Euro 2020 preview: Group F
Written by The Final Ball on 11/06/2021
Welcome to The Final Ball Blog! This is where we’ll have weekly a weekly detailed insight into the last week of sport for those of you who just couldn’t live by only listening to us for an hour a week!
And it’s the final of the series, the group that we’ve all been waiting for….
In terms of moving on from here, we’ll be looking at the season review now that club football has come to an end
The last tournament finally allowed us to write Germany off at the top level and being in this group once again keeps them out of the favourites. But Joachim Loew is throwing the very last dice by bringing back Thomas Muller & Mats Hummels into the squad. With the injury to Ter Stegen (possibly the only injury that could be deemed as positive) Manuel Neuer can firmly hold onto the no.1 shirt without the pressure of outsiders calling for him to be dropped, but the defence in front of him still leaves a lot to be desired, even despite the upturn in form of Rudiger. They do boast potentially the best midfield that world football can offer in the form of Kimmich, Kroos, Goretzka & Gundogan; and the attacking support of Sane, Gnabry & Muller should have enough muscle memory and cohesion to create chances but everyone is still unsure if the new UCL champions Werner & Havertz will get enough goals to makeup for whatever happens at the back, especially within this group. But as we’ve reiterated throughout this series, winning one game can be enough to get you out of this group and being in the knockout round knowing that you’ve already tested yourself against the two favourites for the competition will make them a dangerous proposition for most teams in the tournament. Just don’t mention the 6-0 against Spain( or North Macedonia).
Player to Watch: Robin Gosens
Prediction: Get enough points in the group, and let the bits of individual talent carry them to the semi-final
The nation probably winced in pain when this group was drawn but seeing historical rivals Germany in the group will at least give them some incentive to battle in at least one of these games. Will the spirit of Ferec Puskas give them a chance to get out of this group? Unlikely. But with Leipzig captain Willi Orban, Gulasci & teammate Dominik Szoboszlai, you can see that there’s a young core to this team that is likely to have elements of fearlessness that will surprise a few. Maybe in another group they could have had a chance, but realistically, the other teams are looking to them as their means of getting that vital win required to have you within a chance of getting through
Player to Watch: Dominik Szoboszlai
Prediction: Nice 3-game holiday, maybe a few players get a transfer to a mid-table Premier League team
Onto to the holders, somehow Portugal look significantly stronger than when they won 5 years ago. And if then, the emergence of Renato Sanches was enough to inspire them, you would imagine after winning the inaugural Nations League whilst integrating the talents of Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota, Joao Felix, Bernardo and Andre Silva & Ruben Dias (and whatever they can pick from the Wolves squad), it feels like they have everything that you need to be a favourite. And they have Ronaldo, playing the “legend” role. Given his age, he might finally leave the build-up play to the others and focus on the goalscoring element. His leadership and experience deal with that aspect that the media love to focus on so much, and his unwavering determination will be vital for them in the big moments. So what could go wrong? Well, despite all of the talent, Portugal have never been renown for playing dominant football, mainly depending the grandads of football in Pepe & Jose Fonte to kick everyone away from the goal. This not only gives the opposition chances of staying in the game but frustrates the life out of Ronaldo. Add to that wherever Bruno gets the ball on the pitch he will shoot (Just get ready for a Ronaldo hissy fit every 3-5 minutes), they could end up being their own biggest enemy. And with a difficult group where points will be critical, they can’t afford to be conservative if they haven’t gained the 3 points against the whipping boys due to being incohesive and lacking creativity. But they’ll be enough individual moments to carry them through but as they don’t tend to batter teams, every match will carry the tension that keeps games interesting.
Player to Watch: Joao Felix
Prediction: Finalists, maybe even back-to-back champions
The favourites in everybody eyes, France could pick 3 squads that could do well in the tournament. But somehow Tolisso & Sissoko have made the squad selection underwhelming, especially knowing that Camavinga & Aouar are playing in the U21 version and Ndombele is looking for tickets to the next DLT motive. So it leaves the inclusion of Karim Benzema as the extra bit of excitement in comparison to the 2018 World Cup squad. But what is most interesting about this dynamic is that he had been selected after a 6 year controversial hiatus, meaning that he either has a massive point to prove, or his presence alone quickly turns the team chemistry that Deschamps takes so much pride in(the latter has been made more of an intriguing possibility as a squad of World Cup winners are currently in complete awe of him, and previous France squads have been known to turn against the manager and combust). However, Deschamps pragmatic approach with a 4 centre back defence and Ngolo Kante will keep them in games in the same manner that the Portugal team does, making them likely to make it out of the group without too much fuss. But in the bigger moments, where big decisions have to be made, will it become about Mbappe, Griezmann & Pogba leading the charge again, or end up being a dressing room divided by the Benzema vs Giroud debate? Will Marcus Thuram get a game by virtue of his Dad being “mates with the coach”? Are Lloris & Varane still able to minimise their mistakes at the top level in order to repeat World Cup-Euros feat previously done under Deschamps leadership as captain? It feels crazy to deny them anything less than guaranteed finalists based on the ability of the squad but everybody knows football doesn’t work like that, something that the squads 2002-04 can attest to.
Player to Watch: Of course it’s Big Benny Drip (Karim Benzema)
Prediction: Most likely winners, if everything goes to plan