Euro 2020 Preview: who do we have high hopes for?

With the draw for the group stage of Euro 2020 having taken place on Saturday, the Courier's sports writers take you through the runners and riders for next year's competition.

Dominic Lee
28th November 2019
Image: wikimedia, Portugal lift the Euro 2016 trophy

Portugal- Dominic Lee

Despite finishing second in qualification Group B after a 2-1 defeat to Ukraine, Portugal have to fancy their chances of retaining the Euros come 2020. Portugal have a strong cohort of young players including Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix who impressed early on in the season despite not racking up the goals. The team also have a good Premier League core including Diogo Jota and Ruben Neves of Wolves and Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva.

However, it is in defence where the Portuguese could struggle as an ageing and reckless Pepe leaves them weak in the centre of defence. The team may also be relying too much on a 34-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo. CR7 has 11 goals in 8 games of qualification, which accounts for half of Portugal’s 22 goals.

Nonetheless, despite mixed performances Portugal become a different team come tournament time. They are hugely resilient and can be an annoying team to play against because they are so hard to beat. They showed this toughness during the Nations League tournament where they defeated The Netherlands in the final, edging out a hard fought game to win 1-0.

Despite this, I don’t think the Portuguese have quite enough to compete against more attacking teams like England and France, who will likely cause problems for their ageing defence. Still, Portugal have proven time and time again that they are the true dark horses of international tournaments and can never be counted out.

England- Joe Smith

After a less than underwhelming performance in the 2016 Euro’s it’s hard to get excited about the tournament as an England supporter, but after a particularly enjoyable and promising display of football in the 2018 World Cup and a lot of new young hopefuls contending for the squad, 2020 might just be England’s year.

My prediction for England sadly doesn’t involve them winning the tournament, but I can see them reaching the semis after a fairly strong campaign. I’d say England’s greatest strength is their strikers. Kane, Rashford and Sterling will most likely be England’s top players in the competition, with the hopeful addition of England newcomers Tammy Abraham and Jadon Sancho who will almost certainly be on the bench and hopefully on the pitch.

England’s weakness lies in their defence. Key player Harry Maguire can’t be expected to carry England’s defence on his shoulders and John Stones hasn’t been at his best for some time. This is where Trent Alexander-Arnold comes in. He’s done wonders at Liverpool and will play an essential role as England’s right-back. As far as other defensive players are concerned Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier, Joe Gomez and Tyrone Mings could be the saving graces.

As for the midfield, it’s almost certain that it will be fronted by the usual suspect Jordan Henderson, with the possibility of Mason Mount and Fabian Delph with Jesse Lingard helping him out depending on how attacking Southgate wants his midfield to be.

Of course Jordan Pickford will be in goal with the possibility of Tom Heaton being his replacement on the bench, but I don’t think he’ll be needed.

France- Sesha Subramanian

The French team enters Euro 2020 off the back of a successful World Cup in Russia in 2018. The core of the side that played that tournament still remains and could well repeat their exploits.

Their obvious strength is upfront where they could have the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Kingsley Coman lining up behind Olivier Giroud. While Giroud may not seem like the man to lead the line, he is an integral part of the French team and his presence allows the likes of Mbappe and Griezmann to play around him.

In midfield, Paul Pogba will once again pair up with the industrious N'Golo Kante. They may also be supported by Blaise Matuidi. Pogba has found the freedom to play as he likes when he has played alongside Kante and Matuidi and he is going to be key to unlocking the potential of this French team.

Further back is a little bit of a weakness that teams might look to exploit. Options are aplenty for the fullback positions with the likes of Lucas Digne, Lucas Hernandez, Benjamin Mendy and Benjamin Pavard but it is at centre-back where, barring Raphael Varane, France have not been as convincing - a situation not helped by the fact that Varane himself is not as imposing as he was two years ago.

Hugo Lloris is again likely to be both captain and first choice goalkeeper, but he does make a fair few errors himself. However, the French team is so good going forward that he may be bailed out every time.

Wales- James Lee McDonald

Wales secured their place at the 2020 Euros after defeating Hungary 2-0 in November. Two goals scored by Aaron Ramsay secured the victory, and made him as Wales’ joint top scorer in qualifying, alongside Wigan Athletics Kieffer Moore.

Ahead of the 2020 Euros, Wales have introduced even more fresh talent into their ranks. Emerging prospect Daniel James has bagged 3 Premier League goals so far this season, and got Wales’ Euro campaign off to a winning start, after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Slovakia. Ethan Ampadu is another quality addition with Champions League experience under his belt.

The groups for the 2020 Euros are to be drawn next Saturday (30th November). Out of the groups which could be constructed from the draw, the most favourable for Wales would consist of Ukraine, Switzerland and Czech Republic.

Despite the outcome of the draw, Wales should look to build on their previous performances in the competition. They should withdraw confidence from earning a point against Croatia in October, as they proved to be tough competition for the 2018 World Cup finalists. Wales are a long way off from being considered favourites to win the Euros, but they should feel optimistic going into the competition.

With serial winners such as Bale and Ramsay, Wales will have wholehearted intentions of progressing beyond the group stage. They have a good balance of experience and emerging talent and could spring a surprise and potentially mirror what they achieved in 2016.

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