Here is the second part of our quick guide to the teams participating in this year’s European Championship.
Photo via Reuters
GROUP D – England, Croatia, Scotland, Czech Republic
Players to watch: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Phil Foden (Man City), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
What you need to know: The Three Lions are favourites to make it into the knockout rounds, and will be hard to stop with a strong attack led by the EPL’s Golden Boot winner Kane. Their biggest problem though is in defence, with the injured Harry Maguire still doubtful…while they’re also lacking a world-class keeper.
Players to watch: Luka Modrić (Real Madrid), Ivan Perišić (Inter Milan)
What you need to know: A hard-working side, the 2018 World Cup runners-up are also favourites to safely make it out of the group stage. Modric will once again be pulling the strings…and holds the key to Croatia’s fortunes.
Players to watch: Andy Robertson (Liverpool), Kieran Tierney (Arsenal), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), Ché Adams (Southampton)
What you need to know: Solid in defence and midfield, but an inexperienced attack could be their undoing. Their matches against Croatia and the Czech Republic in front of their home fans at Hampden Park will be key to whether they progress from the group.
Players to watch: Tomáš Souček (West Ham United), Alex Král (Spartak Moscow), Patrik Schick (Bayer Leverkusen)
What you need to know: A physically imposing side led by the six-foot-four Souček. The Czechs are a little inexperienced in defence, but make up for it with a pacey attack. Potential dark horses.
GROUP E – Spain, Sweden, Poland, Slovakia
Players to watch: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Rodri (Manchester City), Thiago (Liverpool), Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid), Ferran Torres (Manchester City)
What you need to know: This will be Spain’s first major competition without a single player from Real Madrid, which means no Sergio Ramos, Marco Asensio or Isco.
However, a strong midfield marshalled by Thiago and Busquets, as well as a dangerous attack with Morata and Torres should be enough to see them out of the group. Much will depend on when Busquets will be able to return, after contracting Covid-19.
Players to watch: Dejan Kulusevski (Juventus), Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig), Alexander Isak (Real Sociedad)
What you need to know: There will be no Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but the Swedes have brought along a youthful, well-rounded and pacey team. The only question mark is whether Kulusevski can return in time from his Covid-19 infection to make an impact.
Players to watch: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Piotr Zielinski (Napoli)
What you need to know: Lewandowski is arguably the most lethal striker on the planet at the moment, and he will carry the Polish hopes on his shoulders. The success of their campaign also depends on whether the rest of the squad can step up and provide Lewandowski with the support he needs.
Players to watch: Milan Skriniar (Inter Milan), Marek Hamsik (IFK Göteborg)
What you need to know: Slovakia made the knockout round in 2016 and will be hoping for a repeat this year. It won’t be easy, though, with their lack of an experienced strikeforce. They are considered outsiders, but could pull off a few surprises.
GROUP F – Portugal (Champions), France, Germany, Hungary
Players to watch: Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), Diogo Jota (Liverpool), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
What you need to know: All eyes will be on Ronaldo as they look to defend their title, but Portugal are far from being a one-man team…with the likes of Silva, Jota and Fernandes all capable of doing plenty of damage.
At 36, this could be Ronaldo’s last European Championship, but it also marks the beginning of a potentially new golden generation for the Portuguese national team.
Players to watch: Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Ngolo Kante (Chelsea), Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
What you need to know: The reigning world champions will be looking to add the European trophy to their cabinet as well, and they have a star-studded team to do it.
The squad has chemistry and incredible depth in each department, and are overwhelming favourites not just to make the knockout rounds, but to go on and win the tournament.
Players to watch: Timo Werner (Chelsea), Kai Havertz (Chelsea), Thomas Müller (Bayern Munich), Ilkay Gündoğan (Manchester City), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich)
What to look out for: This is another team with plenty of squad depth, oozing a blend of experience and youth. It will be the perfect opportunity for them to bounce back from their disastrous 2018 World Cup and recent Nations League campaigns.
Definitely one of the tournament favourites, if they can get their act together.
Players to watch: Ádám Szalai (Mainz), Willi Orbán (Leipzig)
What you need to know: Many have already written off Hungary’s chances, what with such tough opponents. But they could potentially play kingmakers in determining who tops the group.
Two of the group matches will be held in Budapest, and with the home support…don’t rule out the Magyars potentially causing an upset or two.
By: Nicholas Darren John