The beauty of Euro 2020 in this atmosphere is that we’ll be celebrating the tournament’s 60th anniversary by playing games in 11 different countries. UEFA deserves full credit for arranging the event; the opportunity to organize games around the continent allows a large number of countries to participate. It’s all pretty lovely. I was a part of the Euro 2020 announcement four years ago, and it’s been fascinating to watch the tournament take shape over the last week or so.
The incumbent champions, Portugal, are clearly one of the favorites to win Euro 2020, but we’re still no closer to determining the winner. My role as a pundit is to examine all of the teams in detail and determine which one can win; yet, if we knew which team would win, we wouldn’t need to play! We can simply present them with the trophy and go on.
One thing I’ve seen throughout the years is that eight teams have won all of their group stage games, but only one of them – Spain in 2008 – has gone on to win the tournament. In the world of football, momentum is a popular term, but it’s the period between games that will have the largest impact on the outcome. You can win all of your Euro 2020 group games and get a lot of momentum, but it doesn’t guarantee you’ll win the competition.
Managers and players alike must continue to learn and improve on a daily basis as games come thick and fast. Before I rate the top five Euro 2020 favorites, I’d want to apologize to England, as Gareth Southgate and his team are not at the top of my list. Although I am an England supporter, I believe that some of the other teams in Euro 2020 could be stronger at this point in time.
On that topic, ahead of what looks to be an exciting few weeks, here are my top five favorites to win Euro 2020.
I’m writing this after England’s 0-0 tie with Scotland, but as I previously stated, you don’t have to win every game in the group stage to win the competition. You could even argue that a draw was necessary for England to rethink their strategy ahead of the knockout stages. When you look at the team, it’s evident that they’re capable of winning football games. They won’t boast about their ability, but they did a few things well in the draw with Scotland, putting them one step closer to the Euro 2020 knockout stages.
There is quality throughout the squad, and key players such as Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson have returned to full fitness. I met a few of the players before to the event, and the vibe I got from them was incredible. They’re such a great group of people, and I have every reason to believe that the squad is in great balance and harmony.
If the camp stays together like this, they’ll be able to reach to the point where they’ll be able to beat the Czech Republic. They had players like Kalvin Phillips, who shone against Croatia, but the game versus Scotland was a little different. He wasn’t horrible by any stretch of the imagination, but his performance against Croatia in England’s Euro 2020 opener has inevitably raised expectations.
Jude Bellingham, who came on as a substitute in England’s first game and became the youngest player in the history of the European Championships, is another player I like. The crucial thing to remember is that, unlike in previous years, when you could look at players like David Beckham and Wayne Rooney and think, “He’s the player,” England does not have that right now. They don’t have a designated savior, thus the burden will be divided throughout the squad in Euro 2020.
We need you.
All of us. All of you. pic.twitter.com/VtQ1quXpvg
— England (@England) June 12, 2021
Furthermore, if they finish first in their group, they will face the third-placed team from Group F, which is likely to be France, Germany, or Portugal. On paper, that isn’t the ideal plan, but England will embrace it.
If you’re going to face one of the big boys, you might as well knock them out in the Round of 16 rather than later in the competition. We beat Manchester United in the quarterfinals when I won the FA Cup with Portsmouth in 2008, and that set the tone for the games that followed. We gained a lot of confidence from eliminating the biggest threat, and England may do the same if the draw goes their way.
You can’t prepare for the perfect win, but they only have one game left before Wembley and will want to make the most of it. It’ll be intriguing to watch what Gareth Southgate does against the Czech Republic in the last group stage match.
Will he try anything else after his attack against Scotland backfired? Only time will tell if this is true.
Portugal, the reigning European champions, is a fascinating squad to watch. Cristiano Ronaldo is unquestionably their talisman, but even without him, they are a superb team with excellent players all throughout the field. Euro 2020 and the teams competing in the championship exemplify a diverse pool of talent from throughout the football spectrum.
We must discuss Cristiano Ronaldo and his world-record-breaking achievements. He is on the verge of becoming the most decorated goalscorer in international football history. When you add in players like Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Ruben Dias, and Diogo Jota, who have all had fantastic seasons for their clubs, you have a team that can compete with anyone in the league.
19 – Cristiano Ronaldo has scored his 19th goal at the World Cup and European Championships combined; no European player has ever scored more across the two competitions (level with Miroslav Klose). Incredible. #POR #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/ANg448f2xz
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 19, 2021
Portugal only won one game in normal time at Euro 2016, which is incredible considering they made it all the way to the final. They were the best squad that year since they won the competition; the fact that they were proclaimed winners cannot be disputed. Their team wasn’t always as strong as it is now, but it is a testament to their perseverance and organization.
When Cristiano Ronaldo was injured and subbed off in the Euro 2016 final, many people wrote them off and assumed they wouldn’t win. They did, however, demonstrate that it is more about overall quality than over-reliance on a single individual. Portugal may not play the finest football in the world, but in a major tournament, winning is all that matters.
In 2004, Greece beat the odds and shocked the world by winning the competition, but not by playing the finest football. It was more about obstinacy and a will to win at any costs, and Portugal, in my opinion, is in the same boat.
Many players from their 2016 European Championship-winning squad are still in the mix, and they know how to win without being the most interesting team in the tournament. Despite their 4-2 setback to Germany, they are one among the favorites for Euro 2020 in my opinion.