Euro 2020 Power Rankings: Ranking the Teams from 24-1
After a wait that felt like an eternity given the yearlong postponement, the European Championships are finally here.
Fans will be back in the stands, and the teams from across Europe will take part in this spectacle of football that normally occurs every four years. And we've got the added wrinkle of this edition of the tournament being played with 11 different countries playing host rather than the more typical single host nation or pair of nations.
Six groups of four nations make up the field, with the top two in each group automatically advancing while the top four third-place teams also going through to the knockout stage. Portugal, the holders, is thrown right into the fire as it is in the Group of Death with fellow favorites France and Germany (and Hungary, bless), which should get the proceedings off to a flier this weekend.
What a ride we're in for.
Before things kick off Friday with Italy and Turkey in Rome, let's review the teams in the mix for the Henri Delaunay Trophy and rank them in order of how likely they are to lift the thing come the final on July 11.
24-20: The Minnows
24. North Macedonia, Group C
It's the first time that North Macedonia has qualified for the European Championships in its current form (previously played as part of Yugoslavia) and that should be applauded for the country of only 2 million people. Unfortunately, that's as far as it'll go for captain Goran Pandev (remember him of Lazio and Inter Milan fame?) and Co. as a quick exit seems likely from a tricky Group C.
23. Hungary, Group F
A decent squad with grit and organization could in normal circumstances go a long way in helping a nation get out of the group stage and into the unpredictable knockout rounds. It is not to be this time for Hungary, which has the worst luck of all 24 teams in the mix as it got drawn with France, Germany and Portugal. Frankly, it's not fair that we may have to lose one of those three, and that leaves Hungary as the ultimate afterthought.
22. Finland, Group B
Another first-timer joins the mix as the normally ice hockey-focused nation joins fellow Nordic friends Denmark and Sweden at Euro 2020. Led by Norwich City forward and all-around delight Teemu Pukki, it'll be up to him to fire the Eagle-Owls out of the group stage. Belgium, Denmark and Russia won't make it easy, though, and they should be considered significant outsiders.
21. Ukraine, Group C
One of the most recognizable faces in Ukrainian football will be back at the Euros as AC Milan and Dynamo Kyiv legend Andriy Shevchenko will be managing the Yellow and Blue. He'll need some of his goal-scoring flair to be coached into his squad or it could be an uphill climb from the jump. A relatively soft group of the Netherlands, Austria and North Macedonia will give them hope, however.
20. Slovakia, Group E
If nothing else, we get to see what elaborate hairstyle captain and leading cap-getter Marek Hamsik puts on display for the tournament. I can't say we can expect too much more from the Falcons this year. Strong through the spine of the team with Newcastle's Martin Dubravka in goal and Inter's Milan Skriniar in center defense, they'll be more concerned with not conceding than scoring in the early stages of the tournament.
19-16: Playing for 3rd in the Group
19. Russia, Group B
Off the back of its worst-ever finish in the European Championships (one point, minus-four goal differential in 2016), Russia will want to bounce back and show the continent what it's capable of on the big stage.
Gone are the days of three second-place finishes in its first five appearances and the winning of the inaugural championship in 1960. Russia's squad, affectionately nicknamed Our Guys, will need captain and hulking center forward Artem Dyzuba to lead an inexperienced group (he's one of two players with more than 50 caps) from the front.
18. Scotland, Group D
We're very happy for the Scottish. Making only its third appearance at the Euros, Scotland should play with confidence and its customary vigor in what could be a sneaky group of talented footballers.
Names like Andrew Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Scott McTominay and Billy Gilmour provide enough firepower to potentially do some damage. A mouth-watering contest with archrival England in the second group match could make or break the tournament for the Scots.
17. Czech Republic, Group D
Joining Scotland in Group D is a slightly more talented Czech Republic side.
The Czechs feature two of the main men in West Ham United's surprising 16th-to-sixth improvement in the Premier League last season: Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal. Smart and savvy footballers, they'll be joined by 25-year-old Patrick Schick of Bayer Leverkusen, who will look to work off the good linkup play and cause problems for the rest of the group.
The Czechs are likely third favorites in the group but could still advance.
16. Turkey, Group A
Turkey may not have the most talented team in its group, but it certainly has some high entertainment value. Led by captain and Ligue 1 champion Burak Yilmaz, this side could cause some problems in a solid Group A. The Lille forward is something of a cult character around popular soccer circles these days, and he'll have AC Milan's Hakan Calhanoglu and Leicester City's Caglar Soyuncu to keep things even more interesting.
Matching the incredible semifinal finish in 2008 may be a stretch, but this group may make some noise.
15-11: The Darkhorses
15. Switzerland, Group A
The Swiss begin the listing of teams that have strong balance throughout the first XI. They're a bit suspect beyond that, but players like Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabian Schar and Haris Seferovic should perform in what should be an unpredictable group. Captain Granit Xhaka has also seen a thing or two over his 94 caps. Strong leadership shouldn't be underestimated.
14. Sweden, Group E
We were this close in getting to enjoy Zlatan Ibrahimovic for one more run in the unmistakable yellow kits of Sweden. Picking up a knee injury in May while with Milan, the 39-year-old talisman will have to sit out what is most certainly his last chance at a big tournament at the international level.
Players like Victor Lindelof, Emil Forsberg and Dejan Kulusevski—Juventus' breakout star—will need to step up and fill the enormous void left by Ibra, though going deep in the tournament is still unlikely.
13. Austria, Group C
Another middle-of-the-pack squad, Austria has a strong squad, domestically speaking, as the majority play in Germany's top flight. It is also in arguably the weakest group and could easily come out of it with a favorable draw in the knockout stages despite playing a mostly negative brand of football.
A second-place finish would lead to difficult circumstances as it'd likely be up against one of the tournament's heavyweights that would likely see David Alaba, Marko Arnautovic and Co. head home at that stage.
12. Denmark, Group B
It's been easier to appreciate and enjoy the Danish national team much more the last few years. A strong side through the middle, Kasper Schmeichel of Leicester City fame anchors the Danes in goal. Simon Kjaer, Christian Eriksen and Pierre-Emile Hojberg make up a center that most nations would take in a heartbeat. If they can put it all together and get goals (23 in qualifying is a good sign), the Red and Whites could make waves.
11. Poland, Group E
When a side boasts who many consider to be the best player in the world, it's hard to look past the potential of Poland.
Robert Lewandowski is no joke. He is a lethal, constantly dangerous and hungry striker who feasted on defenders this past season for Bayern Munich en route to 41—yes, 41—league goals, a single-season record in the Bundesliga. He will have to be the main man for the Eagles...and that's just how he likes it at international level.
They don't quite crack our top 10, but we could see big things from Poland if Lewy is firing and has some support around him.
10: Wales, Group A
This is where it gets interesting: lots of teams that are fully in the mix and could sneak deep into the tournament with a good run of consistency.
You may remember four years ago a certain British nation did just this and surprised everyone. Yes, the Dragons of Wales were the darlings of Euro 2016 and barnstormed the thing all the way to the semifinals. What's more impressive is that it was the first time the nation of just 3 million people had qualified for the tournament.
Once again led by the mercurial Gareth Bale, the Dragons will rely on the veterans for one more push for glory. All the old faces are back: Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey, Chris Gunter, Wayne Hennessey, Ben Davies and so on. Bale will be heavily relied on, despite a topsy-turvy year on loan at Tottenham Hotspur. If younger upstarts like Tyler Roberts and Harry Wilson can contribute, we could be seeing another deep run.
9: Croatia, Group D
Just the team that England didn't want to see in its group is World Cup 2018 runner-up Croatia. Yes, you read that right.
Unless you were living under a rock for the tournament in Russia three summers ago, you would have noticed that Croatia went perfect in the group stage, beat Denmark, Russia and England in the knockout stages and then was routed by France 4-2 in the final. Not bad for a nation playing in only its fifth World Cup.
This is a new year, however, and it presents plenty of new challenges. Again pitted against England in the first foe in the group stage, the Checkered Ones (real nickname, which I love) have a slightly more difficult task to go deep at Euro 2020. The midfield is where this side will hum with the legendary Luka Modric still in the mix at the ripe old age of 35. He'll be joined by Champions League winner Mateo Kovacic of Chelsea and Marcelo Brozovic of Serie A champs Inter Milan.
The Croatians will be an attacking side this year as they are bringing seven forwards to the tournament. Get those passing sights lined up, Luka.
8: Netherlands, Group C
It wasn't so long ago that you couldn't say "international tournament favorites" and not include the Netherlands in the conversation. Finishing as runners-up at the 2010 World Cup and third in 2014, the Dutch didn't even qualify for the 2018 edition or the Euro 2016. Saying this is a barren run would be an understatement. This is its chance to right some wrongs.
In the easiest group among the big nations in the mix, anything but a first-place finish would be a disappointment. Luckily, the talent is there, and it shouldn't be too much of a problem. Like Croatia, the midfield will anchor the Oranje, with new Paris Saint-Germain signing Georgino Wijnaldum, Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong and Ajax's Davy Klassen controlling the tempo.
Memphis Depay, who may be joining De Jong at Barca this summer, is the main man up front and will have the massive figure of Wout Weghorst to rely on to holdup play. His record at Wolfsburg the last three years has been a goal in every two matches. Not bad at all.
Look for the Netherlands to bounce back but still not be quite back at the top echelon of nations.
7. Spain, Group E
So yeah, Spain. Dominant in the late 2000s and early 2010s, it has fallen off a bit lately, similar to the Netherlands.
That has been complicated further by the stunning developments connected to COVID-19 and the team's current health. First, it was Sergio Busquets with a positive test, then Diego Llorente. The team isn't training together, and the fears of a wider spread of the coronavirus has everyone on edge. Except head coach Luis Enrique, it seems.
"We are prepared for adversity," he told reporters. "It isn't a pleasant situation, but I have experienced much worse."
Well, if he's seen worse, then all is well, right? Maybe not. In a side that features exactly zero Real Madrid players in a tournament for the first time ever (!), the numbers may not add up for a return to international glory.
The forward position is where the biggest concern lies. All of them are very raw on the experience side, with Alvaro Morata being the leading cap-getter with 40. None of the other five have over 15. Something tells me a breakout star will be required to boost them deep into the tournament. Ferran Torres, anyone?
6. Italy, Group A
The four-time winner of the World Cup, it may surprise you, has only won the European Championships on one occasion, way back in 1968. Runners-up twice, most recently in 2012, the Azzurri could be sniffing a chance at silverware this year.
Managed by the one and only Roberto Mancini, Italy doesn't boast the household names this time around and may look to spread the wealth and focus around the squad. PSG's Marco Verratti, who is somehow still only 28, will be integral in the middle of the park, with Juve's Federico Chiesa providing the spark up front. His passionate play this season, despite a disappointing team finish, was one of the bright spots in Turin.
It will be interesting to see if Mancini can put the right players on the pitch and get his side deep into the tournament. With a veteran backline presence averaging near 30 years old, it could be down to good old-fashioned resiliency to keep the goals out while turning up the tempo with Verratti and Chelsea's Jorginho. Group A could be very tricky, so a boom-or-bust situation for the Italians is certainly in play.
5. Belgium, Group B
One could argue that this Belgium side should be at the top of this list. It really could. The Red Devils currently rank fifth for one reason and one reason alone: the health of Kevin De Bruyne, the PFA Players' Player of the Year.
The midfield maestro took a nasty shot to the face in the Champions League final that resulted in a broken nose and an orbital fracture that likely means he'll miss the first match of group play against Russia. One player shouldn't have that much sway over a team's fate, but De Bruyne is truly that good and was having an outstanding season before being forced off after an hour in Porto. If nothing else, it was a massive morale blow to Roberto Martinez's side.
Thankfully for Martinez, there is another play in his camp that could be considered a world-beater at the minute...one Romelu Lukaku. The Inter Milan forward was near unplayable this past season on the way to the Serie A MVP award. His 24 goals and 11 assists propelled the Nerazzurri to the title as few teams had an answer for his combination of power, strength and guile.
Oh, and we haven't even mentioned Eden Hazard, who comes into the tournament with a lot to prove after a difficult, injury-plagued season at Real Madrid. If De Bruyne comes back and contributes as we all expect him to, this could be Belgium's Euros for the taking.
4. England, Group D
It's coming home, they say. It has to be the year, they exclaim. Could it be for England in 2021?
After a yearlong delay that forced the football-crazed nation to wait to see its new crop of stars on the international stage, it may finally be time for a trophy to be raised by the Three Lions.
The talent is certainly there across the pitch with captain and EPL Golden Boot winner Harry Kane leading the line.
His play was nothing short of influential this year, not only in getting 23 goals, but he created so much for his teammates that he was the league's top assist-getter as well with 14. This bodes well for the likes of Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling. Not to mention the generational talents of 20-year-old Phil Foden, who could make a Wayne Rooney-esque splash on the biggest stage.
Manager Gareth Southgate is—and this will sound silly—as English as they come and wants nothing more than to guide his country to glory. With a nation behind them and at least the three group matches at home, a chance at the trophy is well within reach for the second-youngest team in the tournament.
3. Germany, Group F
Life, taxes and Germany in the semifinals. Pretty much as nailed on as you can get.
Joachim Low may be departing after the tournament (and bravo on an unprecedented run as national team boss), but he'll be pushing for more of the same from his uber-talented group of players.
All the old favorites are there: Manuel Neuer in goal, Mats Hummels in central defense, Toni Kroos in midfield, Thomas Muller up front. It's like World Cup 2014 all over again.
But the talent goes on and on from there. Joshua Kimmich was one of the best players in the Bundesliga this season, and the Bayern midfielder will have a heavy sway on how this team performs. Chelsea's Kai Havertz and Timo Werner struggled at times in their first seasons in the Premier League, but they are talented and may be better suited for this Germany setup.
The main thing holding the Germans back this year is the two teams ahead of them in the rankings. Group F is an absolute bear and it's going to be a shame if any of Germany, France or Portugal, each favorites on their own, have to go home early. The opening fixture for Germany is a match with France on Tuesday. My mouth is already watering at the prospects.
2. Portugal, Group F
One team has run the show in Europe the last few years, and it's Cristiano Ronaldo's homeland of Portugal.
The superstar has been so unbelievably influential for his country that he's nearing the record for the most international goals scored by a male player. Iran's Ali Daei holds that tally with 109. Ronnie is but five goals away on 104. Wouldn't that be a nice way to wrap up an international career...
One might think that CR7's ageless shoulders are carrying the bulk of the weight for Portugal, but that is simply not the case this time around.
A well-balanced side with quality throughout, the Portuguese have been growing in European influence year over year. Ruben Dias was arguably the only player better than KDB last season, and they played on the same team. Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United's player of the season, basically did whatever he wanted in the Premier League and is hungry for more. Then there's Bernardo Silva, Andre Silva and Diogo Jota, to name a few more. It's a deep squad with ambitions on repeating as champions.
If the 36-year-old Ronaldo can keep doing his thing (he's shown no signs of slowing down after a Serie A-leading 29 goals this year), it will be difficult for any of the teams in the field to keep Portugal at bay. Fernando Santos remains in charge and is looking for more silverware to take home to the Iberian peninsula. Expect the Navigators to make yet another deep run.
1. France, Group F
France could legitimately make the case for at least two different versions of Les Bleus in a competitive tournament. They are just that good across the board and will provide any team they face with significant headaches.
Head coach Didier Deschamps has the luxury of choice everywhere he looks on the teamsheet. Starting with captain and stalwart Hugo Lloris in goal, the Spurs shot-stopper has been ever-present in winning an impressive 125 caps at only 34 years old. At this rate, he'll easily pass Lilian Thuman's 142 caps for the all-time France record. That's just the beginning, though.
Blessed with a cultured and organized backline headed up by Raphael Varane, Les Bleus will play from the back and control all aspects of the play in the majority of the matches they play. Sure, Germany and Portugal will do their part to disrupt that, but it's this France side that makes the calls in this summer's tournament.
Midfield, you ask? Absolutely stacked. Paul Pogba, Adrian Rabiot, Moussa Sissoko and the cherished smile and unquestioned greatness of N'Golo Kante playing wherever needed will be hard to break down. Kante's play in the Champions League for Chelsea has led many to put him in Ballon d'Or consideration. Rightly so.
A front three of Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, the brightest young star in tournament, will be giving defenders nightmares throughout the monthlong competition. And rightly so. The trio scored 63 league goals between them this year, with two of the three playing with goal machines Lionel Messi and Neymar. Oh boy.
Picking any other side besides France to win Euro 2020 seems like an oversight. Depth, quality across the pitch, great coaching and X-factor talent in all the right places have the defending World Cup champions singing "Allez Les Bleus" all the way to a second major tournament victory on the spin.