Well, as hard as COVID tried, we have arrived at the starting line of 2020’s European Championship. Europe is arguably the most competitive continent for football. As such, of all the continental trophies up for grabs, UEFA’s iteration will have the undivided attention of all those in love with 22 players kicking around a ball.
Here at Vendetta, we boast, in my opinion, one of the better football writing teams out there, and therefore it would be too narcissistic of myself to just do a predictions article. So read on for the football Avengers and their opinions on the upcoming tournament in the returning Vendetta Roundtable.
Who Wins The Tournament?
England. Nah, just kidding. You would think Belgium, with the insane group of talent they have, should win something, but as Denmark proved in 1992 (Gavin wrote about this here), it’s not always the most talented group that wins. It’s the ones who work hardest and catch lightning in a bottle.
For that reason, I think the Netherlands will be a good outside bet. Ultimately though if France gets out of that Group F of death you would be crazy to not pick the reigning World Cup Champions.
France. They just added Benzema to a World Cup-winning squad. It’s like when KD went to the Warriors all over again. Their starting XI is just too good, and their squad is too deep. Regardless of what tactics Didier Deschamps uses, France already has a leg up on their opponents with players like Kylian Mbappé, N’Golo Kanté, Paul Pogba, and Antoine Griezmann.
I think I’m very well the only American in this roundtable, so maybe I’m the most qualified to predict how the Euros will go, and I’ll give it a shot. For starters, I’ve leaned towards Portugal winning the whole thing from the jump, and I’m inclined to go with them here, but for whatever reason, I’m going to go with Belgium. Despite some of their top players being out of form, and especially De Bruyne hurt, I just have an inkling they’ll make a run.
Maybe I’m wrong. Frankly, this will probably backfire because history shows that, despite their talent, the Belgians fail to get results in world competitions. But I believe in them. Maybe it’s my love for Eden Hazard as a Chelsea fan, or maybe it’s that Lukaku is in stellar form, but this is likely Belgium’s last shot at a title on the world stage with their golden generation and I think they somehow piece it together.
I can’t decide yet. Logic tells me that it will be France, Belgium, England, or Portugal. My unofficial pick right now is Portugal. The team is so strong in all facets, plus Ronaldo always comes to play for the international matches. However, I will be rooting against the Portuguese team as I always do.
France. It has to be France, doesn’t it?
France’s B squad would stand a good chance of making the semi-finals, frankly. Don’t believe me? Look at who they’ve been able to leave out: Theo Hernandez, Nabil Fekir, Eduardo Camavinga, Steven N’Zonzi, Tanguy Ndombele, Dayot Upamecano, Alexandre Lacazette, Alphonse Areola, Blaise Matuidi, Florian Thauvin, The Mendii (Ferland and Benjamin), Samuel Umtiti, Djibril Sidibe, Anthony Martial, Houssem Aouar. Poor Aymeric Laporte is so disillusioned he’s decided to declare himself available for Spain!
By my math, that’s 17 players that just about any other nation in world football would have in their squad without a moment’s pause.
Part of what makes the Euros great is the pool of competitors. I mean, seven of the top 10 world-ranked teams are in this tournament (per FIFA), and that’s just seven of the 24 teams participating. The tournaments five years ago saw the thrill of Wales being the only British team to impress, the Icelandic thunderclap that spurred their team to overwhelm the trophy-starved English, and the Ronaldo-inspired Portuguese to upset France on their home turf in the Final, cementing himself as the GOAT.
But who wins this year? Every year we hype ourselves up about the Belgian “Golden Generation” and how this year must be the time they lift gold, but questions remain over whether they may manifest it with their lackluster team of amazing individuals. France could well walk through the tournament much as they did with the World Cup, with their superstar National Pool which could win trophies with their C team, or they could do exactly what Germany has done ever since destroying the World Cup in 2014. As an English man, I will be singing “It’s coming home,” but I will never believe it, not as long as Pickford is between the sticks and Southgate is at the helm.
I genuinely think Portugal will steal the trophy again. Ronaldo’s failure to strap Juventus onto his back to win the Champions League will be the motivation he needs to take his nation to their third trophy since 2016. There is something to be said about the “Football Dark Arts,” and Portugal have long since shown their mastery of it, and they have the penalty merchants in their team to make it count.
Who Takes The Golden Boot?
If you think France wins it all as I do, it’s hard to look past Kylian Mbappe for the Golden Boot. Daniel Levy will be hoping it’s a win for Harry Kane so he can boost his asking price up even higher. And then, of course, there’s Cristiano Ronaldo if Portugal makes it out of that Group of Death.
You also couldn’t go wrong with a few quid on Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian striker was in fine form for Inter Milan as they ran away with the Serie A title, scoring 24 times. With Kevin De Bruyne (hopefully) and Eden Hazard supplying him, there’s no doubt in my mind he will leave this tournament with the Golden Boot should Belgium progress in the tournament.
Romelu Lukaku. Belgium does have an aging squad, but they still have one of the strongest teams at the tournament. Lukaku, who is coming off a fantastic season form-wise, could easily win the Golden Boot even if Belgium doesn’t make it all the way to the finals.
Lukaku or Kane, but I’ll go with the latter. I think both squads will advance far in this competition, and both strikers will have plenty of chances inside the box. Kane will probably convert more, and I think England has more wingers and midfielders to create good chances for him. Bruno Fernandes could be a sleeper to win the Golden Boot too, but we’ll see what happens with that penalty merchant.
Harry Kane! King of the Golden Boot, the master of never winning an actual trophy (Ouch). Second to Kane, I would probably go with Lukaku. I think big Rom is going to light it up at this year’s Euro.
This often comes down to two factors: penalty/set-piece takers and how far you can progress in the tournament. Amongst the favorites, the men that stand out are Belgian powerhouse Romelu Lukaku, England’s Great White Hope in Harry Kane, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe.
Harry Kane has been the master of smashing in goals despite playing with a trophy allergic team, and despite having the best season of his career, he is still only credited with an Audi Cup whilst with Spurs. I believe it could well happen again where Harry Kane notches six to eight goals in the tournament despite England going out at the Semis.
Lukaku is another beast who will score and score yet fail to lift a trophy with his national team, and the fact that he will have Eden Hazard and an albeit unfit De Bruyne behind him will supplement his attacking prowess.
Again, if Portugal does indeed go all the way, as I believe, then Bruno Fernandes and Ronaldo could well have their names engraved on the award at the end of the tournament, with the battle coming down to who takes the spot-kicks.
I would be awfully tempted to say Mbappe if he wasn’t in such a talent-rich squad so capable of scoring themselves. Harry Kane takes it for me.
Who Wins The Playmaker Award?
You mean the Kevin De Bruyne award? (Alright smart-ass)
Kevin De Bruyne is an obvious choice, but he’s set to miss at least the first match due to injury. Bruno Fernandes is part of a new and improved Portugal who has impressed as of late. The Manchester United player will be key for Portugal when it comes to chance creation.
Kevin de Bruyne. An 80% de Bruyne is still an elite midfielder. One of the top footballers in the world right now and certainly looking to make a statement after being subbed off in the Champions League final with a facial fracture. I can throw in Fernandes, Pogba, Gundogan, and even Christian Eriksen for Denmark here too. I mean, there are loads of talented playmakers at the 2020 Euros. If Kevin de Bruyne is healthy, though, I think he wins it.
The obvious pick here is KDB. That is exactly why I will be going with Jack Grealish.
Did I mention that France has a few options upfront? Someone is going to have to supply the bullets for all of those guns, so let’s go with France’s primary playmaker, Antoine Griezmann. Although a forward by definition, Griezmann has made his living as somewhat of a chameleon. He can play as a true #9, or on either side of one, as well as proving an adept #10. He’s not a natural scorer and is usually an unselfish player. He’ll be spoilt for choices for his deft passing on the edge of the box.
I should note that if De Bruyne was playing, he’d be my pick. With that in mind, keep an eye on Youri Tieleman’s assist numbers. Memphis Depay could rack up some numbers if the Dutch bring their A-game.
If it weren’t for his injury in the Champions League Final, then the name on this award would surely be Kevin De Bruyne. But such is life, he did get that injury and will more than likely miss the opening games of the tournament.
Everyone has enjoyed discussing the excitement of Phil Foden. Still, no one is talking about Grealish and his ability to embarrass the last line of defense before unselfishly allowing someone to rattle the back of the net. Despite their talent, the only English player taking the Playmaker award is the Swiss knife Striker Kane.
My pick, however, will be another Belgian, Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans. There’s a reason why Liverpool is in hot pursuit of the Anderlecht Academy graduate, with him being the perfect replacement for the outgoing Wijnaldum.
Who Will Be The Best Player?
Best or most recognized? I’m sure the likes of Mbappe and De Bruyne will receive plenty of plaudits for their play, but players like N’Golo Kante and Axel Witsel will be just as important to their nations. Also, Paul Pogba always seems to show up for France in these big tournaments.
Kylian Mbappé. I don’t want to jinx it, but it seems almost inevitable. Antoine Griezmann hasn’t had his best season, but he’s a beast when he plays for France. He’s a good shout too.
The tiny T-Rex Raheem Sterling will be the Euro’s best player. Just kidding. Honestly, I’m not sure who to go with here, but because I have Belgium winning the whole thing and I have England in the title game with them, I’ll go with Harry Kane. And here’s my rationale: I feel like most “Best Player” awards at international tournaments go to the guy who took his team to the final but lost — i.e., Luka Modric at the 2018 World Cup. It doesn’t make a ton of sense, but we’ll go with it here.
It really depends on who wins…If it’s Portugal, you’d have to guess it would be Ronaldo. Since I am still undecided on who is going to win, I will go with the easy out and say Mbappe.
Mbappe is the best player in the best team in the tournament. He’s the bookmaker’s favourite, and who am I to bet against the bookies?
I’ll give you a top three: Mbappe, Griezmann and Portugese star Bruno Fernandes.
The usual theme for a Best Player is the player who has the ability to strap their team onto their back and take them for a ride, falling just short of the finishing line. There are plenty of players who have the ability to do this in the tournament. Gareth Bale could well take Wales through to the Semis like before, having just had a tune-up return with Tottenham where he rediscovered his attacking form.
England has a talented squad of players such as Kane, Grealish, and Sterling, just to name a few, but I don’t think any of them will take the title. Lewandowski has been scoring goals for fun year after year, but surely this is the last chance for the goal machine to take his country deep in the tournament, and I somehow don’t think that will happen.
It will eventually come down to youth or experience, GOAT to be versus GOAT, Ronaldo versus Mbappe. And I somewhat feel the last hoorah of Ronaldo will trump the heir waiting in the wings.
Who Will Be The Best Young Player?
Is Mbappe still considered a young player!?! If so, it’s an absolute lock. The outside bet would be Holland’s Donyell Malen. Despite having a stop-start career, he’s still only 22 years old and has been on fire for PSG this season. Whether he starts could be the stumbling block with Memphis Depay the preferred starter.
Picking Mbappé again would be very boring, so I’ll go with Phil Foden. Strong season for Manchester City and will be key when he plays for England.
Phil Foden will win Best Young Player. After a rather disappointing Champions League final, capped by multiple missed chances inside Chelsea’s final third, I expect the young Englishman to stamp his place on the global stage. I’ll say he has three goals and two assists in a title run that falls just short for the English squad.
I am not sure what qualifies for this award anymore. In the Premier League, I think we are still trying to give this award to 43-year-old Jesse Lingard. My hope is that my shining star Bukayo Saka comes in and lights up the world…but more likely, he will ride the bench. I do wonder if we see a big tournament from Joao Felix… But I think the sensible answer here is Phil Foden.
This is one of those awards that tends to reward a strong team, more than individual performance. Since youngsters are rarely the driving force of their side, it tends to be the last high-profile youngster left standing that takes home the cookies.
France’s squad, whilst reasonably young, is full of players that are established internationals with big tournament experience. What we’re looking for here is a newcomer to these sorts of events. On the assumption that the English will generate just enough hope in their long-suffering fans before spectacularly tripping over their own laces in the semi-finals, I’ll go with Phil Foden.
If this tournament took place last year as scheduled, then my answer would be Mbappe surely, but the award is for those 21 & under, so that’s that. My pick then would have to be Phil Foden, the young and exciting playmaker who has been shunned from every other award, but that isn’t a reflection of the performances I believe he will have this year.
His passion for driving at the defense and cutting the opposition apart with accuracy that would make Hawkeye blush is a key asset I don’t think England has the ability to capitalize on right now. What could be two years from now? Who knows, but it sure is exciting.
Who Will Disappoint Most?
It could likely be Germany. Despite the top two from each group and the four best third-placed teams, one of France, Germany, and Portugal might not make it through. It would be massively disappointing as you always want to see the best teams progress, but it also makes the Group matches (especially in Group F) must-see TV.
Personally, I’d love it to be England just because of the meltdown it would cause, but something is telling me Spain. In a group with Poland, Slovakia, and Sweden, you’d think they’d at least make it out of the group stages. After that, though, it’s anyone’s guess.
Germany. Blamed the World Cup losses on Thomas Mueller and Mats Hummels, who were told that they wouldn’t be called up again for the national team, only for manager Joachim Loew to realize that it may not have been their fault. He’s called the two of them up for this tournament, but the attempts to rejuvenate this German team after the 2018 World Cup failure have been unsuccessful thus far.
You know, this goes against all logic, and I feel insane as I type this, but France will disappoint. And I say that because they are the defending world champions, with — at least on paper — the best squad on the planet. That’s a lot of pressure and expectations.
I don’t know how fit N’Golo Kante is, despite his superb energy, and while I’m happy to see Karim Benzema back with the French national team, my gut just says that this may not work. And I say the French will disappoint, but I want to clarify that they disappoint in the group stage. I think they finish third in Group F/“Group of Death,” and that makes their road to a Euro 2020 title all the more difficult.
I think it might be Germany again. It pains me to say it but as good as this German team is, something was just so off about them at the last world cup. I think they are a strong side, but in this group of death they are in, they are going to need to get up and running fast. Aside from them, I think we might see Spain struggle in this tournament.
On an individual level, I think that we’ve already seen the last of Christiano Ronaldo’s big game heroics. The man is 36 years old and has been playing top-flight football for two decades. He’s proven himself superhuman to be producing as he does with that sort of wear on the tires. But, sadly, this will be his international swan song. Unfortunately, he won’t go out a hero.
As a team, I loathe to pick the Germans, given they always find a way to get it done in a tournament setting, but there is something unsettling about this team. Hip Uncle Jogi Low hasn’t been able to stitch together the new generation with the remains of the 2014 World Cup-winning era.
There is, without a doubt, talent to burn up and down the German squad. But something doesn’t quite sit right with me. There’s a spark that’s missing. Low, in his final tournament, looks to have lost that hunger and that’s perhaps permeated through the team.
Ze Germans. It has to be surely. Germany ascended in Brazil to capture the World Cup with style, but ever since then, they have been unable to recapture that lightning in a bottle.
I make the case that Germany will fall at the Group Stage. I think Hungary has it in them to hold the four-time world champions to a draw, France will cut through them like a hot knife through butter and I’m brave enough to say Portugal will beat them 2-0.
Who Will Shock The World?
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if Scotland managed to come out of their group and knock England out in the process!?! Just me!?! Shame.
Every team is here on merit, and while some are less likely to progress than others (looking at you, Hungary), anything can happen. If I was picking an outside bet to win, I wouldn’t be against putting a few quid on Croatia, although after reaching the World Cup Finals in 2018, I don’t know how much of a shock it would be. Let’s say Scotland just to annoy the Brits.
Italy. They’re back, and they have a lot to prove—an easy dark horse pick. Sweden may not win it all, but with young players looking to impress in Zlatan Ibrahimović’s absence and a well-drilled defensive set-up, they have the attributes to impress.
For the life of me, I really want to say North Macedonia — and damn, would that be spectacular — but I actually think Turkey is the sleepers and can make a run. I really like their center-back pairing of Demiral and Soyuncu. The Turkish National Team has been in fabulous form (They lost one game in qualifying and have only lost to Hungary — granted, they did it twice — in the past 19 matches), and I expect them to continue that form into the tournament and possibly make some noise. I’m thinking they at worst finish second in their group with Italy, Switzerland, and Wales and can make a push into the quarterfinals.
I’m not sure if there are any world shockers in this year’s tournament… I will say that I am so deeply saddened that Iceland won’t be competing this year. If I had to take a few fliers, I would say that the Switzerland team is full of talent and is really getting no respect. I also think Poland might have a decent run of matches being led by Lewandowski.
I’m going for Turkey here. The passionate-to-the-point-of-scary Turkish fans will love to hear that. What they won’t love to hear is why I’m picking them.
Turkey has traditionally been a team that plays lovely attacking football but has a calamitous error or two in them. Under Senol Gunes – who led the team to a famous 3rd placed finish at the 2002 World Cup, if you’ll remember – this side is the reverse of that stereotype. Today’s Turkey is a defensive dreadnought who grind you into the dirt, push forward on the counter and rely on a veteran target man (in this case 35-year-old Burak Yilmaz) to nick a goal.
Basically, they’re a copy of their forever-friendly neighbors and surprise Euro 2004 winners, Greece. (Please don’t @ me Turkish fans. I’m genuinely sorry) (@ him Turkish fans, he hates you.)
This is the Iceland 2016 and Greece 2004 award. My peers seem to tip Turkey to inherit the honour this year. I, however, believe the passion and drive of Wales will see them through.
On paper, they are a team of one superstar and the rest sub-par, but I think that’s what makes them such a candidate to upset. No one expects Wales to succeed, and they know that, but with Bale’s club future so uncertain, this may well be the last chance he gets to perform on the International stage whilst also putting himself in the window for the last big-money contract. Names like Aaron Ramsey and Dan James are also nothing to scoff at, and as said before, it’s the unknown that Wales will have on their side.
This will be the last chance for a long time Wales has of shocking the big-hitters, and I fancy them to do it.