Euro 2020 has been in full flow for around 10 days now and as we approach the midway point of the tournament, we examine the best teams so far.
Despite being led by arguably the worst coach in the history of the English Premier League Frank De Boer, Jose Mourinho would say he is THE worst, the Netherlands have won their 2 games at Euro 2020. They have sealed qualification into the round-of-16 at the European Championship.
Oranje crashed out early at Euro 2012. They did not even qualify for Euro 2016 and yet they have scaled to the next stage with an arguably inferior squad. The absence of Virgil Van Dijk has not been felt with Memphis Depay, Gini Wijnaldum, Matthijs De Ligt, and Frenkie De Jong stepping up as leaders for their side. Their first game brought a scare when Ukraine came back from two goals down to tie the game before Denzel Dumfries scored the winner. They swatted Austria aside with ease. They will play North Macedonia looking to win to seal the top spot in the group.
These European giants have not been the same since Euro 2016 where they made it to the semi-final. They lost 2-0 to hosts France and since then, it has all gone downhill for Die Mannschaft. Their famous 2018 World Cup disaster and string of unconvincing performances have left doubts in the hearts of fans. However, Germany put all the disappointment behind them to thrash Portugal 4-2. Joachim Low’s side were at their best and reminded the world that they are a top team. They showed aggression, intensity, and that devastating combination of power and technique the Germans have been known for while exuding their usual inevitability. Even after powering ahead in the opening moments, they were a goal down after a perfectly executed counter-attack by Portugal. They did not panic or drop their heads. The German machines worked till they went ahead and sealed the victory.
They lost to France but were markedly better than Les Bleus, especially in the second half. In that game, they struggled to create because of France’s deep block but they showed good intensity. If they show this kind of dominance then they can go very far in this tournament.
The number 1 ranked team in the world faced Russia in the opening game of their group. The red devils made light work of Russia without Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, strolling to a 3-0 victory. Their next game was more complicated though. Denmark took an early lead through Yussuf Poulsen. To recover from the shock and break down the very assured Danish rearguard, Roberto Martinez brought on the big guns. De Bruyne came on at half-time and it only took him 9 minutes to open the tight defense for Thorgan Hazard to score. Then Eden Hazard came on and set up De Bruyne’s scorching winner. It is the strength in depth and talent that makes them one of the favorites to win this tournament.
The man leading their line Romelu Lukaku has brought his terrific club form to the European Championship. Lukaku scored twice against Russia but against Denmark, his linkup play was more important, and he showed why he is one of the most complete strikers in the game today. Belgium faces third-place Finland and they will be looking to finish the group as winners to progress to the next round.
Most people’s favorites to win Euro 2020 considering their talent pool, high-level performances, and experienced coach. They won against Germany in their opening game but they drew criticism for their second-half display. Didier Deschamps’s men sat back and let Germany take control of the game. Even though the tactic worked, Les Bleus were accused of being passive and not playing according to their potential. It was a criticism that also trailed their very successful 2018 World Cup campaign.
Against a resolute Hungary though, they could only find a draw at the Budapest Arena. Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema spurned great chances to give France the lead before Attila Fiola scored for Hungary just before half-time. Deschamps brought on Ousmane Dembele for Adrien Rabiot and the goal was clear. Get that goal. They got it through Antoine Griezmann after fantastic work from Mbappe to hold the ball up and make the cross. It spilled for the Barcelona striker to fire home. The result means that despite leading group F after 2 matches, they are still not sure of qualification.
They will still be the team to beat as they face Portugal in the final group game. France has the strength, firepower, and shutout power to hold a very strong Portugal at length. It will be a repeat of the Euro 2016 final which Portugal won after a late goal from unlikely hero Eder. France remains a favorite for this tournament.
Italy only reached the quarter-final of 2016, their only tournament under Antonio Conte before he left for Chelsea. Carlo Tavecchio, the president of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), announced the appointment of Giampiero Ventura as Antonio Conte’s successor, he promised they would make history together. Behold, they did not even qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The first time since 1958.
Roberto Mancini took over in May 2018 and he has restored the dignity of the Italian national team. It was surprising to see fans and pundits tag them as underdogs coming into this competition. They are no underdogs, they are big dogs. Big, world-class, and tactically sharpened dogs. Roberto Mancini has won titles everywhere he has been. From his first coaching stint at Fiorentina, he was a winner. He won a title at his next coaching stint at Lazio. Mancini then moved to Inter Milan and won 3 consecutive Serie A titles. He moved to England and helped establish the dominant Manchester City side. He won the FA Cup and English Premier League title in England. His last stint was at Galatasaray in Turkey and he won the Turkish Cup. This is a man that knows how to win.
He has only lost two games in his 35 games in charge of the Azzurri. Italy is the only team so far that has secured 3 wins out of 3. They look defensively tight in defense, assured in midfield, and set in the attack. Italy has several players that are very good and a coach with the expertise to harmonize them into a lethal team. Lorenzo Insigne, Leonardo Bonucci, Nico Barella, Ciro Immobile, Federico Chiesa, Jorginho, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Domenico Berardi, Marco Verratti, etc. The Italian team may not boast the talent pool and depth of France but they have some fine footballers in their ranks.
Insigne was the star of the show when they controlled Turkey and put 3 past them for good measure. Then it was Manuel Locatelli’s turn to shine as he scored a brace against Switzerland. In the final game of the group, Marco Verratti returned to deliver a performance for the ages, the kind that maestros of the game are remembered for. Jorginho, Barella, and Leandro Spinazzola have been excellent. This Italy team has been the top team at the Euros, showing completeness in every phase of the game. 9 points from 9 and they have advanced into the knockout stage. How far will they go? We will see.