Now the Euro 2020 draw has been made, the previews and predictions can begin! The tournament can be viewed LIVE in the U.S. on ESPN networks, from June 12 to July 12.
Overview: Italy were one of two teams (Belgium) to finish qualifying with a perfect record, but avoiding France and Portugal must come as a relief. Turkey took four points from six against France and go to the Euros with the best defensive record on the continent: an almost impregnable wall comprising Merih Demiral, Ozan Kabak and Caglar Soyuncu. Wales went the furthest of any of these teams at Euro 2016, and we all know where Gareth Bale‘s priorities lie. Switzerland have a wily coach in Vladimir Petkovic and keep games close.
X factor: The atmosphere at the Stadio Olimpico, starting with the tournament opener on June 12 against Turkey. Italy manager Roberto Mancini has talked up replicating the fervour he experienced at Italia `90, and doing so could give an intrepid and fresh-faced side an edge, providing an emotional charge their opponents will find tough to play against.
Must-watch game: Italy vs. Wales (June 21) If Italy knock their heads against Turkey’s brick wall and find it hard to play through a stodgy Switzerland side, the Wales game at the end of this group could light some fireworks. For all his troubles in Madrid, Bale is the arguably the one attacking player in this group who can win a game on his own, while Aaron Ramsey will know all about that Italy backline, having spent a year either training or playing against it.
Overview: No.1 in the FIFA rankings, Belgium had the best attack and defence in qualification and should not be worried by Russia, having beaten them 7-2 on aggregate during their journey to the finals. The Danes are an altogether different proposition and will fancy their chances. Finland, meanwhile, have nothing to lose after reaching a major tournament for the first time in their history. Teemu Pukki scored 10 goals in qualifying.
X factor: Looking beyond Belgium’s array of stars, Christian Eriksen ended qualifying as Denmark’s top scorer and the qualifying rounds’ second-best chance creator behind Antoine Griezmann. Out of contract in the summer, unless he extends with Tottenham, the playmaker could be playing to attract the calibre of interest he was unable to arouse [Real Madrid] at the end of last season.
Must-watch game: Finland vs. Russia (June 17) Saint Petersburg is a ferry ride away from Helsinki so expect the boats to be full. Routinely biffed by bigger neighbours, the Finns impressed in qualifying, and Pukki’s battle with Artem Dzyuba, the towering Zenit striker with the best xG numbers of any forward in qualifying [inflated by games against San Marino, Cyprus, Kazakhstan and Scotland], should be fun.