After a year’s delay due to the pandemic, Euro 2020 finally kicks off this weekend!
To help you prepare, here’s the first part of our quick guide to the participating teams, their groupings as well as what (and who) to look out for over the course of the tournament.
GROUP A – Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, Wales
Players to watch: Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo)
What you need to know: Defence is once again the Italian’s biggest strength, led by Juventus duo Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci at the back. Immobile and Insigne are both proven goalscorers at club level and will be looking to bring their form over to the national side as well.
One of the favourites to make it into the knockout rounds.
Players to watch: Xherdan Shaqiri (Liverpool), Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Fabian Schär (Newcastle)
What you need to know: The Swiss don’t play pretty football, but they know how to grind out results. Shaqiri, Xhaka and Schär may be key figures for the national team, but at club level this Premiership trio has been overlooked by their respective sides. How they perform will determine how far Switzerland progresses at the Euros.
Players to watch: Ozan Kabak (Liverpool), Çağlar Söyüncü (Leicester) Hakan Çalhanoğlu (AC Milan), Cengiz Ünder (Leicester)
What you need to know: Turkey are the dark horses of the group, and the only team in Group A not in the top 20 of FIFA’s world rankings.
But the Turks will not be easy opponents, boasting the joint-best defensive record in the qualifying rounds.
Players to watch: Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur), Aaron Ramsey (Juventus), Harry Wilson (Liverpool), Daniel James (Manchester United), Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
What to know: Their biggest strength is their mix of experience and youth, with veterans Bale and Ramsey leading the side alongside a younger crop of Premiership up and comers like Wilson and James.
However, it remains to be seen how the Welsh will cope with the absence of head coach Ryan Giggs, who was recently arrested on assault charges.
GROUP B – Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Russia
Players to watch: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan)
What you need to know: The Belgians are the top-ranked team in the world, the won all 10 of their qualifying matches, and they have one of the most impressive squads at the tournament.
However, it remains to be seen if De Bruyne and Hazard can overcome their injuries in time to make an impact.
Nevertheless, they are definitely one of the favourites.
Players to watch: Glen Kamara (Rangers), Teemu Pukki (Norwich)
What you need to know: Not a country known for their football ability, and yet they’ve done well enough to qualify for their first major international tournament.
Striker Teemu Pukki is on a hot-streak for club and country, and his goals will be vital to their chances.
Don’t rule out an upset or two from the Finns.
Players to watch: Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester), Simon Kjær (AC Milan), Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (Tottenham), Christian Eriksen (Inter Milan), Martin Braithwaite (Barcelona)
What you need to know: With the solid Schmeichel in goal, Eriksen in midfield and Braithwaite in attack…the Danes could prove to be the dark horses of Group B. They will definitely fancy their chances of making it into the knockout rounds.
Players to watch: Mario Fernandes (CSKA Moskva), Aleksei Miranchuk (Atalanta)
What you need to know: The Russians will be fielding a relatively youthful side, especially in midfield. With the right system and a bit of luck, they are more than capable of holding their own. It will likely come down to either Russia or Denmark advancing into the knockout rounds alongside Belgium.
GROUP C – Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, North Macedonia
Players to watch: Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool), Memphis Depay (Lyon)
What you need to know: The biggest talking point for the Dutch will be the absence of injured central defender Virgil van Dijk. With the likes of de Jong, Wijnaldum and Depay they are still a strong squad on paper, but much will depend on how they cope without van Dijk.
Players to watch: Oleksandr Zinchenko (Manchester City), Taras Stepanenko (Shakhtar Donetsk), Ruslan Malinovskyi (Atalanta), Andriy Yarmolenko (West Ham)
What you need to know: The Ukrainians are spoilt for choice in midfield, with many of them coming into the tournament on the back of good performances for their clubs. Their defence, though, can be shaky…while they’re also not the most convincing in attack.
Players to watch: David Alaba (Bayern Munich), Marko Arnautović (Shanghai Port)
What you need to know: Alaba’s performance alone could make or break the team’s chances at the Euros, he is that important a player. There are also plenty of question marks surrounding the Austrian attack. Their saving grace could end up being the depth of their squad.
Players to watch: Ezdzan Alioski (Leeds), Goran Pandev (Genoa)
What you need to know: Not the most defensively sound team at the tournament, but they are no slouches when it comes to creating chances, either.
This is their maiden major tournament, and while some may say they are merely playing for pride…you can never underestimate a side that has nothing to lose.
By: Nicholas Darren John