With Euro 2020 now just around the corner, GiveMeSport shines a light on Group F, assessing the chances of Germany, France, Portugal and Hungary.
FIFA ranking: 12
Best Euros finish: Winners (1972, 1980, 1996)
Best player: Manuel Neuer
Joachim Löw is leaving. Some would say it’s five years too late, but he’s going after this summer, nonetheless, and he’s hoping he can go out on a good note.
Recent times have suggested Löw’s legacy might be a bit tainted – the horrid showing at the World Cup in Russia really put the pressure on him, the Nations League performances added to it and embarrassing defeats such as those to Spain (6-0) and North Macedonia (2-1) haven’t done him any favours.
The Euros need to go well for him, but it doesn’t look likely. Germany still have a strong team. They have arguably the best midfield in the world with the likes of Joshua Kimmich, Toni Kroos, Leon Goretzka and İlkay Gündoğan and there are returns to the fold for Thomas Müller and Mats Hummels after over two years out.
However, their defence has been a concern and there’s only so much Manuel Neuer can do, while the lack of a top-quality forward may well haunt them. Placed in a tough group with the reigning World Cup and Euros’ holders, they have their work cut out.
Perhaps, winning the tournament may not be the ultimate goal. Putting in a respectable showing and leaving a good foundation for Löw’s successor, however, will be of paramount importance.
FIFA ranking: 2
Best Euros finish: Winners (1984, 2000)
Best player: N’Golo Kanté
The best team in international football will look to replicate the work of the greats like Zinedine Zidane and Didier Deschamps by winning the World Cup and Euros in consecutive tournaments.
It’s hard to see beyond them as winners – they’re stacked in every department and will be for years to come. Their qualification process was fairly easy – eight wins, one draw and one loss won them the group, and they’ve been in fine form elsewhere, progressing to the Nations League finals this October.
The squad will be much the same as the one that was successful in Russia three summers ago. Goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris will retain his place, so too will Raphaël Varane. His partner is uncertain. Samuel Umtiti was there in 2018, but he won’t make the squad this time around so there’s a chance for Presnel Kimpembe, Jules Koundé or Clement Lenglet to take his place.
In midfield, N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba are ever-present while Antoine Griezmann’s form in 2021 has been encouraging. This squad is world class, they have proven it and the surprise recall of Karim Benzema after over five years out only makes them better.
Anything less than the semi-finals will be a failure. Didier Deschamps, too, could make history by becoming the first coach to win both the World Cup and Euros as a player and coach.
FIFA ranking: 5
Best Euros finish: Winners (2016)
Best player: Cristiano Ronaldo
The holders come into this competition with a better team than 2016.
While coach Fernando Santos prefers a solid, conservative style despite their wealth of attacking talent, it has paid off as he led Portugal to their first trophy five years ago. It’s unlikely that approach will change this summer, especially considering their group, and they will fancy their chances once again.
Qualification was a bit of a worry – they finished behind Ukraine in their group and only three points above third-placed Serbia, while they failed to retain their Nations League title, falling short to France, who they will face once again in this group.
Despite that, their players have been excelling in their domestic leagues. Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Diogo Jota and Dias have done well in England.
Cristiano Ronaldo continues to get better despite being part of a sluggish Juventus side while their depth options, the likes of André Silva (Eintracht Frankfurt) and João Palhinha (Sporting) have had stellar campaigns. At the back, 38-year-old Pepe, who is possibly playing his last international tournament, will partner Dias.
They’ll be aiming to become just the second team to retain the European Championships after Iberian rivals Spain and it’s a realistic goal. However, the semi-finals seem more likely.
FIFA ranking: 37
Best Euros finish: Third (1964)
Best player: Willi Orbán
Hungary go into the Euros in a buoyant mood. They reached this stage thanks to a late, dramatic Dominik Szoboszlai winner in the play-offs against Iceland to complete a win having been a goal down early on.
That moment won the award for Hungarian Sports Moment of the Year and contributed to Szoboszlai winning the Sportsman of the Year gong. Unfortunately for the team, he is going to miss the tournament having struggled with injuries throughout 2021 and that will be a huge loss for the Hungarians.
Despite that, his RB Leipzig team-mates Péter Gulácsi and Willi Orbán have been impressive, forming one of the best defences in the Bundesliga. Orbán may not get the same credit as his team-mates, but he’s arguably the club’s most consistent performer at the back.
Further up the pitch, the likes of Ádám Nagy, Roland Sallai and Ádám Szalai will be important. The Hungarians will enter the tournament on the back of an impressive run: they were unbeaten in 2020 and even topped their Nations League group, earning promotion to League A.
At Euro 2016, they sprung a surprise by winning their group, one that contained eventual champions Portugal, and while they have their work cut out this summer, they have the capability to surprise and could sneak into the next round as one of the best third-placed teams. One win is all it could take.News Now - Sport News