Euro 2020 Kicks Off with the World Watching


On March 17, 2020, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) officially announced that its premiere international soccer tournament, EURO 2020, would be postponed due to COVID-19. For the first time in its 60 year history, the European Tournament would not take place in its designated summer. However, fast forward 15 months to June 2021, and soccer fans will finally be able to enjoy the great spectacle. Lasting roughly a month, the tournament features 24 international teams battling it out for European glory. In the group stage, teams are divided into groups of four and play one another to determine the best two in each group. Along with four of the third-placed teams, the remaining 16 then enter the elimination rounds, where seeded countries will duke it out until only the best two squads remain. At the end of the final, which will take place on July 11, one team will lift the EURO trophy and earn international bragging rights for the next four years.

EURO 2020 will take place across numerous locations in Europe and promises to be full of excitement, upsets and surprises. But which teams should you keep an eye on this June?

The Favorites

France undoubtedly enter the tournament as favorites and are major contenders thanks to their promising young talent, squad depth and individual skill. Kylian Mbappe, France’s star striker, is coming off a 42-goal season with Paris Saint Germain and reached the semifinals of the Champions League. Alongside serial winner Karim Benzema and the ever-reliable Antoine Griezmann, France’s front line offers serious firepower and could prove a threat to any opposition. The team’s abilities, however, stretch beyond their attacking force. In the midfield, Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante recently had a Man of the Match performance with Chelsea in the Champions League Final. Kante, alongside the explosive Paul Pogba and Adrien Rabiot, will make life difficult for their opposition with positional versatility and seemingly limitless stamina. In defense, France features an impressive mix of young and old players such as Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, Paris Saint Germain’s Presnel Kimpembe and Sevilla’s Jules Kounde. Protected by the safe gloves of Hugo Lloris, France’s backline will prove difficult to unlock for any team. With the victory of World Cup 2018 fresh in the minds of soccer fans around the world, you simply cannot write off the French as serious candidates for EURO 2020. Will anyone stop them?

The Defending Champions

Coincidentally, the last team to stop the French were the holding champions of EURO 2016, Portugal. Boasting an improved and fiery frontline, the Portuguese are out to retain their title as champions of Europe yet again. In attack, the unstoppable Cristiano Ronaldo has come off of an impressive season with Juventus scoring 36 goals across all competitions. With Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix and Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva at his side, this attack will prove a tricky puzzle to keep at bay. Behind this trio is Bruno Fernandes, coming off of a superb season with Manchester United, and the reliable Renato Sanches, Ruben Neves and Danilo Pereira. At the back, the ageless Pepe and his underling Ruben Dias provide sturdy protection for Rui Patricio’s net. Jose Fonte, coming off of an unexpected Ligue 1 title with Lille, along with other notable talents such as Diogo Jota and João Cancelo can provide more than capable backup for this impressive starting 11 and can change the match in an instant. Four years ago, Portugal shocked the world and brought the EURO trophy back to the Iberian peninsula. Now, with boosted squad depth and rising stars across the team, the question begs: will they do it again?

The Fallen

Certainly, the team with the most to prove in EURO 2020 is Germany. After a dominating World Cup campaign in 2014, the German national team declined considerably. Their shocking group stage exit in the 2018 World Cup, coupled with a disappointing campaign in the 2019 UEFA Nations League, saw fans pray for the golden days of German domination to return. Now, come 2021, the German project could finally be taking a turn for the better. Under the experienced Joachim Löw, Germany’s new guard could restore honor to their squad and make a deep run into this year’s tournament. Spearheaded by a talented attacking force of Timo Werner, Thomas Muller, Serge Gnabry, Kai Havertz and many others, Germany will look to put their goal scoring woes behind them. Behind them, the everlasting Toni Kroos and new-face Joshua Kimmich, fresh off of a title-winning season with Bayern Munich, will seek to keep intruders away from their defense. In the backline, experience reigns supreme with Manuel Neuer and Mats Hummels retaining their starting positions. Alongside the improving Niklas Sule, this German defense could be troubling to break down. In 2014, Germany stood atop the world; 7 years later, they seek to overcome their recent failures and grasp at glory as they once did. Will they rise to the challenge or stumble yet again?

The Rising

One of the most exciting teams to keep tabs on this summer is England. Boasting the most expensive national team in world soccer, Gareth Southgate’s squad features an incredible new guard of rising talent all around the pitch. At the front lies an abundance of young attacking talent in Manchester City’s Phil Foden (21) , Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho (21), Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford (23) and Chelsea’s Mason Mount (22), who recently picked up a Champions League trophy. This youth, led by an in-form Harry Kane that scored an incredible 33 goals last season, will be able to expose the defense of any team with blistering speed and flair. In the middle, West Ham’s Declan Rice and Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham, coming off of a breakout campaign at just 17 years old, will look to secure the center of the field. In defense, Harry Maguire, John Stones and a host of fullbacks will look to protect Jordan Pickford’s net. Backed by other undeniable talents such as Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson, the team now has squad depth unlike ever before. In recent tournaments, England has entered among the favorites and has crashed out before the final on each occasion. This year, with fresh faces, squad depth and an adaptable system, the English again look like serious contenders for the EURO. Is the trophy finally coming home?

The Dark Horses

If you’re a neutral and want to root for an underdog, look no further than Italy. In 2017, Italy lost to Sweden and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in over 60 years. After this considerable dark spot in Italian soccer history, a resurgent side under Roberto Mancini will hope to prove their haters wrong and make a deep run into this year’s tournament. After going three wins in three matches for the EURO qualifying, Italy seem ready for the big stage thanks to their promising youth, secure defense, and adaptable midfield. Starting from the back, the reliable Gianluigi Donnarumma starts in net and is protected by a host of old and young defensive talent including Giorgio Chiellini, Alessandro Bastoni and Francesco Acerbi. In the center of the park, Chelsea’s Jorginho, Sassuolo’s Manuel Locatelli and Inter Milan’s Nicolò Barella, fresh off of a domestic title and excellent season, will look to shut down the opposition and provide a creative spark for their forwards. Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa are among the attacking stars and complete what is a youthful and balanced Italian squad. If one were to look at the favorites for EURO 2020, it would be easy to point to France, Belgium or the Netherlands. However, rising from the ashes of their shock non-qualification from World Cup 2018, Italy looks to be a competitive force yet again. Certainly, they will play an interesting role as the battle for European glory resumes once again. Will the Azzurri shock the world this summer?

Concluding Thoughts

As school comes to a close and the soccer world turns its eye to EURO 2020, fans have good reason to be excited. Regardless of who you root for, this month of nonstop entertainment will likely be a rollercoaster of emotions and a welcome spectacle after COVID’s impact on the sporting world. So, without further ado, let’s go! Vamos! Andiamo! Allons-y! Take the stage, EURO 2020! The world awaits. In 2021!