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Euro 2020 Group F Preview

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Who will survive the Group of Death?

Thomas Mueller and Mats Hummels - Germany - Euro 2020
After falling out with Joachim Löw in the wake of Germany’s group-stage exit from the 2018 World Cup, these two stars have been recalled for the Euros. Will they see “Die Mannschaft” through the Group of Death to the knockout stage?
Photo by Stefan Matzke - sampics/Corbis via Getty Images

We conclude NMA’s previews of the six Euro 2020 groups with an analysis of Group F, otherwise known as the “Group of Death”. Why is it the Group of Death? Because the teams in this group are among international football’s titans. Besides Hungary, the group includes Germany (four-time World Cup champions), France (the 2018 World Cup winners), and Portugal (the reigning champions of Europe). All three of those heavyweight teams made it to the semifinals of the 2016 Euros, and before being pitted against one another in this group F cage match, all three would have been favorites to do so again. Poor little Hungary! (See the odds-makers number!)

Thus the group stage schedule for this bunch offers some colossal fixtures, with star-studded sides from some of Europe’s most storied football nations battling each other to survive to the knockout rounds. In truth, there is a fair chance that all three of Group F’s big dogs go through, because in addition to the top two teams from each group, the four best of six 3rd-place finishers also qualify.

Let’s run the rule over each of the teams and highlight players to consider for your fantasy sides. It has been a year and a half since the Euros qualifier games concluded, so it’s probably more instructive to evaluate these teams based on their performances in the recent World Cup qualifiers, as well as in their tune-up friendlies ahead of the Euros.

(Disclaimer: Lineup predictions are speculative for some of these teams due to squad depth as well as managerial predilection for player rotation and formation tinkering. They represent nothing more than my best guesses.)


France

  • Coach: Didier Deschamps
  • FIFA Rank: #2
  • Odds to win tournament: +450 (BetMGM)
  • Penalties: Griezmann, Benzema, Mbappé, Giroud
  • Free kicks: Griezmann, Pogba
  • Corners: Griezmann, Mbappe, Digne

The French breezed through Euros qualification despite a loss to Turkey, and then they went undefeated through the first three games of World Cup qualification this spring. In between those two competitions, they advanced to the four-team finals of the Nations League tournament by finishing first in a strong group that included Sweden, Croatia, and Portugal. They scored twelve times and kept three clean sheets, two of which were against Portugal. France also made light work of a 10-man Wales side in last week’s friendly Euros warm-up.

Deschamps has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, with head-spinning depth at every position. How good is your team when players such as Kingsley Coman and Thomas Lemar aren’t nailed-on starters, or when Lucas Digne isn’t even your best fullback named Lucas?

The French gaffer generally prefers a 4-3-3, but sometimes he shifts to a 4-2-3-1 when Kingsley Coman plays (and we should expect Coman to rotate to some extent with Adrien Rabiot). And to his preexisting glut of talent, Deschamps has now added Karim Benzema, who was suspended in 2015 for his alleged involvement in a blackmail scandal (for which he still faces prosecution). Now rejoining the squad after a 30-goal season with Real Madrid, Benzema’s late integration adds a bit of an X-factor, not the least of which is who will take penalties for Les Bleus.

A perfect 11/11 in his La Liga career, Benzema stepped up to take the PK in Wednesday’s game against Wales with Mbappé and Griezmann both on the pitch. But his attempt was saved, meaning he has now missed each of his last three penalties for France, the other two occurring in 2014 before his suspension. In truth, Olivier Giroud is probably the best penalty-taker on the team, so he will likely be on duty when he plays, but he doesn’t start regularly. Griezmann and Mbappé are other candidates, but where they stand in the pecking order after Benzema’s miss is a mystery. Fantasy managers will find this uncertainty vexing.

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Possible 11

  • Hugo Lloris
  • Benjamin Pavard, Raphaël Varane, Presnel Kimpembe, Lucas Hernandez
  • Adrien Rabiot, N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba
  • Antoine Griezeman, Karim Benzema, Kylian Mbappé

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Fantasy Considerations

Star-man Kylian Mbappé (FWD, €12M) has just concluded a stunning domestic season in which he tallied an astonishing 42 goals plus 11 assists across all competitions. He has also notched three goals and two assists over his last eight caps for France. A clinical finisher with blazing speed and next-level ball control, he will cause Germany and Portugal all kinds of problems on the counter. And let’s not even talk about what he could do to Hungary — and don’t you dare say that evil word (rotation — shhhhh).

Antoine Griezmann (FWD, €11M) was the 2018 World Cup’s second highest goal-scorer and Euro 2016’s highest. He is also France’s top scorer of the 2020-21 season, with five goals in eleven caps. Cheaper than Mbappe and on set pieces (possibly including PKs), he could be a better value.

None of Deschamp’s starting midfielders offer significant fantasy potential (remember there are no points for ball recoveries!), so I’m avoiding them. And since clean sheets may be hard to come by in this group except when playing Hungary, I’m taking a pass on Lloris and the whole lot of Les Bleus defenders too.

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Stacked with world-class talent on all areas of the pitch, and with reams of experience in both the squad and coaching staff, France is the favorite to win this group. Indeed, many betting sites rate them the odds-on favorite to win the whole tournament. If that happens, then Didier Deschamps will become the first man in history to win both the World Cup and the Euros as both a player and a coach.

FBL-EURO-2020-2021-FRA-TRAINING
The electric Kylian Mbappe has become the face of a France side oozing with world-class talent.
Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

Germany

  • Coach: Joachim Löw
  • FIFA Rank: #12
  • Odds to win tournament: +700 (BetMGM)
  • Penalties: Kroos, Gundogan
  • Free kicks: Kroos, Kimmich, Sane
  • Corners: Kroos, Kimmich, Sane

Germany stumbled its way through the Nations League this fall, winning only two of six and finishing with a 0-6 thrashing by Spain. World Cup qualification has gone better, with wins over Iceland and Romania preceding a surprising 1-2 loss to North Macedonia (!).

Joachim Löw’s formations in the Nations League and World Cup qualifiers have been quite flexible, including 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 3-4-3, and 3-4-2-1. In an interesting shift away from his tactics of yesteryear, Löw has gone with a three-man back line in eight of his last eleven fixtures. Joshua Kimmich tends to field-marshal from a deeper role, allowing creative players such as Ilkay Gundogan, Toni Kroos and Leon Goretzka to contribute to the attack.

But while his midfield is stacked with such maestros, his defense has been suspect. Despite fielding arguably the best goalkeeper in world football, Germany has kept only two clean sheets in its last 11 games. The two goals shipped to North Macedonia and the hammering by Spain raise eyebrows. Consequently, Löw may need to rethink the wisdom of a three-man back line against offensive powerhouses such as France and Portugal.

Löw also lacks a proper #9. Timo Werner often played as a winger for Chelsea, and he’s anything but a clinical finisher. Club teammates Serge Gnabry and Thomas Muller can also fill the role, but neither played that position for Bayern (too bad Robert Lewandowski isn’t German). To bolster his options, Löw has recalled Monaco’s Kevin Volland, but I would expect Müller to be first-choice centrally, often as a false 9.

Update: Germany demolished Latvia 7-1 in their final pre-tournament friendly yesterday. Low again lined up with a back three (Ginter, Hummels, and Rudiger), adding further evidence that this is his preferred formation. Kimmich, Gundogan, Kroos, and Gosens started in midfield, with Havertz, Muller, and Gnabry up top. Their offense was imperious, with Havertz earning man-of-the match honors from a performance that could cement him as first-choice over Sane. However, it is concerning that Germany again failed to keep a clean sheet, this time against the world’s 138th-ranked team.

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Possible Starting-11

  • Manuel Neuer
  • Matthias Ginter, Mats Hummels, Antonio Rüdiger
  • Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka/Toni Kroos/Ilkay Gundogan, Robin Gosens
  • Leroy Sane/Kai Havertz, Thomas Müller, Serge Gnabry

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Fantasy Considerations

Serge Gnabry (MID, €9.5M) is classed as a midfielder but lines up as a forward (he could even play striker sometimes), and he is all but nailed-on. With 15 goals plus six assists in his last 21 games for Germany, he is the kind of out-of-position fantasy asset that makes our mouths water.

Thomas Müller (FWD, €9M) was dropped from the national team (along with Hummels) after Germany’s horror-show 2018 Word Cup in which Die Mannschaft crashed out at the group stage. Now a late addition after a brilliant 11-goal and 21-assist season in the Bundesliga, the 31 year-old will have something to prove — and his price won’t dent your budget too badly.

Robin Gosens (DEF, €5M) is another OOP — an out-of-position player who wears a defender label but often lines up in midfield. He’s intimately involved in the attack, as evidenced by a goal and an assist in yesterday’s dismantling of Latvia. When you add the potential for clean sheet points, he’s a decent play, especially for the Hungary game.

While neither Kai Havertz nor Jamal Musiala are compelling fantasy assets due to their uncertain pitch time, they are nonetheless two young players who will be fun to monitor. Havertz has steadily improved under Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea, and he’s had a growing influence on the DFB as well. He’ll enter the Euros brimming with confidence after scoring the winning goal in last month’s Champions League final.

Chelsea academy product Musiala signed for Bayern in 2019 and became the German outfit’s youngest player to feature in the Bundesliga, taking the pitch against Freiburg a year ago at age 17 years and 115 days. He subsequently became Bayern’s youngest goal-scorer (17 years, 205 days) and Germany’s youngest Champions League goal-scorer (17 years, 362 days). Like Jude Bellingham of England, he is one of world football’s most exciting teenaged talents, and it will be interesting to see how he performs on this stage.

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Having announced plans to step down after this tournament, the 2020 Euros will be Löw’s swan song after 15 years in charge as Bundestrainer. With the 2014 World Cup and the 2017 Confederations Cup trophies already in his cabinet, this is the only major title that is still missing from his resumé. With criticism mounting ever since the 2018 World Cup debacle, he’ll want to finish his tenure on a high note.

And his players will be motivated to make that happen for him, especially with three group stage matches and a quarterfinal to be held in Munich. But in light of this draw, it wouldn’t be a too much of a shock to see Germany crash out at the group stage of yet another major tournament. That said, if the Germans can make it to the knockout rounds, they could go deep.

Germany v Denmark - International Friendly
Since the start of the Euros qualifiers two years ago, Serge Gnabry has been Germany’s most prolific attacker.
Photo by Stefan Matzke - sampics/Corbis via Getty Images

Portugal

  • Coach: Fernando Santos
  • FIFA Rank: #5
  • Odds to win tournament: +800 (BetMGM)
  • Penalties: Ronaldo
  • Free kicks: Ronaldo, Fernandes
  • Corners: Fernandes, Neves, Silva, Moutinho

Portugal went 2-1-0 in this spring’s World Cup qualifiers, a 2-2 tie with Serbia sandwiched between wins over Azerbaijan and Luxembourg. Although the Serbs took more shots than the Seleção das Quinas, Portugal enjoyed the majority of the possession in each of those three games. This stands in contrast to Friday’s friendly with Spain, in which La Roja dominated possession and Portugal sought to strike on the counter. Both sides had chances to score, but neither was clinical enough to convert, so that match ended in a scoreless draw. It’s worth noting that Santos rested all four of his Mancunian stars; Ruben Dias, João Cancelo, and Bernardo Silva were all granted the day off, and Bruno Fernandes was reserved until the 60th minute.

Santos usually lines up in a 4-3-3, but on Friday he employed a 5-4-1 with Cristiano Ronaldo at the point of the spear, supported by Diogo Jota, João Felix, and Renato Sanchez. Once the tournament kicks off, I would expect Santos to return to a 4-3-3 with Diogo Jota, CR-7, and Bernardo Silva across the top.

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Possible Starting-11:

  • Rui Patricio
  • Raphael Guerreiro, Ruben Dias, Pepe, João Cancelo
  • Bruno Fernandes, Danilo, Sérgio Oliveira
  • Bernardo Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diogo Jota

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Fantasy Considerations

Cristiano Ronaldo (€12M): Has the second-most international goals in the history of football and joint-most goals in European Championship history, which translates into most goals in the history of the Portuguese national team (which turned 100 this year, by the way). He takes PKs and hogs set pieces, and he is the undisputed alpha on this team full of studs. Do you dare go without him against Hungary on MD-1 when goal-difference could be a motivator?

Bernardo Silva (€8.5M), Diogo Jota (€8.5M): I expect these two to line up on either side of CR-7, and they may actually represent better value than the putative GoAT. Jota scored once against Luxembourg and twice against Serbia in the recent World Cup qualifiers, while Silva plays a much more advanced role for Portugal than he does for Man City.

Nuno Mendes (€4.5): I’m reluctant to recommend a defender from any team in Group F, but keep your eye on tomorrow’s friendly with Israel. Mendes started two of the three World Cup qualifiers, and another start tomorrow could suggest that he has elbowed his way to the top of the left-back depth chart ahead of Raphael Guerriero. If so, he makes a solid enabler.

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It’s easy to reduce Portugal to its larger-than-life talisman, the incomparable Cristiano Ronaldo. But that would be a disservice to a team that marries a core of experienced veterans like CR-7, Bernardo Silva, Pepe, and Rui Patricio to a strong contingent of talented younger players like Ruben Dias, Ruben Neves, and João Felix.

While they are not blessed with the depth of Germany or France, they have a proven ability to grind out results even when they don’t play scintillating football. Despite their tough draw, that kind of grit could take them a long way in this tournament, even if a successful defense of their title ultimately seems improbable.

Spain v Portugal - International Friendly
Diogo Jota has been an important source of goals for Portugal lately. Does he belong in your fantasy Euro 2020 squad?
Photo by Berengui/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Hungary

  • Coach: Marco Rossi
  • FIFA Rank: #37
  • Odds to win tournament: +20,000 (BetMGM)
  • Penalties: Adam Szalai
  • Free kicks: Rolland Sallai, Daniel Gazdag
  • Corners: Rolland Sallai, Daniel Gazdag

Fond of a 3-5-2 set-up, Rossi allows star man Dominik Szoboszlai free rein to join captain and leading scorer Adám Szalai in the attack. Defensive midfielder Adam Nagy controls play and protects the back line. Hungary has found some success with this formula, defeating 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia in a Euros qualifier in 2019. Last year the Magyars finished first in Group B in the Nations League, topping Turkey, Russia, and Serbia.

This spring, a ten-man Hungarian side managed to split points with Poland in its first game of the World Cup qualifiers before going on to beat San Marino and Andorra. And on Sunday they defeated Cyprus in a pre-Euro friendly. They kept clean sheets in two of those four games while scoring 11 goals. As one of the tournament hosts, Hungary will also enjoy the advantage of playing two of its group stage matches on home soil in Budapest.

But let’s be honest: There’s a massive gulf between the opposition Hungary faced in the first three games of World Cup qualifying and top-drawer teams like France, Germany, and Portugal. Had their draw gone differently, maybe they’d have a shot to advance, but it’s difficult to imagine how they can survive the Group of Death, especially with talisman Dominik Szoboszlai ruled out through injury. Unlike 2016, I don’t think there will be a Round of 16 appearance for Hungary this time.

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Possible Starting-11:

  • Peter Gulasci
  • Endre Botka, Willi Orlan, Atilla Szalai
  • Atilla Fiola, Laszlo Kleinheisler, Adam Nagy, Daniel Gazdag, Szilveszter Hangya
  • Rolland Sallai, Adám Szalai

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Fantasy Considerations

Peter Gulasci (GK, €4.5M): Gulasci is a very good and experienced netminder, and it’s entirely possible that he finishes the group stage with more save points than any other keeper in the competition.

But keep in mind that four third-place finishers form the group stage will advance to the knockout rounds. They’ll be determined first on points, then on goal differential, and then on goals scored. One of France, Germany, or Portugal will almost certainly finish third in this group, so all three will be looking to beat up on Hungary (especially in MD-1 when all else is unknown) in order to position themselves to advance even without finishing first or second.

So yes, Gulasci will surely make saves. But he’s also likely to get shelled. For me, he’s a risk not worth taking.

Currently Hungarian midfielder Loic Négo is second only to Harry Kane as the most-owned player in fantasy Euro. Why? Simple: Négo is a €4M midfielder. But here’s why I don’t like him: The ability to make active subs ahead of each calendar day within a “matchday”, along with the ability to roll the captain’s armband to players who haven’t played yet means that it pays to have 13 outfield players who all have a legitimate chance to “hit”. And because the fantasy Euro game has no bonus-point system, the value of expensive premium forwards is reduced compared to platforms like fantasy Premier League.

Hungary is by far the worst team in its group so will have only a narrow slice of the possession pie for all three of its matches. Additionally, Hungary plays on the final day of MD-1, and Négo is not even sure to start. Therefore he is very unlikely to improve upon the 1-2 points I probably got from the guy I’d be subbing out for him. That’s not who I want as my “anchorman” in subbing order.

So rather than use Négo as a throw-away enabler to help stretch my budget for devalued marquee forwards, I’ll spread my money around more evenly, paying particular attention to premium attacking midfielders and making sure that I have strong sub and captain options for each day within a match-day, and my last-day players will be nailed-on starters with high floors (because they have no backup).

Truthfully, Daniel Gazdag (MID, €5M) is the only Hungarian bone I can throw you. He should get some set pieces, and he scored 18 goals in 33 appearances for Honvéd this season. At €5M, he could be an under-the-radar enabler.

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The Magyars won a group that contained Portugal in the 2016 iteration of the Euros. But any way you slice it, landing in the Group of Death will surely spell the demise of Hungary this time around. It’s just hard to imagine this minnow ending up anywhere but on the bottom, below all three sharks in this pool.

Soccer - Pre Season Friendly - Hull City v Liverpool - KC Stadium
Drawn into the Group of Death with some of the most formidable attacking sides in all of world football, Hungarian goalkeeper Peter Gulasci could be the busiest man in the Euros.
Photo by Mike Egerton - PA Images via Getty Images

That’s a wrap on our preview of Euro 2020’s Group of Death. If you missed them, we covered Group A, Group B, Group C, Group D, and Group E in previous articles. We’ve also published a guide to succeeding at the fantasy Euro game; be sure to check it out for tips and tricks that will help you beat your rivals. And of course, if you haven’t already done so, please join NMA’s mini-league.

Then visit nevermanagealone.com regularly throughout the tournament. We’ll have player picks and rate-my-team articles, as well as Live Chat posts for each match-day.

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How do you think group F will play out? Which team will top the group? Which of the others will make it through to the knockout rounds? Does Hungary even stand a chance? What one shock result could upend the group? Which players interest you from a fantasy perspective? Please take our polls, then share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Poll

Which team will win Group F?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    France
    (86 votes)
  • 20%
    Portugal
    (33 votes)
  • 18%
    Germany
    (29 votes)
  • 6%
    Hungary
    (11 votes)
159 votes total Vote Now

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Poll

Does Hungary have any chance of advancing?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Yes
    (25 votes)
  • 79%
    No
    (97 votes)
122 votes total Vote Now

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Poll

Who is the best fantasy asset in Group F?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    Kylian Mbappe
    (34 votes)
  • 6%
    Antoine Griezmann
    (6 votes)
  • 3%
    Karim Benzema
    (3 votes)
  • 8%
    Serge Gnabry
    (8 votes)
  • 5%
    Thomas Müller
    (5 votes)
  • 6%
    Toni Kroos
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Ilkay Gundogan
    (0 votes)
  • 24%
    Cristiano Ronaldo
    (24 votes)
  • 6%
    Diogo Jota
    (6 votes)
  • 5%
    Other; specify in Comments
    (5 votes)
97 votes total Vote Now

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