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Contenders and pretenders for EURO title

UEFA EURO 2020: Who are the favorites to win the title?

June 11, 2021 By Michelle Bonsu
The EURO tournament is finally here after a long wait, and there will be 23 other teams hoping to deny reigning champs Portugal the opportunity to retain their title.

It's a year later than expected, but EURO 2020 is finally upon us. This iteration of the highly-anticipated tournament will be unlike any other, with 24 teams playing 51 games in 11 diverse cities across 11 different UEFA nations. As they follow the month-long competition, eagerly awaiting to see who will be crowned the newest champions of Europe, fans will literally be taken across the entire continent, as games will be played cities ranging from London all the way to far-flung Baku, Azerbaijan.

One question on everyone's mind is obviously: Who will win? That's a question that in some regards is easy to answer, and in some ways, not so easy. We do know that really, there are some teams who have no shot at getting anywhere near the winners' podium. Yes, Greece did manage to shock everyone and win it in 2004, so there is the possibility that a minnow could really upset proceedings this time around.

Shock results aside, though, there are some clear favorites to win the title come July 11th. Let's have a look at some of these teams and some stats as to their chances of winning the coveted prize.

France

FIFA rank: 2

Number of EURO titles won: 2 (1984, 2000)

Result from 2016: Runners-up

Possible starting XI: Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Kimpembe, Hernández; Kanté, Pogba, Rabiot, Griezmann; Benzema, Mbappé

France come into this competition as reigning World Cup champions, but Les Bleus will be really hoping to avenge their EURO 2016 loss. Five years ago, Didier Deschamps's men were hosting the event only to lose on home soil as Portugal came out on top in the final. It's safe to say they'll be hoping to get revenge on Cristiano Ronaldo and his colleagues in a highly anticipated group stage clash that fans and neutrals alike will be looking forward to.

Speaking of highly anticipated group stage clashes, France will also have another tricky test, with Germany also in their quartet, but with players like N'Golo Kante and Kylian Mbappe in their ranks, not to mention Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, and Paul Pogba, it's easy to see why Les Bleus are the top favorites to win the big prize this summer.

Oh, and let's not forget that Deschamps opted to recall Real Madrid ace Karim Benzema back into the fold after a six year absence, making their already potent attack that much more fearsome. France have lost just one game in their last 20 ties, a surprise reversal to EURO debutants Finland. And that really counts for little, as even juggernauts do have an off day every now and then. 

England

FIFA rank: 4

Number of EURO titles won: 0

Result from 2016: Round of 16

Possible starting XI: Pickford; Walker, Stones, Mings, Chilwell; Phillips, Rice, Mount; Sterling, Kane, Rashford

England enjoyed a very impressive 2018 World Cup, and were within a whisker of reaching the final only to see their dreams ended by surprise package Croatia. A final featuring France versus England would have been ideal, indeed, but sometimes fans can't always get what they want. Who knows, maybe we may see that this summer at Wembley. The Three Lions will look to make amends for their early exit at EURO 2016, where they were dumped out in a rather embarrassing fashion by debutant side Iceland in the round of 16.

Gareth Southgate's side have a lot of promise, but have a lack of experience as well. Manchester City's Kyle Walker, at 31, is the team's "senior citizen". In fact, there are only three players 30 years and older, and there are actually two teenagers in the squad, Dortmund's Jude Bellingham, who's only 17, and Arsenal's Bukayo Saka, who's 19. Senior players Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson, both of whom featured at the 2018 World Cup have suffered injuries recently and the overwhelming lack of tournament experience is a major concern, especially if England have to play a team like Belgium, France, Portugal, Italy, or Germany in the round of 16.

That being said, they do have an amazing wealth of attacking talent at their disposal that could give any of those aforementioned sides a run for their money. In addition, England could end up playing most of their games on home turf as many of the latter ties - including the showpiece final - will be staged at Wembley.

Italy

FIFA rank: 7

Number of EURO titles won: 1 (1968)

Result from 2016: Quarter-Finals

Possible starting XI: Donnarumma; Florenzi, Bonucci, Chiellini, Spinazzola; Barella, Jorginho, Locatelli; Berardi, Immobile, Insigne

Italy were flawless during qualifiers and will be really keen on making their mark at this summer's tournament. After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup - the first time the Azzurri didn't feature in 60 years - Roberto Mancini has seen a total overhaul of the team. They're unbeaten in their last 27 across all competitions and are looking to prove they are finally back among the top sides in Europe. One big advantage going for Italy is they will play all their group stage ties on home turf - literally.

All three games will be at the Stadio Olimpico, giving the Azzurri a huge home pitch advantage. However, one glaring issue is their two key strikers, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, have no problems scoring for their respective clubs, Lazio and Napoli, but have not exactly set the pitch alight so far for the national team. If they can find their shooting boots this summer, coupled with a strong showing from the evergreen duo Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in the heart of the Azzurri defense, Italy just may be able to prove to be a real force to be reckoned with.

Belgium

FIFA rank: 1

Number of EURO titles won: 0

Result from 2016: Quarter-Finals

Possible starting XI: Courtois; Alderweireld, Denayer, Vertonghen; Meunier, Castagne, Dendoncker, Tielemans; E. Hazard, Carrasco; Lukaku

Like the Azzurri, Belgium cruised through their EURO 2020 qualifying rounds with a perfect 10 out of 10. Although there are major fitness worries about the talismanic duo of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, which could see head coach Roberto Martinez make a major tactical switch ahead of the group stages, the Red Devils do have a very deep bench. Hazard did return to the fold for a late cameo during Belgium's 1-0 win over Croatia, so it's very possible he could feature in the starting XI against Russia in his team's opener.

Furthermore, they have a pretty comfortable group, facing Denmark, Russia, and debutants Finland, which they should be able to navigate without much fuss, and should they be able to fully recover Hazard and De Bruyne in time for the knockout rounds, the world's number 1 side will be in even better stead to win their first title this summer and finally assert why they deserve that top ranking.

Portugal

FIFA rank: 5

Number of EURO titles won: 1 (2016)

Result from 2016: Champions

Possible starting XI: Rui Patrício; João Cancelo, Rúben Dias, Pepe, Guerreiro; Danilo, William, Bruno Fernandes; Bernardo Silva, Ronaldo, Diogo Jota

The reigning champions have had their ups and downs since winning their first title in 2016, but they are still the side to beat. Fernando Santos's men did win the inaugural Nations League tournament in 2019 and finished third at their first ever Confederations Cup appearance in 2017.  Furthermore, Cristiano Ronaldo may be 36 years old, but he's coming into this tournament having won his first Capocannoniere, beating players like Romelu Lukaku to the coveted prize.

 

Ronaldo wasn't able to fire Juventus to their tenth straight Scudetto, but he still had a strong campaign in front of goal on a personal level, and the five-time Ballon d'Or winner will have an excellent supporting cast with players like Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes, Manchester City's Bernardo Silva and Atletico Madrid's Joao Felix supplying him all over the pitch. And that's not to mention Premier League Player of the Year, Ruben Dias holding down the fort in the back. Portugal do face a very tough group stage campaign with Germany and France, but if they can navigate through, they just may set themselves up nicely to become the second team to successfully defend their EURO crown.

But what about...

Some may ask, "What about Germany?" And some may demand to know why Spain wasn't on this list.

They are legitimate questions. Both die Mannschaft and La Roja are the most decorated sides in this competition, with three wins each. Spain are also the only side to have won back to back titles, in 2008 and 2012.

However, Germany are in a very tough group, with World Cup winners France and reigning EURO champions Portugal for company. And Joachim Low's side didn't exactly impress in the run-up to this competition. It's going to be a real scramble between Germany, France, and Portugal for the top two sides, as all three teams will beat Hungary without fuss - barring a shocking result.

Germany have also won just six of their last 13 matches, and it wasn't too long ago that they lost 6-0 to Spain. They also suffered a rather embarrassing loss to North Macedonia, so while Low has decided to go back to the drawing board and bring in veterans like Mats Hummels and Thomas Muller to balance the team, the verdict is still very much out on what to expect from die Mannschaft. Of course, they shouldn't be discounted as they are a top side, but currently have slipped out of the top ten (presently 12th) heading into this competition, so EURO 2020 just may not be the stage in which Germany are set to announce themselves.

As for Spain, Luis Enrique did raise quite a few eyebrows when he opted not to call any Real Madrid players. That includes veteran Sergio Ramos. La Roja have also won just three of their last eight games, and it's clear that their once innovative "tiki-taka" style that bewitched opponents and brought them success has been found out a long time ago and no longer has that same effect. Of course, Spain have tried to move away from that and revamp things, but they come into this having drawn teams like Ukraine and lost to Greece, so confidence isn't exactly high about what they can achieve this summer.


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