It’s finally here. The competition that every football fan, from Europe or otherwise, has been waiting for the last three years. UEFA Euro 2021 is set to begin on 11th of June, which is just a few days apart now. The tournament which is held every two years was postponed last year when the COVID pandemic hit the world and disrupted not only the football industry, but stopped the entire world. But with the situation fairly taken under control, European football can witness its biggest fiesta soon.
UEFA, the European football governing body, had passed a proposal for the tournament to be held at multiple venues across the continent, back in 2012. After two editions of the European Championship being held without this big change, 2021 will be the first of many years which shall observe the teams playing at various venues across Europe — with multiple hosts. This also gives a huge edge to many sides as the home support is something which is very near and dear to the footballing results.
The groups are set, venues are ready, and teams are finalized. With Turkey playing Italy in the first game on the 11th of June, the tournament will open to an amazing start. This first game has everything to be a cracker with the Italians playing their first International tournament after missing out on the 2018 World Cup, and Turkey being the dark horses who have defeated sides like Germany and Netherlands just before coming into this competition.
Well, despite each game being as important as any other one, today we take a look at the top five teams that you should keep an eye on — the dark horses, the potential surprises and a potential winner — all make our list. Without much ado, let’s get straight to business!
#5 Spain (Group E)
After winning the World Cup in 2010, Spain has never been the same. Many accredit their breakdown to the retirement of legends like Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Iker Casillas and David Villa. But with no dearth of talent coming out of La Liga and overall Spain every year, the retirement of stars cannot be an excuse.
The 2018 World Cup saw a different problem for La Furia Roja altogether. Just a few days before the biggest footballing competition began, Spain announced that they were parting ways with their head coach Julen Lopetegui. The reason being Lopetegui’s announcement as the next head coach of Real Madrid.
This set a very bad tone and atmosphere in the Spanish camp. They still had a great group stage, progressing to the round of 16 — where they were eliminated by the hosts Russia in a penalty shootout.
This Spanish team coming to the Euro 2021 is very different though. They have a proven coach in the form of Luis Enrique. A squad of 25-men with young blood running in their veins. But one huge talking point has been the absence of Sergio Ramos.
The World Cup winning defender, regarded as the best defender in Spanish history, Ramos’ ousting could either make or break the Spaniards’ tournament. For a decade now, the Real Madrid captain has been leading the National Team into big and small fixtures alike.
A squad with one of the least average age in the tournament, we could see a new sun rising for Spain in International football.
#4 Netherlands (Group C)
When Ajax from Amsterdam made huge progress in the UEFA Champions League 2018–19, the Dutch National team automatically found many heroes. On the other hand, in England, the rise of Virgil Van Dijk was soaring new highs at Anfield, Liverpool. The country of Johan Cruyff started having high hopes by their men in world football.
What made the Dutchmen more hopeful and anxious though was the fact that the Ons Oranje had failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2018 — making headlines across the world and causing riots in the country. The Nations League in 2019 was a huge hope for them. And they delivered.
Holland, led by Van Dijk and Wijnaldum’s experience and the youth icons in Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, had an unbelievable route to the final of the Nations League. Though they ended up losing the final to Portugal, it guaranteed long term success as a team for them, leading to the European Championships this 2021.
A huge hole in their back-line though has been caused by the absence of the injured Van Dijk. They will be playing the tournament without their leader from the back, which could be tough and challenging. Moreover, their new head coach Frank de Boer is still trying to find his best formation through International Friendlies, just a week before the Euros begin.
The Netherlands have always performed inexplicably well in the major tournaments despite any set-backs and they shall do so, this year too. They have a young talented squad which play in the best clubs of Europe on a regular basis and have no mental blocks as to playing at the biggest stage. The Oranje are going to be one big team to watch in this tournament.
#3 Italy (Group A)
Since the arrival of ex-Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini, the Italian National Team has been revived like no other nation in European football. Like Netherlands, the Azzurri failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup too, a few years back. This has really had a big impact on Italian football as the 25 Italians are coming for war in this edition of the European Championship.
Unbeaten since 2019 in all competitions, competitive or friendly, and having not conceded a single goal since 2020 — Italy seem to be invincible at the moment. They face a tough group in the form of Turkey, Wales and Czech Republic — all more than decent nations when it comes to the competition — but this Italy team is something else. There is no doubt that Mancini’s men will cruise to the knockout stages even if a mountain came in their way.
Unlike all the other teams mentioned on our list, Italy actually bring experienced personnel to the tournament with a majority of their players being previous participants since 2010. Especially the centre-back duo of Chiellini and Bonucci — who might be playing their last International tournament — making the hunger of the trophy even more craving.
It will be interesting to see if the Italians taste defeat for the first time in 3 years or do they go the entire tournament unbeaten, right towards lifting the trophy. Most certainly, they are very much capable of doing so.
#2 England (Group D)
The Three Lions — the most famous and talked about team ahead of the Euros 2021. England have been in the spotlight to such an extent that their coach Gareth Southgate even became the last manager to announce his final team-list for the competition. Well, not that England are the best team in the world, but they surely conduct the most watched footballing league on the entire earth — the Barclays Premier League.
This has made each and every player of the England National team, household names literally. Be it Harry Kane, Jadon Sancho, Mason Mount or Jack Grealish. They are stars even before lifting the trophy. But this time, they really can.
This English side showed their capabilities a few years back when they finished as semi-finalists in the World Cup, losing to Croatia abruptly. Strangely, they can have their revenge early in the tournament as Croatia play England in the Group D itself.
England have the most valuable squad of all the 24 teams in the Euro 2021. Led by Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho atop, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish and Jude Bellingham bring about the next generation of the Three Lions in the midfield. Southgate is expected to play a back-three of Harry Maguire, Conor Coady and Kyle Walker — which will be a brick wall to surpass. Jordan Pickford should start in goal.
This is the classiest lineup of all, and certainly, this may just be the year when England can finally say — It’s coming home.
#1 France (and the entire group of death, Group F)
The World Champions are obviously our top team to watch out for, in the Euros. And it has nothing to do about France winning the World Cup three years ago. It has got a lot to do with the group they play in. The Group of Death — Group F.
France are accompanied by Portugal, Germany and Hungary in what may be called the best set of teams in one single group this Euros. The Frenchmen, Portuguese and Germans all have won major tournaments in the last decade. France and Germany with the World Cups and Portugal with the Nations League. But alas, only two shall proceed to the knockout stages, leaving one of the nations to utmost scrutiny by the mid of June.
France seem the slight favourites out of the lot though. Germany are not the same anymore after the 2014 World Cup win. Portugal are brutal and world class, having won the European Championship 2016, over France itself, but lacking the enigma that the French possess. And Hungary of course, being the punching bag of the batch.
There are tremors surely expected when these three sides meet in the Group F to set the tournament ablaze at the very start. But there is no taking the eye off France, who have an unreal squad depth. A squad so good and young that all of the World Cup 2018 winners are a part of the camp this year too — unlike the other nations who saw many of the stars retire after the quadrennial tournament.
Will it be Allez les Blues all over again? That shall be decided on 11th of July 2021. But till that moment, you can follow Mighty Tips who offer daily betting tips on all the major leagues in world football. This Euros, the experts from Mighty Tips will be offering their predictions on each and every game right from the first to the final. So, don’t forget to subscribe to their social media channels to not miss a single tip!
With that being said, the excitement for the competition only grows multi-fold as it inches closer and closer day by day. Will France lift the trophy after winning the World Cup and losing out in the final of the 2016 Euros? Will Italy brush aside every team and get their hands on the trophy? Will Cristiano Ronaldo guide Portugal to their second successive European Championship title? We declare the Euros 2021 open! Enjoy the beautiful game.