After a year-long delay, Euro 2020 is nearly underway, and fans can’t wait for international football during the summer period. The European championship is set to kick off on June 11 with 24 teams competing for the crown, and each group is filled with top class teams. If you haven’t already, please join NMA’s mini-league, and then check out our tips and tricks guide to learn how to beat your rivals.
After taking an interesting analysis of group A, we shift the focus to group B where Belgium’s aging golden-generation aims to win its first ever major tournament through tricky opposition of Denmark, Russia and Finland.
Here is the fixture list of Group B:
- June 12: Denmark v Finland; Belgium v Russia
- June 16: Finland v Russia
- June 17: Denmark v Belgium
- June 21: Russia v Denmark; Finland v Belgium
Belgium may not have lived up to the hype of their golden generation squad, but they’ve stayed number one in the FIFA rankings for about three years now, entering these Euros among the top favorites. Their form has been on fire, breezing past teams during the qualification round.
Roberto Martinez’s men won a perfect 10 of 10 in qualifying against the likes of Russia and Scotland while scoring for fun, including Romelu Lukaku’s seven goal contribution. Just in March, Belgium schooled Belarus 8-0 in World Cup qualifiers, sending a message of being a major threat in the European championship.
Failed attempts haunt the Belgians: their best reached only the quarterfinals of Euro 2016, and they finished at bronze in the 2018 World Cup. These are results that Roberto Martinez looks to improve upon.
While many consider this ‘golden generation’ to be an aging squad, the Red Devils are still talented players who have just lost just once in their last 11 games. Kevin de Bruyne’s injuries in the Champions League final will not stop the playmaker from appearing in the Euros; he is expected to be fit, a major boost, but Roberto Martinez has confirmed that the Manchester City playmaker will not feature in the opening match against Russia.
Young players such as Jeremy Doku and Youri Tielemans will provide enough freshness alongside old hands like Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Dries Mertens, with all them lining up in front of veteran goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Another key flair player, Eden Hazard, will be coming into the tournament on his worst run of form since his transfer to Real Madrid from Chelsea; it will be interesting to see how Martinez will manage the Los Blancos forward. Romelu Lukaku will lead the goal-scoring threat up front.
“Why not dream big, and why not us?”, asked Kasper Schmeichel regarding Denmark being the dark-horse. Well he should ask since his father was a hero in his country’s unexpected Euro victory in Sweden almost 30 years ago.
This year’s Danes ended their group undefeated but second behind Switzerland, having lost just once since October 2020. They scored 23 times and conceded just six in the last eight fixtures. The Red and Whites understood the tactical approach of former manager Age Hareide, but current coach Kasper Hjulmand has developed their attacking prospects in a better form than their Euro 2016 attempt.
The talent they posses with the likes of the goal keeper Kasper Schmeichel in goal behind veteran defenders Simon Kjaer and Andreas Christensen. Also, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Kasper Dolberg Martin Braithwaite and youngsters such as Mikkel Damsgaard and Andreas Skov Olsen are a competitive mix of players.
One major plus: the arrival of fans. The Danes will enjoy a home advantage with around 11,000 to 13,000 spectators likely in three Group B matches: Finland on June 12, top-ranked Belgium on June 17 and Russia on June 21 will play in Copenhagen.
Since reaching the quarterfinals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at home, the Russians have taken a major U-turn. They didn’t face much trouble as the the runners-up behind Belgium in qualifying, losing two of ten matches.
During their incredible run on the biggest stage of them all, they relied on their experienced aging squad, and it looks like manager Stanislav Cherchesov will follow the same strategy this time. The last time Russia played in the Euros was back in 2012, so there should be pent up hunger.
Artem Dzyuba, their current active top goal-scorer could be the difference maker who could inspire the likes of Aleksandr Sobolev, Yuri Zhirkov, Mario Fernandes and Aleksei Miranchuk to level up. They look good enough to defeat the so-called minnows, but they always lack defensive cohesion when facing tough teams with quality attacking threat. This is the aspect of the game that coach Cherchesov must sharpen if he plans to advance in this tournament.
For the first time ever, Finland appears in the European championship, an historic moment for them. They placed second behind Italy in qualifying by winning six of ten matches, mostly thanks to talisman striker Teamu Pukki of newly promoted EPL side Norwich. He scored ten times in ten games to do his country proud and qualifying for their first ever mega-tournament.
Coach Markku Kanerva has done wonders since 2016; he also managed the U-21 Finland team for 12 years, so he has done something right. However, there is some concern for the Finns recent form; they have no wins in their last five games, being defeated by the likes of Switzerland and Sweden in friendly fixtures.
Kanerva’s side has some quality names in the squad, such as keeper Lukas Hradecky who has been rock solid and kept the defense in shape. Also notable is midfielder Glen Kamara who played a massive role in Rangers’ Scottish Premiership title; he’s being eyed by a few clubs in Europe for a big move, so he might be worth eyeing in fantasy. There are also youngsters like Onni Valakari or Marcus Forss who can contribute.
But the Finns will primarily hope for the “Pukki party” to explode at their Euro debut. Caveat: He has been out with injured since last month.
Despite their poor run of form lately, one can never predict the adrenaline rush and motivational boost of a team that is about to make a historic mark and can possibly do wonders in their debut European campaign.
Which team will finish second on Group B?
This poll is closed
[All stats sourced from AFP]
What do you think of group B? Which players do you think will shine for their country? Which for fantasy? Which team will be the surprise contender? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments!