Euro 2020: Previewing the Group of Death
With three of the top 12 teams in the world, Group F is, without question, the Group of Death at Euro 2020. While Hungary is also in the group, they will be unlikely to take a single point off the three teams ahead of them.
France, Germany, and Portugal will all expect to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament, either via finishing top two, or being one of the four best third-place teams. Let’s look at the three teams and predict how they will finish in the group.
FIFA World Ranking: 2
Odds to win group: +148
The reigning 2018 World Cup champions, France hosted Euro 2016 and were defeated by Portugal in the final to become just the second host nation to lose the final on home soil. In the semi-finals of Euro 2016, they secured their first defeat over Germany in a European Championship or World Cup since 1958.
Ranked second in the world behind Belgium, the French side is arguably the deepest in the entire tournament. Their attack is led by young superstar Kylian Mbappe and veteran Karim Benzema, recalled to the national team for the first time in six years. The midfield features Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, whose impressive form helped Chelsea secure the Champions League title last weekend.
Defensively, they have the best unit in the competition without question, and will provide Hugo Lloris with plenty of protection in goal. Their central pairing of Presnel Kimpembe and Raphael Varane features two of the best centerbacks in the world, while Theo Hernandez is arguably the best left back in the sport right now. The back line and midfield feature lots of height, pace, and power, and present matchup problems for nearly every team they will face.
FIFA World Ranking: 12
Odds to win group: +165
The 2014 World Cup champions have loads of talent, but also have serious questions within their squad. Manager Joachim Low is leading the side for the final time, and after 15 years many wonder if he was kept in charge for too long. Questions have abounded since a 6-0 humiliation at the hands of Spain back in November, and in their four matches since they have narrowly defeated Romania and stunningly lost 2-1 to North Macedonia.
The German central midfield is as talented as they get. Toni Kroos, Leon Goretzka, and Ilkay Gundogan are all in stellar form, meaning Joshua Kimmich will likely deputize at right back where the side has few options. Mats Hummels and Antonio Rudiger are solid in central defense, but neither are what you would consider world class. Manuel Neuer will have plenty to do in goal behind them as the defense has given up far too many chances of late.
Attack is where even more questions arise for a German side that does not move the ball as quickly as they used to. Thomas Muller has been recalled to the side to be the central playmaker, but striker Timo Werner has been in terrible form, wasting chance after chance for Chelsea this season. Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry will provide width and pace as well, but how they will line up remains to be seen. In their 1-1 draw with Denmark on Wednesday, they outshot the Danes 15-5 with Gnabry playing a false-9, but created just one big chance in the match.
FIFA World Ranking: 5
Odds to win group: +300
The defending European Champions, Portugal won the Euro 2016 final without Cristiano Ronaldo, who went down with an injury early in the match. Now, they may have a side even stronger than the one that lifted the trophy five years ago.
While the ageless Ronaldo will continue to lead the attack, the supporting cast around him features multiple players in terrific form. Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix, Diego Jota, and Bernardo Silva will give manager Fernando Santos plenty of options and a few headaches in terms of deciding his lineup and formation. Renato Sanches and Ruben Neves provide two solid two-way midfield options in the middle to provide service in attack.
Defensively, Pepe will feature likely for the final time as he partners with talented young centerback Ruben Dias, who has exploded onto the scene this season with Manchester City. Club teammate Joao Cancelo will play alongside him at fullback, with Anthony Lopes taking over in goal from Rui Patricio. Portugal showed in their 0-0 draw with Spain on Friday that they are likely going to sit back and absorb pressure, and look to hit on the break.
Group F Prediction
Barring a total collapse, the group is France’s to lose. They have the most depth, the fewest question marks, and the most players in form at the moment. That leaves it for Germany and Portugal to decide second place. While both sides have real questions around how they will line up, Portugal has done a better job over the past year in both attack and defense, and not losing to sides they shouldn’t.
While Germany should do enough to get through as one of the best third-place teams, Portugal provides solid value at -165 to finish top two in the group ahead of Germany. However, the best value lies with France to win the group at +148, a line you should jump on before the value diminishes.