Euro 2020 – Group Recap
So here we are football fans. Two weeks into a festival of football. The Euros are here and we’ve whittled down our starting field and we’re into the knock out stages. How did the groups go? Was I right in my tournament predictions? Let’s take a look.
The bookies had Italy romping home and Wales as the whipping boys. I had Italy as strong favourites for this group and predicted they would win. Turkey is where it all went wrong. The bookies had them contesting second, I had them as the old “dark horses” (we all got conned here) and had them making it to the quarters. Well, they were shit. Too defensive against Italy. Dreadful against Wales and capitulated against Switzerland for three losses and zero points.
I had Italy making the semis. I still think they’re good for that, maybe more. Donnarumma has plugged that Buffon shaped hole between the goalposts. I picked out Manuel Locatelli as one to watch, which I’m quite pleased about as he’s had a super tournament. In terms of being accurate in the preview, I nailed the Italy one.
Where did it go wrong? Senol Gunes was too negative, tactically struggled. Demiral scored an own goal in the first game. Calhanoglu, Yazici and Cenciz Under didn’t show up. Soyuncu battled away in the back line but there was little to no goal threat from Burak Yilmaz, who was often isolated.
Prediction: QF (I was very wrong here but I wasn’t alone)
Tactically I nailed the Swiss approach from their back line to the way they played going forwards. I picked out Shaqiri for his rocket left foot, predicting a mixed tournament from him. That’s been pretty accurate. Where I got things wrong was predicting they’d come third, which to be fair they did, but that they would be eliminated. Instead they’ve advanced to play France in the R16. That’ll probably be the end for them.
Prediction: Group Stage (finishing in third place, so partial success)
I highlighted Wales’ coaching issues coming into the tournament, which ended up making no difference at all. I did point out Bale and Ramsey would need to perform if Wales would do anything and that was accurate. I also singled out the speed they possessed on the counter, which was fairly effective against Turkey.
Prediction: Group Stage (I had them dead last, happy to be proved wrong)
The bookies and I went with Belgium here and it was abundantly clear they were a cut above. I actually picked this group in perfect order with Denmark second, Finland third and Russia dead last. I even managed to predict Finland would not advance to the knock outs with their third place finish.
I didn’t quite get Belgium’s formation right, thinking they’d go four across the back but in going with three they’ve been able to nullify the negative effects of so many slow players. What I did get right was the reliance on Romelu Lukaku for goals. He’s been the focal point for all the attacks and while they’ve scored goals without him netting it’s been largely due to his presence. I’m glad Doku has got a game under his belt but there’s no sign of Vanaken who I picked out as one to watch.
Prediction: QF (I’m sticking with this. I can’t see this team of great individuals getting past Italy, which is a great team)
Obviously Christian Eriksen has been a big loss. I highlighted that his creativity would be key to how they play but in losing Eriksen they’ve been solidified as a group. They got outclassed by Belgium but had them on the ropes at one point. The Finland result really doesn’t mean much and Denmark showed their true colours and passion in a resounding win over Russia.
Prediction: R16 (I think I was close here but I had them losing to Turkey and Wales are a different proposition. Denmark have picked up a lot of neutral fans, fair play to them)
They were always going to struggle at this level but gave a good account of themselves. Joel Pohjanpalo was a real goal threat, rather than Pukki, and they looked solid defensively. Winning a game and not finishing last should be considered a success.
Prediction: Group Stage (got this one bang on)
Beforehand I pointed out the aging squad and suggested they’d benefit from a home crowd. Reading my preview I’ve discovered I made a late switch and decided Russia would sneak out of the group, even though I listed them bottom on my table, which meant when I wrote the table out I predicted them finishing last. This is why I suck at predictions, I overthink it.
Prediction: R16 (I changed this after my initial predictions and switched from getting it right to getting it wrong, typical)
I got this group bang on and ignored pre-tournament criticism of the Dutch. I had Netherlands winning at a canter and both Austria and Ukraine going through too. Pretty much nailed this one.
In my preview I pointed out the backbone of the team being from that great Ajax side and they played like they were still a team. I picked out Gravenberch and Malen as ones to watch and they did well when called upon. Unfortunately I thought Luuk de Jong would play the striker role, which went to Wout Weghorst. So I got that wrong but they lined up as expected. Gini Wijnaldum showed up in a big way and Marten de Roon has been very solid. All the areas I thought they might struggle in, they’ve had no issues.
Prediction: SF (pretty happy with this call)
I thought Austria might have a keeper problem but it didn’t seem to be an issue. I predicted they’d have good team cohesion based on players playing together at club level. Alaba has played further forwards than expected and has been given a lot of freedom thanks to his quality. They’ve also not been quite as reliant on crosses as I thought they would.
Prediction: R16 (got this bang on, so far)
I suggested Shevchenko may not have the necessary managerial experience to get Ukraine deep into this tournament and some of tactical failures have come from inexperience. Mainly not knowing he needed to change things when matches weren’t going their way. I did pick out Yarmolenko as a big goal threat and he’s been superb. It’s a young side and they’ve done well to advance past the groups.
Macedonia were firmly in the “happy to be there” camp. I did manage to single out Enis Bardhi as a free kick specialist and although he didn’t score, he did look dangerous on them.
Prediction: Group Stage
I almost got this right. If I’d predicted with my head instead of my heart I’d have got the line up bang on. I had Scotland edging out Czech Republic due to home advantage and sheer pluck and guts. Scotland played quite well in all three games and are unlucky to be going home so early. My criticism of the Czech’s was perhaps a bit wayward.
I suggested England’s main problems would be defensive, based on a lack of talent at centre back and suspect goalkeeping. Instead problems have been at the other end with England keeping three clean sheets. If they could have defensive stability I said they had a chance at going deep into the tournament. Well, no goals in three games. I also said only one of Phillips and Rice would play, not both together and that was wrong.
Prediction: R16 (With Germany and penalties looming, this is probably accurate)
I picked out Petkovic as a potential replacement for the retired Mandzukic and it took Croatia three games but eventually he did just that. I also pointed out they had problems at the back with Lovren playing and he conceded a penalty. Croatia have a great midfield, that’s not open for debate, and the options they have there would be key to how they performed. In games when their midfield has taken charge they’ve looked good.
Prediction: QF (this was before they walked headlong into Spain)
Plucky little Scotland. First tournament in 23 years. I told you to watch out for Billy Gilmour and he duly delivered against the English. I also warned Scotland about their lack of a striker and that did hurt them. They created a lot of chances against the Czech’s in the opener. A game that, if they’d won, would have seen them into the knock out stages. If they can find a striker they could be a presence on the International scene now.
Prediction: R16 (they were unlucky in all honesty but also lacked a forward presence)
I picked out Patrick Schick, Tomas Soucek and Antonin Barak. I think they’ve all been decent. Schick has taken the headlines obviously. They worried me with how Italy rolled them in a warm up game but looking back, I don’t think they were that bothered.
Prediction: Group Stage (they were better than expected)
The surprises came in Group E. From Spain’s profligacy in their opening two games to Poland’s complete inability to get it done in a major tournament to Sweden being so defensively resolute. This was the hardest group to predict and I didn’t see that coming at all.
Spain looked toothless for two games and blew their chance of topping the group. Luis Enrique’s bizarre squad selection didn’t really come together until the 5-0 win versus Slovakia. I did predict Spain would have trouble scoring due to a lack of proven striker and that’s what happened. Morata fluffed his lines against Sweden and has struggled for goals. I picked out Dani Olmo as one to watch. He lasted two games as a starter before being dropped. I kinda overlooked Unai Simon when talking about keepers and he’s started every game and looked decent.
Prediction: QF (probably still the case)
Journeyman coach Paolo Sousa only just took the job and the Polish FA seem obsessed with “getting the best of Lewandowski. Well, he scored three goals and Poland still finished dead last. I was expecting Milik to play to create space for Lewandowski but he didn’t. I got this very wrong.
Prediction: R16 (dead last, pathetic)
I said “I don’t fancy Sweden”. They won the group. I did single out Dejan Kulusevski as a potential match winner though and he’s become the youngest player since Cesc Fabregas to get two assists in a Euros game.
Prediction: Group Stage (I got this very wrong, they won the group and could go deep in the tournament with their defence)
I said Slovakia could sneak into the R16 but predicted they wouldn’t. So I feel I got that right. Slovakia teased the last sixteen but were wiped out by Spain.
Prediction: Group Stage (I finally got one right in Group E!)
I had Hungary getting “mashed three times”. They actually played really well and probably would have gotten out of any other group. The order I got slightly wrong too with Germany beating Portugal to ruin by group line up. Germany, as always, lied about their chances in order to lull us into a false sense of security.
France didn’t play particularly well but coasted out of the groups without losing.
Prediction: Winners (still think this is on but there are teams who could do them)
I pointed out Portugal should avoid the whole “just pass to Ronaldo” approach as better options were available now. They actually scored goals because of the Ronaldo approach and Bruno got dropped after the embarrassment of Germany. So, I kinda got that wrong.
Prediction: Final (this won’t happen now, and I suspect Belgium will be too strong for them)
The opening line of my preview was “you should never write the Germans off”. Oh, yes. I also questioned whether Low knew his best eleven, which was reflected in chopping and changing. My questioning of Hummels ability was also on point as he conceded an own goal and was at fault for Hungary’s opener.
Prediction: R16 (unless by some miracle Germany lose to England they will go deep now, taking Portugal’s spot on that half of the bracket)
I said Hungary were organised and could hit teams on the counter. They did and were unlucky against Germany in the final game. Just outclassed in the end.
Prediction: Group Stage
PREDICTIONS; ROUND OF 16
WALES VS. DENMARK
Wales did really well in the group but Denmark are flying high after battering Russia. They have a lot of fan support too thanks to travel bans on the Welsh support. The Eriksen Factor should push them into the quarters.
ITALY VS. AUSTRIA
Italy are way ahead of Austria and should win comfortably.
NETHERLANDS VS. CZECH REPUBLIC
I have the Netherlands advancing here. They looked good in their group matches. The Czechs will be solid in all areas and could take Holland if they fail to take their chances. It’ll be tight but I have Netherlands through.
BELGIUM VS. PORTUGAL
This is one of the hardest games to predict. They’re both reliant on a superstar striker but while Portugal’s midfield has been poor so far, the midfield of Belgium is getting stronger as the tournament progresses. I think they’ve got too much for Portugal here.
CROATIA VS. SPAIN
This should be tight. Both teams that like to control possession and boss the midfield. I have an inkling we could see pens here.
Prediction: 1-1 (Spain on pens)
FRANCE VS. SWITZERLAND
It’s about time for France to start really playing. The Swiss are ok but not on France’s level.
ENGLAND VS. GERMANY
Prediction: 0-0 (Germany on pens)
SWEDEN VS. UKRAINE
Sweden’s defensive attitude hasn’t won them many fans but it should win them a QF place.