup (2010) and Euro 2012, Didier Deschamps’ France look the most well-equipped to emulate them in the upcoming edition of Euro 2020.
It’s difficult to match the all-round strength of the Les Bleus, and Deschamps will still be hurting when it turned out to be case of so-near-yet-so-far against a resolute Portugal in 2016.
Football guru Arsene Wenger went ahead a step further to call his country “super favourites” – claiming they are the only European team whose bench strength can make up a second team of the same depth.
However, with the unique concept of 11 countries playing hosts, it looks a more level playing field this edition – do don’t rule out any surprises. Belgium’s golden generation is getting older and need to do better than their third place finish in the last World Cup and Gareth Southgate’s England look a very promising team – man for man.
Other European football aristocrats such as Germany, Spain, Italy and Portugal are also among the odds-on favourites. Who will be the last man standing? We will know in a month’s time.
Matthew Smith, Sports Editor
My gut tells me to not go for the defending champions, as we have witnessed some mighty falls from grace in recent times by title-holders in major competitions, including France, Argentina and Germany. However, Portugal fans are simply purring when they look at the depth in their squad to complement their captain, hero and all-round superman Cristiano Ronaldo. Any one of Ruben Dias, Bruno Fernandes or Joao Felix could, would and should be the star attraction of most teams in the world — put them together and this is a formidable prospect. Never one to be shy of promoting himself on the ego-stroking stage, Ronaldo also has Iran’s Ali Daei’s all-time international scoring record in his sights. If he can snatch seven goals in this tournament, that is one more thing for him to brag about.
Imran Malik, Assistant Editor
With a squad overflowing with quality, France are being tipped heavily to go all the way - and that was before the late addition of Karim Benzema. But, just a good squad does not guarantee success. Desire plays an equally huge part and it is crunch time for Belgium’s golden generation now. They came third in the 2018 World Cup and this may be last chance of international glory for the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazzard - the latter who at times looks a shadow of his former self. But if they can keep him injury free, he can still be a match winner. On paper at least, they should storm their group which means they will then face a third-placed team in the last 16. It will be an easy ride up until the quarter finals for Roberto Martinez’s side, and that’s when the veterans have to finally come good. They may no longer be a swashbuckling side, but they are still a handful.
Mark Rix, Commercial Director
Who will win? The Three Lions of course! There are three simple reasons for this:
1. Well it’s high time football came home (European football at least).
2. Fifty five years have passed since we last raised a trophy and, considering all three of the team’s group games will be played at home in Wembley Stadium, with a good chunk of physical supporters in attendance, that has got to be a solid foundation for success. Add to that the fact that England escaped the ‘group of death’ and avoid playing early matches against European Champions Portugal, the old enemy Germany and World Champions France (Hungary won’t be getting out of that group) and it all bodes well to start with. Mind you, if we win the group, the last-16 tie would be against the runner up in that group. We’ll be nicely warmed up by then.
3. As far as the group stages go, Scotland don’t have the firepower to prevail at Wembley, nor I suspect do the Czech Republic. The worry may be in the opening game against Croatia on June 18. After all, they defeated England in the 2018 World Cup semi-final. Even finishing second in Group D is OK but that would see a potential tie in Copenhagen against Group E’s runner up, which could be Spain.
This is the best squad England has assembled for many a year and I believe the Three Lions are ready to roar!
Sahil Sajan, Football enthusiast and Gulf News contributor
The defending champions are my favorites to win the Euros as they have a huge talent in every position. I couldn’t say the same for the 2016 European Championship, as they were dark horses, but still they managed to grind there way through the competition and then defeated France in the final.
Almost each and every players in the Portuguese squad has had a great season for their respective club. Obviously, the main man will be Cristiano Ronaldo, who has always been irreplaceable for his country - not only because of his performances, but also his leadership qualities immensely help the whole squad.
Bruno Fernandes has been a crucial player for Manchester United and has showcased how important he can be for the squad, it will be interesting to see what he can do for Portugal. Joao Felix, Bruno Fernandes, Ruben Dias and Diogo Jota are also a big threat.
Yousra Zaki, Assistant Editor - Features
This is Germany’s time to make a great comeback. However, they have some tough competition in their group this time around - a clash with France, followed by a match with Portugal and then the dark horses Hungary. But I am confident that this team will pull together and come out on top. It also helps that it is Joachim Lowe’s last time coaching the side after 12 years in charge, so I am sure he will want to go out with a bang. Three years ago their confidence shattered when they lost 2-0 to South Korea and got kicked out of the World Cup. I feel like they are back with a vengeance and with a point to prove.
Omar Shariff, International Editor
Belgium are in great form entering the Euros, having scored 40 goals in the qualifiers. In fact, they are currently the highest-ranked team in the world - more experienced and confident than when they missed out at the Russia 2018 World Cup. Manager Roberto Martínez has had time to hone his tactics. But a big question mark will exist on the fitness of three of their big guns - Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Alex Witsel, who are all recovering from recent injuries. But if they are fit, they will be able to count on help from new talents, such as Youri Tielemans – who just had a great season with Leicester - Jason Denayer and Jeremy Doku. In Thibault Courtois, the team arguably has the best goalkeeper in the tournament. Overall, the team is more mature with Lukaku finishing best player of the Italian Serie A, and Dries Mertens breaking Diego Maradona’s scoring record in Napoli this year. On top of this they have arguably the world’s best midfielder and playmaker in Manchester City’s De Bruyne, the newly crowned English Premier League Player of the Year.
Friday June 11
Group A: Turkey vs Italy; Kick-off 11pm (Rome)
Saturday June 12
Group A: Wales vs Switzerland; Kick-off 5pm (Baku)
Group B: Denmark vs Finland; Kick-off 8pm (Copenhagen)
Group B: Belgium vs Russia; Kick-off 9pm (St Petersburg)
Sunday June 13
Group D: England vs Croatia; Kick-off 5pm (London)
Group C: Austria vs North Macedonia; Kick-off 8pm (Bucharest)
Group C: Netherlands vs Ukraine; Kick-off 11pm (Amsterdam)
Monday June 14
Group D: Scotland vs Czech Republic; Kick-off 5pm (Glasgow)
Group E: Poland vs Slovakia; Kick-off 8pm (St Petersburg)
Group E: Spain vs Sweden; Kick-off 11pm (Seville)
Tuesday June 15
Group F: Hungary vs Portugal; Kick-off 8pm (Budapest)
Group F: France vs Germany; Kick-off 11pm (Munich)
Wednesday June 16
Group B: Finland vs Russia: Kick-off 5pm (St Petersburg)
Group A: Turkey vs Wales: Kick-off 8pm (Baku)
Group A: Italy vs Switzerland; Kick-off 11pm (Rome)
Thursday June 17
Group C: Ukraine vs North Macedonia; Kick-off 5pm (Bucharest)
Group B: Denmark vs Belgium; Kick-off 8pm (Copenhagen)
Group C: Netherlands vs Austria; Kick-off 11pm (Amsterdam)
Friday June 18
Group E: Sweden vs Slovakia; Kick-off 5pm (St Petersburg)
Group D: Croatia vs Czech Republic; Kick-off 8pm (Glasgow)
Group D: England vs Scotland; Kick-off 11pm (London)
Saturday June 19
Group F: Hungary vs France; Kick-off 5pm (Budapest)
Group F: Portugal vs Germany; Kick-off 8pm (Munich)
Group E: Spain vs Poland; Kick-off 11pm (Seville)
Sunday June 20
Group A: Italy vs Wales; Kick-off 8pm (Rome)
Group A: Switzerland vs Turkey; Kick-off 8pm (Baku)
Monday June 21
Group C: North Macedonia vs Netherlands; Kick-off 8pm (Amsterdam)
Group C: Ukraine vs Austria; Kick-off 8pm (Bucharest)
Group B: Russia vs Denmark; Kick-off 11pm (Copenhagen)
Group B: Finland vs Belgium; Kick-off 11pm (St Petersburg)
Tuesday June 22
Group D: Czech Republic vs England; Kick-off 11pm (London)
Group D: Croatia vs Scotland; Kick-off 11pm (Glasgow)
Wednesday June 23
Group E: Slovakia vs Spain; Kick-off 8pm (Seville)
Group E: Sweden vs Poland; Kick-off 8pm (St Petersburg)
Group F: Germany vs Hungary; Kick-off 11pm (Munich)
Group F: Portugal vs France; Kick-off 11pm (Budapest)
The knockouts - Round of 16
Saturday June 26
Game 1: Group A runners-up vs Group B runners-up; Kick-off 8pm (Amsterdam)
Game 2: Group A winners vs Group C runners-up; Kick-off 11pm (London)
Sunday June 27
Game 3: Group C winners vs third-placed side from Group D/E/F; Kick-off 8pm (Budapest)
Game 4: Group B winners vs third-placed side from Group A/D/E/F; Kick-off 11pm (Seville)
Monday June 28
Game 5: Group D runners-up vs Group E runners-up; Kick-off 8pm (Copenhagen)
Game 6: Group F winners vs third-placed side from Group A/B/C; Kick-off 11pm (Bucharest)
Tuesday June 29
Game 7: Group D winners vs Group F runners-up; Kick-off 8pm (London)
Game 8: Group E winners vs third-placed side Group A/B/C/D; Kick-off 11pm (Glasgow)
Friday July 2
Quarter-final 1: Game 6 winner vs Game 5 winner; Kick-off 8pm (St Petersburg)
Quarter-final 2: Game 4 winner vs Game 2 winner; Kick-off 11pm (Munich)
Saturday July 3
Quarter-final 3: Game 3 winner vs Game 1 winner; Kick-off 8pm (Baku)
Quarter-final 4: Game 8 winner vs Game 7 winner; Kick-off 11pm (Rome)
Tuesday July 6
Semi-final 1: Quarter-final 2 winner vs Quarter-final 1 winner; Kick-off 11pm (Wembley, London)
Wednesday July 7
Semi-final 2: Quarter-final 4 winner vs Quarter-final 3 winner; Kick-off 11pm (Wembley, London)
Sunday July 11
Kick-off 11pm (Wembley, London)