A risk can be removed as the top four qualifiers qualify for the quarter-finals, but Euro 2020’s Group F remains intriguing as the Portuguese champions, French World Cup holders and all of Germany face off, while Hungary can also have a say.
AFP Sport takes a look at the four teams trying to make it to the knockout stages.
Portugal is the European champions and has reached the finals in at least four of the last five euros. They finished second behind Ukraine in the standings and, at 36, Cristiano Ronaldo will not be younger. However, Portugal also won the League of Nations in 2019 and Ronaldo has never been surrounded by so much talent: arguably from Ruben Dias to Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Diogo Jota and Joao Felix. If they click, they can take a stop.
Player to watch: Cristiano Ronaldo
Given the talent at the Portuguese level, it may not seem imaginable to differentiate Ronaldo, but it will be fascinating to continue his progress. At 36, it’s probably his penultimate major tournament. The Portuguese captain and player with the most goals has 103 goals internationally, 11 in the qualifying campaign. Now, Iranian Ali Daei has just six touches of a record of 109 international points.
“All other countries envy us,” he shouted this week in front of the French sports newspaper L’Equipe under photos by Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann. In France they are confident they have confidence in their chances of continuing their 2018 World Cup victory with Euro Glory.
Coach Didier Deschamps has a team full of world-class talent. The competition for places was already fierce even before the decision was made to recall Benzema. Most countries would be happy to have only Mbappe, Benzema or Griezmann, and perhaps overconfidence is the biggest risk for France.
Player to watch: Karim Benzema
At the age of 33, the Real striker was recalled after five and a half years of international exile. Mathieu Valbuena was not called out of the 2015 blackmail scandal involving a sextape involving former teammate. But Deschamps could not ignore Benzema’s form after a season in which he scored 30 goals for his club.
Germany is a three-time European champion and has reached at least the finals in each of the last three Euros. However, as they showed at the 2018 World Cup since Disastrous, when they came out on the team stage, Germany’s fortunes haven’t improved much. They overcame their qualifying team ahead of the Netherlands, but in the last matches they were 6-0 in the Spanish League of Nations and suffered a 2-1 home defeat against Northern Macedonia in the World Cup standings.
After 15 years in charge, coach Joachim Loew will step down after the tournament. He remembers Thomas Mueller and Mats Hummels, who were eliminated after the previous World Cup. Playing at home for the Munich team gives them an advantage, at least on paper.
Player to watch: Thomas Mueller
Germany will have a lot of confidence in the quality of players like Joshua Kimmich and Toni Kroos, but the successful Euro could also have Mueller. The 31-year-old has been very good when Bayern Munich ignored his country and has returned to the international desert for two and a half years.
The Magyars reached the second European Championships through the playoffs of the League of Nations; they finished fourth in the qualifying team, but won the playoffs against Bulgaria and Iceland to qualify.
Directed by Italian Marco Rossi, Hungary will play their first two home games in Budapest, but their best player, Leipzig midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai, is injured. It would be a huge surprise if they ended up anywhere other than his teammate.
Player to watch: Peter Gulacsi
Given the level of Hungary’s opponents, Gulacsi could be a busy man. The 31-year-old, once included in Liverpool’s books, has gone on to set the goal for RB Leipzig in the German Bundesliga. The recent experience in the final stages of the Champions League can be very good.
Calendar (GMT times):
Hungary vs Portugal (1600)
France v Germany (1900)
Hungary v France (1300)
Portugal v Germany (1600)
Germany v Hungary (1900)
Portugal v France (1900)
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