Coach: Fernando Santos
Best Euro: Gold, 2016
Euro 2016: Gold
World ranking: 5
Road to the Euros
The reigning Champions went into to the qualifiers high on confidence given the group opposition but with Ukraine and Serbia as possible bumps on the road. What they didn’t expect was to hit these bumps immediately, two games in Portugal had only managed to gain two points after back-to-back draws against, that’s right, Ukraine and Serbia. From that point they won all games bar one, away to Ukraine where they lost, but it was in the end enough to secure a spot in the Euros. Their top scorer during the qualification phase was Cristiano Ronaldo with 11 goals.
Key player: Cristiano Ronaldo
He’s not what he once was but let’s not pretend his impact on this national team has changed, he’s still the least you’d want injured ahead of the tournament and that says it all. His undeniable qualities along with his whole persona and psychological importance to Portugal, not only the football team but the nation, makes him their key player.
One to watch: Pedro Goncalves
The 22-year-old was one of the most instrumental players in Sporting’s first league title winning campaign since 2002 with 23 goals and three assists which made him the top scorer of the division. The success made him go from zero national team caps to suddenly be included in the Euro squad and it’s nothing but well deserved. He will not be starter but if he gets minutes you should keep an eye out for this goal threat of an attacking midfielder.
My tournament favourite behind France and I expect them to go far, all the way to the final. Brilliant squad and a core and coach who have worked together for a long time making things perfect on paper.
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Best Euro: Gold, 1984 and 2000
Euro 2016: Silver
World ranking: 2
Road to the Euros
It was hardly a surprise that France finished the qualifiers six points ahead of third place and two ahead of second, they were bound to win all the way although Turkey deserve massive credit for taking four out of six possible points against Deschamps men and giving them a race. Their top scorer during the qualification was Olivier Giroud with six goals.
Key player: Kylian Mbappé
The standout star in a team full of stars and he deserves the praise he receives. Only 22-years-old but is already a World Champion and multiple Ligue 1 Champions, all this while averaging over one goal/assist per game in his young career. France’s best attacking player.
One to watch: Jules Koundé
It’s hard to find a diamond in the rough when the whole squad consists of world class players but one player who still feels a bit overlooked by the general football fan is Jules Koundé, Sevilla’s brilliant young centre-back who is participating in his first major tournament for France. The 22-year-old has been consistently good for 1.5 seasons and his call-up to the Euros is deserved, he will not be a starter but this is a name for the future. Arguably the best young centre-back in the world.
Euro final 2016, World Cup gold 2018 and I don’t think they’ll do any worse than a final here either. My predicted winners of the tournament.
Coach: Joachim Löw
Best Euro: Gold, 1972, 1980 and 1996
Euro 2016: Semi-finals
World ranking: 12
Road to the Euros
A Germany short on confidence entered the Euro qualifiers with restricted expectations but bar a 2-4 loss against the Netherlands, Jogi Löw’s men won it all. Their top scorer during the qualifiers was Serge Gnabry with eight goals.
Key player: Toni Kroos
The 31-year-old central midfielder is coming from a brilliant season with Real Madrid where he arguably was the best in the league in his position. With Germany he’s a given piece in the middle of the pitch and continues to be one of their best and most important players. The engine who makes the machine going.
One to watch: Florian Neuhaus
The Borussia Mönchengladbach central midfielder has been a promising and highly touted prospect for years but his recent seasons suggest that he’s ready for bigger clubs. He enjoys to progress play from deeper areas but is also an impactful player on the final third. He will probably not start here but his chances for game time are good.
With the World Cup 2018 in recent memory and their Group Stage exit there it’s not with a big amount of optimism one look at Germany anno 2021 and considering the group they’re part of I predict a third place finish which might, or might not, lead to the knockout stages. If they get there they will get eliminated quickly.
Coach: Marco Rossi
Best Euro: Bronze, 1964
Euro 2016: Round of 16
World ranking: 37
Road to the Euros
Their initial qualification was far from impressive with a fourth place in a weak group, although not far off second place. Instead they had to rely on the Nations League path where they went up against Bulgaria in the semi-final and Iceland in the final, two games they won 3-1 and 2-1 respectively. Their top scorer in the qualifiers was Willi Orban with three goals.
Key player: Willi Orban
The Leipzig centre-back started 25 games in Bundesliga’s strongest defense who conceded just 32 goals in 34 games. For Hungary he’s just as prominent and his defensive stability along with great on-the-ball qualities makes him an integral part in both directions.
One to watch: Roland Sallai
Sallai is a 24-year-old Freiburg player who has enjoyed a great season in Bundesliga with eight goals and six assists from his right-wing position. However, in Marco Rossis’s probable 5-3-2 formation, he has been used as one of two strikers and that is where we will find him this summer.
No other team is as clear of a favorite for the fourth spot as Hungary and given that they face the champions from the three latest major international tournaments it’s understandable. Unless something sensational happens, Hungary will get eliminated in the Group Stage.