by Rory Grant
You might have heard of this scenario: the best soccer players in the world, strapping up their cleats to play for their country. The World Cup is usually the biggest example of this, however, there is another. Introducing, the Euros.
What Are the Euros?
The UEFA European Championship, or informally, the Euros, are just like the World Cup, with three changes:
1: The teams competing are only representing countries on the continent of Europe.
2: Instead of FIFA managing the competition, UEFA takes over the reigns.
3: Instead of all of the matches being played around stadiums in just the host country, matches are going to be played in stadiums all around the continent.
The Euros are where countries select their best players (people born in that country) and send them off to play and represent them. The teams compete in qualifying rounds all over a few years (1-3, with the Euro’s being held every 4 years just like the World Cup) and the top teams (the teams that have the most points in their qualifying group, top 4-6 per group) make it into the Euros.
Once you make it into the Euros, the teams are sorted into groups with 3 other teams. The group stage plays with a point system. Win=3, Draw(Tie)=1, and Loss=0 points. Each team in the group plays all the other teams once, and the top 2 teams from each group advance to the knockout rounds. They are joined by the 4 highest point scoring 3rd place teams. For example, if Croatia placed 3rd in their group with 3 points, while Switzerland placed 3rd with 1 point, Croatia would have a much better chance of advancing to the round of 16, while Switzerland would have almost no chance of advancing.
From then on it is a simple tournament bracket (starting from the round of 16) where it comes down to a final at the end and only one team comes out on top with the trophy.
Who Are the Players?
The players in the Euros have to be born in a country that is a part of Europe. This means that the likes of Messi and Neymar cannot compete in this tournament, as they are of South American descent. However, Cristiano Ronaldo (who is the current champion as he and his team won in 2016) is eligible as he is from Portugal.
But there are still so many great players that will be there like France’s Kylian Mbappe, Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, Germany’s Manuel Neuer, England’s Harry Kane, and Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne.
Who Are the Teams?
There are so many great teams, however it is a large tournament so I will only be talking about the top ones. I will also be giving a rating with a detailed explanation.
They are the true favorites, coming off a 2018 World Cup win and bolstering an impressive squad with amazing players at every position. Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann are joined by Karim Benzema for the first time since 2015. That front 3 will be looking to score.
The defending champions (won Euro 2016) still have a great squad and definitely look like they can make a run. Hopefully, Cristiano Ronaldo can find his form again and start banging in goals while Ruben Dias, Ronaldo's teammate, leads the Portugese defense.
The final few years are coming up for Belgium’s golden generation of players. More than half of their players are over 30 or very much near it. Belgium has never had a team this good before, yet there are no trophies to show for it. Can Romelu Lukaku keep scoring while Kevin De Bruyne tries to find his amazing form coming off of injury? The biggest concern is if the aging defense can hold up for one last tournament.
After an awful 2018 World Cup performance that saw them get knocked out in the group stage, they have to show up big this time around. Kai Havertz should lead the line for Germany as he’s in good form and I can’t wait to see how creative they get with the midfield as they have so many choices. We’re also going to need to see their classic stalwart defense again if they want to get past the group stage this year (it’s certainly a harder group than the 2018 World Cup, they are in the same group as France and Portugal).
The next generation of players is arriving for England as they hope to win their first international tournament since 1966. They have so many options in an attack, led by Sir Harry Kane MBE and a defense led by John Stones and Harry Maguire. There are some goalkeeping concerns in the team but England has a very solid squad overall.
Like England, they also have a younger squad as they chose not to bring aging captain and leader Sergio Ramos (the first time since 2004 he hasn’t been with them for an international tournament). Manager Luis Enrique said, “When you have to make decisions it is based on our criteria. I would like to talk about Sergio Ramos. Obviously it is because he has not been able to compete since January in the right conditions. It has not been easy.” This leaves some questions as to who’s going to step up and lead the team. Spain has a quality midfield and their defense has been bolstered by Aymeric Laporte’s arrival (he changed his nationality from French to Spanish). Their biggest problem is their lack of a key man up front. They have some solid attackers but no big superstar player that they can rely on to put the ball in the back of the net.
Many people think that Italy is the dark horse of the competition. They are ready to prove that after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. They need a strong and big performance to show to their fans if they want to come back from the big loss. Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile need to be banging in the goals while Giorgio Chiellini figures out how to catch up as he is coming into this competition at the age of 35, leading the team for one or two last tournaments. Gianluigi Donnarumma, the Italian goalkeeper is a prodigy. He is going to want to show off big time as he is a free agent (he is not currently signed to any team). This is his chance to prove himself to the top clubs that will be watching, and that are wanting to scout him.
How Can I Watch?
Euro 2020 (technically 2021) can be watched on ESPN, with the occasional match being on ABC. It can also be watched on ESPN+.
My Take On it and Who I Think Will Win
Personally, my money is on France. I think their squad is just too good to overlook and that they have so many players who are in great form coming into this competition. I can’t see anyone but France winning it. For the golden boot (the individual player who will score the most goals), I see it being either Sir Harry Kane MBE or Romelu Lukaku. Those two are both coming into this tournament in great form, they should both be scoring. However, I think it will be Lukaku who gets the boot because I think Belgium will advance farther than England in the tournament, which means Lukaku gets an extra match or two. This means that Lukaku gets more chances to score than Kane does.