With the club football season fully concluded, International football is set to take centre stage next weekend. This time, the biggest boys will be representing their national teams at the Euro 2020. It promises plenty of excitement for the fans.
In celebration of its 60th anniversary, the competition will be hosted in 11 stadiums in 11 cities across Europe.
France, Germany, Spain, England and Belgium will be looking to dethrone the defending Champions, Portugal. Newcomers, Finland and North Macedonia will hope to push their luck and go as far as possible.
Italy, Switzerland, Turkey and Wales make up group A. The Azzurris have been tagged as the dark horses of the tournament.
After missing out on the 2018 World Cup, it was clear that they had to rebuild from scratch. They appointed Roberto Mancini who has come in and changed the fortunes of the team.
In the qualifiers for the competition, Italy won group J with a perfect record. They won all 10 matches in the group, scoring 37 goals and conceding four.
Mancini will be banking on Lorenzo Insigne, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella to produce big performances and restore them back to reckoning.
Switzerland’s dream team is almost fading away. Most times, they have flattered to deceive in competitions.
Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka will be key men for the Rossocrociati (Red crosses).
Turkey is the surprise team of this group and tournament. The Crescent-Stars have been particularly difficult to beat under Senol Gunes. The Turk oversaw the team’s progress to the semi-finals at the 2002 World Cup.
They finished in second place during the qualifiers, two points behind France in Group H. However, they took four points from Les Blues in that period.
Turkey will look to cause a number of upsets as the competition runs. The players to watch out for include AC Milan’s Hakan Calhanoglu and French league winner, Burak Yilmaz.
Wales is having managerial instability with coach Ryan Giggs set to face trials over assault. Robert Page is currently the caretaker coach.
The Dragons are a solid crop and will look to put away the present off-the-pitch issues. The defensive solidity continues to remain the team’s strongest quality.
Gareth Bale will hope to continue in his recent form while Aaron Ramsey will prove key in midfield.
Belgium is in group B alongside Denmark, Russia and Finland.
Belgium is the bookmakers’ favourite to win the Euro 20. The Red Devils have been top of the FIFA rankings for almost three years.
They took out all comers in Group I of the qualifiers, scoring 40 goals and conceding just three.
This looks like the last chance salon for Belgium’s golden generation to win a major title. They finished as the third-best team at the 2018 World Cup.
Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard will be the men to watch out for.
Denmark has made steady progress since it failed to qualify for the 2016 Euro. Kasper Hjulmand will look to guide them past this stage after keeping them unbeaten since October 2020.
In preparation for the tournament, the Danes were exerting in the World Cup qualifiers, including defeating Moldova 8-0.
Hjulmand will hope for consistent performances from players like Christian Eriksen, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg
Finland will be making its first appearance at Europe’s premier international competition. They finished second behind Italy in the qualifiers.
This competition would serve more as an experience curve for the young crop of Fins who are winless in their last five matches.
Timo Pukki will hope to make a mark as Finland’s biggest player.
Russia has not been convincing in the last few months especially after stunning the world at the 2018 World Cup. They breezed through qualification, only losing two matches to Belgium.
However, they will prosecute two group stage matches on home soil. This should give them the needed motivation, seeing that they will play in front of their fans.
Stanislav Chechesov will once again be relying on the experienced heads of Yuri Zhirkov and Artem Dzyuba.