The draw for the group stage of the 16th edition of the European Championship took place in Bucharest on Saturday, as the 20 already-qualified countries learned their fate. There are still four spots to be determined at next March’s play-offs, but we now know who the vast majority of sides will be playing in the first round of next summer’s pan-European competition.
Italy and Turkey will open Euro 2020 at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on 12 June. The Azzurri have not won this tournament since 1968 – they were runners-up in 2000 and 2012 – but look revitalised under Roberto Mancini. They have bounced back well from failing to reach last year’s World Cup and could be dark horses to lift the trophy next summer.
Given their population and love of the game, Turkey are one of world football’s great underachievers. They were extremely underwhelming at Euro 2016 and will be looking to make up for that group stage exit here, but Wales and Switzerland are each capable of advancing in the top two.
The Welsh reached the semi-finals last time out and still have Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey to call upon, while Switzerland only lost one of eight games in qualifying.
Belgium are among the favourites to triumph next year, having suffered a narrow semi-final exit at the 2018 World Cup. Doubts remain over Roberto Martinez at the highest level, but with Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku in tow, the Red Devils have one of the competition’s most fearsome attacks. They will expect to rack up the goals in Group B.
Even with home advantage behind them, few expected Russia to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2018. They also impressed in the qualification process for Euro 2020, winning eight of 10 matches. Denmark‘s campaign was more mixed but could be dangerous here, while tournament debutants Finland should not be written off.
Ukraine‘s fine record in qualifying earned them a place in Pot 1 for Saturday’s draw. The 2012 co-hosts were unbeaten in their eight encounters and finished three points clear of Portugal, the reigning European champions. Now managed by the legendary Andriy Shevchenko, they will be confident of a place in the last 16 next summer.
The Netherlands will have their sights set even higher as they prepare for the first appearance at a major tournament since 2014. There is plenty of quality within the Dutch ranks – think Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt, Georginio Wijnaldum and Frenkie de Jong – and they could even go all the way.
Completing Group C are Austria, who comfortably finished in second in their qualification group, and the winner of play-off path D or A.
There will also be a play-off winner in Group D: the winner of Path C, which will be one of Scotland, Norway, Serbia or Israel. They will join England, who are blessed with numerous top-class attacking talents but are yet to solve question marks about their midfield and defence, and who will be hoping to build on last year’s appearance in the World Cup semi-finals.
Croatia, the side who defeated them in the last four in Russia, are also part of Group D, but it is difficult to see them reaching another final. Luka Modric’s powers have waned at club level and Ivan Rakitic missed numerous qualification games, although Marcelo Brozovic is one to watch. Czech Republic complete this segment, and will realistically be competing for one of the best third-place finisher spots.
Spain dominated world and continental football between 2008 and 2012, winning a World Cup and two European Championships. They have been disappointing since then, however, suffering a group-stage exit at the 2014 World Cup, followed by last-16 eliminations at Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup. Spain qualified in style for next summer’s tournament, though, and cannot be written off.
Sweden caused an upset by reaching the quarter-finals in Russia last year and could cause problems for their Group E rivals with their defensive organisation and resilience. Poland, conversely, were underwhelming at the World Cup, but have one of the tournament’s star players to call upon in Robert Lewandowski. One of Slovakia, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland or Bosnia and Herzegovina will complete the group.
Euro 2020′s group of death features three teams who will have designs on lifting the trophy after the Wembley final. Germany crashed out at the group stage of the 2018 World Cup and have not looked overly convincing then, although they do have a useful blend of youth and experience as they seek their first continental crown since 1996.
Portugal are the holders but always faced the possibility of a difficult draw after being placed in Pot 3. Cristiano Ronaldo remains one of the world’s best players, and there is plenty of quality in support of the Juventus striker too. France are blessed with extraordinary strength in depth and, as reigning world champions, will be feared by all. Iceland, Romania, Bulgaria or Hungary will join the three heavyweights.