The final international break of the year saw some incredible results including Spain’s demolition of Germany, with the countdown to the European Championship now on. The tournament is still going by the name Euro 2020, despite its delay of a year due to the Coronavirus crisis. With Wembley hosting the semi-finals and final there will be hope for the Three Lions that football finally comes home. England are among the favourites for the title despite some indifferent form in recent months, but how are the leading contenders shaping up with just a few months still to go? Who are the seven biggest Euro 2020 contenders?
Euro 2020 contenders
After a run of one win in five games, during which they only scored three times, Spain found the right formula in style with a 6-0 thrashing of Germany. They will head into Euro 2020 with Luis Enrique back in charge after he controversially retook the coaching post from Robert Moreno after taking a leave of absence due to personal reasons.
Manchester City’s summer signing Ferran Torres shone with a hat-trick in the big win against Germany and he looks to be one of the potential stars of the tournament. Spain have an excellent mix of youth and experience, with Sergio Ramos still leading the defence, though Unai Simon appears to have taken over from David de Gea in goal.
The 2008 and 2012 winners will certainly be one of the teams to beat at Euro 2020 next year.
Like Spain, Belgium have qualified for the Nations League Finals and the top-ranked team in the world seem to be hitting their peak. Fitness question marks over Eden Hazard are perhaps the top issue for Belgium in the lead-up to the tournament but the former Chelsea forward has lots of time to resolve those problems.
In Romelu Lukaku, Belgium have a striker who can be unplayable on his day, while Leicester City playmaker Youri Tielemans provides the craft from central midfield. Belgium have won four in a row since losing to England at Wembley but a weakness for the Red Devils might be in the dugout, with Roberto Martinez’s CV not matching many of his peers. It is also arguable that Belgium do not have the same strength in depth compared to some of their likely rivals for the trophy, though their best XI will be a match for anyone. Undeniably among the Euro 2020 contenders but it could be the last chance for Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’.
Euro 2020 will be something of a home tournament for England but, having reached the World Cup and Nations League semi-finals in successive years, their progress has stalled. Captain Harry Kane is one of the top strikers in the world but his form for the Three Lions has dropped a touch and there are not a lot of goals elsewhere in the team at the moment.
Gareth Southgate will be hoping for more from creative stars such as Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling, while it remains to be seen how much faith he is willing to put in Jack Grealish and Phil Foden. More workmanlike players like Declan Rice and Mason Mount are preferred.
England also have an obvious weakness in goal, with Jordan Pickford enduring a tough period.
Joachim Low said he was angry after Germany were hammered by Spain and he is arguably fortunate to still be in charge after his side were awful at the last World Cup in 2018.
Low’s decision to drop experienced stars like Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng looks to have backfired but there is no doubt he has huge quality available through the squad. Leroy Sane has the talent to win any game and Manuel Neuer is still one of the best goalkeepers in the world, so Germany cannot be written off despite that Spain showing.
Germany won the tournament the last time the final was played at Wembley, back in 1996, after knocking out England thanks to Gareth Southgate’s infamous penalty shootout miss.
Roberto Mancini has had a transformative impact on Italy, with the Azzurri now in confident mood having shocked the football world when they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Italy have not lost for more than two years and they have a talented group of young players breaking through. Sandro Tonali, Alessandro Bastoni and Gianluigi Donnarumma could all be central parts of the Italy team for the next decade.
Mancini’s men also have the Nations League Finals to look forward to next year after they topped a group containing Poland and the Netherlands.
Defending champions Portugal are flying under the radar somewhat despite having one of the most exciting young attackers in Europe in the form of Atletico Madrid youngster Joao Felix.
Cristiano Ronaldo will be 36 when Euro 2020 starts, so this could be a last hurrah for the iconic attacker. He is on 102 goals for Portugal, chasing down Ali Daei’s international record of 109.
World Cup winners in 2018, France simply must be considered among the top Euro 2020 contenders.
Shutting out Portugal twice in the Nations League recently showed defensive solidity is still going to be a top priority for coach Didier Deschamps. A strong platform at the back, with N’Golo Kante providing protection in midfield, gives a license for an attack of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud to wreak havoc.
France will be determined to go one step better than at Euro 2016, when they lost the final to Portugal 1-0, for whom Eder was the unlikely hero in extra time.