B/R Football Ranks: The Euro 2020 Contenders After the Group-Stage Draw

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterNovember 30, 2019

The trophy stands on the stage during the UEFA Euro 2020 football competition final draw in Bucharest on November 30, 2019. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
FABRICE COFFRINI/Getty Images

Saturday saw the unnecessarily complex and mildly confusing Euro 2020 draw take place, informing all 20 qualified teams who they'll be up against at next summer's finals.

Well, sort of.

A star-studded line-up including Francesco Totti, Ricardo Carvalho, Marcel Desailly and more operated under strict instruction from the UEFA draw master on stage, splitting up host nations, keeping Russia and Ukraine apart and, eventually, confirming the bulk of the draw for next year's tournament, which kicks off on June 12.

We're still waiting on the identities of the final four teams to qualify and complete the set—March's playoffs will decide those—but those still in contention know exactly what victory in spring will lead to:

There are a couple of eye-catching groups and a few sensational-looking opening fixtures; if France taking on Germany and England facing Croatia again after losing to them in the 2018 FIFA World Cup semi-finals first up doesn't whet your appetite, nothing will.

With the lie of the land set, we've taken an early stab at ranking every confirmed Euro 2020 contestant in order of how likely they are to win the trophy.

Naturally, with more than six months to go, it's a general measure of how strong these sides are—though the way the groups fell has certainly increased or decreased some chances.


20. Finland

Finland will make their UEFA European Championship bow in 2020, qualifying for the first time in their history.

Those expecting another gritty, defensive Scandinavian outfit in the mould of Iceland will be in for a shock, as the Fins are nowhere near as solid at the back and are in fact a bit slicker in their attacking play.

In Teemu Pukki and Lukas Hradecky respectively, they have a goalscorer and a brilliant goalkeeper, and this combination—in addition to the momentum and belief a first-time qualifier often holds—gives them wild-card potential in Group B.

Making an argument for them clambering out of a group with three sides who made the World Cup knockout stage is difficult, though.

               

19. Czech Republic

Czech Republic have fallen foul of the draw.

They're a decent side, particularly good in midfield thanks to Tomas Soucek and Alex Kral, but aren't a match for England (despite beating them once in qualifying on a very off-day for the Three Lions) or Croatia and have a potential date with another tough team in Serbia via the play-offs.

               

18. Sweden

It might seem odd to be discounting a 2018 World Cup quarter-finalist this easily, but Sweden's draw was arguably as bad as Czech Republic's.

Spain and Poland will both likely be too much for them, and then there's the fact that they drew the strongest set of potential play-off winners, with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovakia in that mix.

             

17. Wales

CARDIFF, WALES - NOVEMBER 19: Gareth Bale of Wales during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier between Wales and Hungary so at Cardiff City Stadium on November 19, 2019 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)
Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

It feels like things could either go very right or very wrong for Wales.

Ryan Giggs has an exciting, young group that boast quality up front but lack it at the other end. They've been given a set of very challenging and cagey games and probably stand as the weakest team in Group A, but if it all clicks into place like it did in 2016, they have clear upset potential.

                      

16. Austria

Austria were handed two qualifying-group winners in the Netherlands and Ukraine, ensuring their route to the knockout stages looks pretty rocky. 

They can point to plenty of quality in the form of David Alaba, Marcel Sabitzer and Marko Arnautovic, but they face a real fight to make an impact on the tournament.

               

15. Switzerland

Like Wales, they'll be looking at Group A and the fixtures against Italy and Turkey that now loom and mutter quiet curses about the draw process. They've been given a tough lot.

It's tough to know what to expect from Switzerland as they move through a transitional phase in personnel, so we'll leave them low for now, but they're contenders to shoot upward if the pieces come together.

                

14. Denmark

Denmark showed over the course of qualification that they're quite solid defensively but often lack a spark in attack. Christian Eriksen's contract standoff at Tottenham Hotspur, which has seen his playing time reduced, has heavily affected them in a negative way.

They're a host nation, so many will give them a chance, but they've been drawn with world No. 1 Belgium and fellow host nation Russia, who actually look a touch stronger. That could see Denmark settle for a best-third-place route out of the group—or perhaps not qualify at all.

                 

13. Russia

GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 6: Mario Fernandes of Russia celebrates the victory  during the  EURO Qualifier match between Scotland  v Russia  at the Hampden Park on September 6, 2019 in Glasgow United Kingdom (Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty I
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Russia don't look too different an animal to the one that impressed at the 2018 World Cup on home turf. The difference is they won't be so thoroughly underestimated this time around.

That they have group games at home levels the playing field somewhat in a group with fellow hosts Denmark and No. 1-ranked Belgium.

              

12. Germany

Germany are a very exciting, unpredictable team. Fun as that may be, it's not often such a team actually wins a tournament.

They're a far cry from the Germany side that won the 2014 World Cup and hit the semi-finals of both Euros either side of it. That can be viewed as a positive (better to watch) or a negative (the results don't follow).

Landing in the same group as France and Portugal is the steepest mountain to climb and massively reduces their chances of success in this tournament.

              

11. Poland

Poland are a strong side who can call on a glut of good players, but the draw hasn't set them up very well. 

They've been given the toughest set of play-off contenders and Spain, meaning second is probably their limit, and that would hand them England or Croatia in the round of 16...and France or Portugal in the quarter-finals if they negotiate that.

          

10. Ukraine

BELGRADE, SERBIA - NOVEMBER 17: Artem Besedin (L) of Ukraine celebrates after scoring a goal with Oleksandr Karavaev (R) during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier between Serbia and Ukraine on November 17, 2019 in Belgrade, Serbia. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/G
Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

Ukraine proved difficult to break down during qualifying, conceding just four goals (the joint-second-fewest) and actually topping a group containing Portugal.

They're also pretty well set through midfield and attack too, making them a more rounded team than most heading to the tournament.

The group draw gives them a good chance of making the knockout stages, and from there, who knows?

                  

9. Turkey

Some have labelled this Turkish defence a golden generation. Centre-backs Caglar Soyuncu and Merih Demiral are rock-solid, and with Ozan Kabak in contention too, fans are confident in their nation's ability to absorb pressure.

Just three goals conceded in 10 games, despite being grouped with France, paints a vivid picture.

The concerns are up front. None of their strikers are in form, and when you're calling on last-gasp winners to beat Andorra and Albania to secure passage to the finals, the alarm bells should be ringing.

             

8. Croatia

Croatia's midfielder Luka Modric reacts during the Euro 2020 Group E football qualification match between Croatia and Slovakia at the Rujevica Stadium in Rijeka, Croatia on November 16, 2019. (Photo by Denis LOVROVIC / AFP) (Photo by DENIS LOVROVIC/AFP vi
DENIS LOVROVIC/Getty Images

You'd expect the World Cup runners-up to be right in the mix for a European title, but concerns over their consistency cloud any hopes of glory.

That said, Luka Modric is still in fine international fettle, and in Nikola Vlasic and Bruno Petkovic, they have new attackers to hang their hat on.

If only there was such confidence in the full-back positions. Qualifying often saw them use a centre-back at right-back because of Sime Vrsaljko's fitness issues, and left-back Borna Barisic plays club football for Rangers.

    

7. England

World Cup semi-finalists, bronze medalists at the UEFA Nations League and co-host of the competition, with latter-stage games at Wembley.

What's not to like?

Well, for a team who have actually achieved quite a lot on the international stage these past 18 months, they have an awful lot to figure out ahead of the Euros. It'd be easier to have confidence in the defence if Ben Chilwell and Trent Alexander-Arnold had been consistently playing for the last year, or if the centre-backs hadn't imploded during the Nations League.

The midfield, too, has big question marks over how it sets up and who plays in it. Even if Gareth Southgate thinks he's figured that out for now, the return to fitness of Ruben Loftus-Cheek will throw a fresh spanner in the works soon.

There's an argument home advantage will power England to the top of Group D, but that would lead to a bout with France, Portugal or perhaps Germany. That might be too much to ask.

           

6. Italy

All aboard the Italy hype train!

The Azzurri rounded off a perfect 10-win qualification campaign with a 9-1 battering of Armenia, finishing up on a goal difference of plus-33.

After failing to get to the 2018 World Cup, they've rebounded in style, with Roberto Mancini leading a talented, technical team that wows in attack.

In truth, they present a real head-scratcher when it comes to projecting ahead of Euro 2020. While they did win 10 games to qualify, they were 10 games against poor opponents. There's no getting away from that.

So unlike every other side in this top 10, we have no recent evidence of Italy playing strong opponents—no World Cup, no Nations League finals—making them very hard to gauge. That means a leap of faith must be taken, one way or the other, and we're projecting positively: The talent, confidence and tactical coordination of this team should be something others fear.

                

5. Spain

MOSTA, MALTA - MARCH 26: Sergio Ramos of Spain controls the ball during the 2020 UEFA European Championships group F qualifying match between Malta and Spain at Ta'Qali National Stadium on March 26, 2019 in Mosta, Malta. (Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via
TF-Images/Getty Images

The collection of names Spain can call upon is still exquisite. The bulk of their squad has won so many trophies that it's tough to keep count. And with Luis Enrique back in charge following a leave of absence, the feeling that this Spain machine can roll onto great things is strong.

If there's an on-pitch concern, it's that they're stacked with quality in every position bar one: striker. Diego Costa looks past his best, while you can never be sure which version of Alvaro Morata or Rodrigo will turn up—they're so inconsistent.

Spai are a good case study in how to manage that problem, winning several tournaments while juggling No. 9 issues, but this team aren't as good as those from 2010 and 2012. Not having a reliable goalscorer up front could easily hurt them this time.

             

4. The Netherlands

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - NOVEMBER 16: Virgil van Dijk of Netherlands in action during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier between Northern Ireland  and The Netherlands at Windsor Park on November 16, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Ge
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

There are still a couple of questions to answer in the attacking areas for the Netherlands, but both the tactical plan and the spine of the team is firmly in place.

Manager Ronald Koeman can be a little negative in his outlook at times, leading to cagier, closer games than necessary, but few can blame him for leaning on the strengths of Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs De Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum.

With that foundation to build on, the Dutch can win any game and beat anyone.

And they'll probably have the luxury of figuring out their best attacking force on the fly during the group stage, as they've been handed a really, really nice set of opponents.

             

3. Belgium 

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 16: Eden Hazard (R) of Belgium celebrates his goal with Thorgan Hazard during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier between Russia and Belgium on November 16, 2019 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Mike Kireev/MB Media/Gett
Mike Kireev/MB Media/Getty Images

Belgium look incredibly strong. Like, scary strong if you consider yourself a front-runner to win this competition.

They achieved third place at the 2018 World Cup, playing out an incredibly tight, equal game with eventual champions France in the knockout stages, and since then all they've done is get better. Thorgan Hazard has strengthened the team on the left flank and is dovetailing beautifully with his brother Eden.

In Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, they have two players capable of deciding any game.

This golden generation won't get a better chance to secure a legacy, and there's no doubt they have what it takes to win the tournament.

                 

2. Portugal

LUXEMBOURG, LUXEMBOURG - NOVEMBER 17: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal looks on during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier between Luxembourg and Portugal on November 17, 2019 in Luxembourg, Luxembourg. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
TF-Images/Getty Images

You know the drill by now. Portugal aren't a great watch, but they know how to get results.

The entirety of Fernando Santos' reign has been like this and so far it's led to a Euro 2016 crown and a UEFA Nations League win.

They play somewhat cautiously, outmuscle you in midfield and then look to one of their creative talents, such as Bernardo Silva or Bruno Fernandes, to create an opening for Cristiano Ronaldo in the box.

Uncomplicated, a tad unfashionable, but you can't say it isn't effective. They're a contender to win the tournament.

            

1. France

ANDORRA LA VELLA, ANDORRA - JUNE 11: Kurt Zouma of France celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's fourth goal  during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualification match between Andorra and France on June 11, 2019 in Andorra la Vella, Andorra. (Photo by Dav
David Ramos/Getty Images

Reigning world champions. A core of players who won in Russia and are still in their primes now. When projecting so far ahead, it's sometimes best not to get too cute.

Admittedly, qualifying has been a bit squeaky at times, and the list of injuries they've accrued will likely concern Didier Deschamps. But presuming they clear up ahead of next June, there's a lot for others to fear and very little to dislike about France.

They turned it on when it mattered in 2018, peaking at the right time, and you'd trust them to do it again.

                  

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All statistics via WhoScored.com.

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