It’s been 18 months since the groups were drawn, and we’ve had what feels like an eternity to scrutinize the landscape of Euro 2020 and break down the matchups.
With the tournament getting underway this week, here are our best bets to top each group.
Don’t expect much threat from Switzerland or Wales here. The Swiss – a tough unit to break down, but one lacking quality up front – are a predictable bunch and will be competitive enough to qualify but not top the group. Meanwhile, it’s hard to take Wales seriously given the inexperience at manager, current form of their top players, and lack of depth surrounding them.
That leaves Turkey as the biggest threat to Italy for first place. There is a lot to like about Senon Gunes’ side – a free-flowing approach will lead to plenty of goals, and many key members of the XI enter the tournament in terrific form – but that eagerness to attack leaves them too susceptible at times, which is problematic against structured sides like Italy and Switzerland. The Azzurri are poised to make noise this summer, and with all three of their group matches being held in Rome, it’s hard to see them squandering top spot.
Pick: Italy (-185)
This is another two-horse race, with Russia severely lacking in quality and Finland – while having a terrific story – largely making up numbers. Belgium are decent-sized favorites to top the group, but the true value resides with Denmark.
The Danes have the benefit of playing all three group matches in Copenhagen, while Belgium will not only have to travel to Denmark but also to St. Petersburg to take on Russia in the opener. It’s a tough task for the Red Devils, which will also be without Kevin de Bruyne for at least the first match, while integral midfielder Axel Witsel hasn’t seen game action since January. A slow start for Belgium can be expected, while Denmark have the talent, structure, and tournament know-how to cruise through a group stage that will entirely take place on their home soil.
Pick: Denmark (+260)
On the surface, it appears as though the Netherlands will coast through Group C relatively easily with the added benefit of playing all three matches in Amsterdam. But the Dutch, which looked re-born not too long ago, look like a shell of themselves under Frank de Boer. De Boer’s deficiencies as a manager have resulted in a serious dip in form, leaving the Oranje prone to slip-ups – as recently seen in a draw with Scotland and defeat to Turkey.
If any side can take advantage, it’s Ukraine. Despite their ambiguous recent form, Ukraine possess a wonderfully talented squad – a delightful midfield trio anchoring a cohesive backline and exciting attacking options. The key is putting it all together, but if Ukraine can find the form that helped them finish first – and go undefeated – in a tough qualifying group ahead of Portugal and Serbia, the sky really is the limit for this team.
Pick: Ukraine (+475)
The fight for second in Group D will be fascinating. Croatia has a new influx of talent to aid their aging golden generation in another push at silverware, the Czech Republic possess a strong organized core that’s proven very tough to beat, and Scotland get to face both in Glasgow. But it’s hard to envision anyone really challenging England for top spot.
The Three Lions are the clear class of the group and one of Europe’s best and deepest clubs. Concerns about their history of under-delivering at major tournaments are valid, but we can worry about that in the knockout stage. Until then, it’s hard to envision England dropping a single point at Wembley.
Pick: England (-250)
As the chalkiest pick of the lot, Spain are not without issue, but the path to topping Group E is about as straightforward as it gets. Poland and Sweden each lack the depth and quality to compete with top teams, with both of their recent Nations League performances confirming this. Slovakia, meanwhile, make a strong case for being the worst side in this tournament.
I have serious questions about how legitimate a threat La Roja can be as we get deeper into this tournament, but the group stage should pose little challenge for them – especially with all three matches happening at home.
Pick: Spain (-290)
Group F is not only the most difficult and fascinating, but it’s also possibly the most important one to win. Second place will take on Group D’s winner in the next round – likely England at Wembley – and third place will face another group winner. But first place gets a date with a third-place qualifier in the Round of 16, with Group D or Group E’s second-place team awaiting them in the quarter-finals.
Just how much will home-pitch advantage matter in Group F? France and Portugal each play away to Germany (in Munich) and Hungary (in Budapest), while the Germans play all three matches on home soil. The travel schedule is especially tough for Portugal. The Selecao open up the tournament against Hungary – in front of what will likely be a hostile and energetic crowd in Budapest – before traveling to take on Germany in Munich and then flying back to Budapest to close things out against France. Despite owning one of Europe’s best squads, it would be an accomplishment for Fernando Santos’ side just to qualify for the knockout stage.
France face a tricky schedule as well, but travel is lighter for the world champions, which have the sort of depth at every position to overcome any obstacles they may face. Meanwhile, Germany seem to be flying dangerously under the radar, but expectations are understandably low given how the past few years have played out. Joachim Low welcomed Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels back into the fold after their international exile, and with a mouth-watering midfield and embarrassment of riches in attack, Die Mannschaft suddenly look like world-beaters once again.
Pick: Germany (+165)
Alex Moretto is BetaSoccer’s supervising editor of sports betting. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.