Euro 2020: Here is the group of death

Thursday June 10 2021
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The big stage of European football- Euro 2020 finally kicks off on Friday. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

By AFP

Group F is easily the toughest of the six first-round groups at Euro 2020. It features France (the reigning World Cup champions), Germany (four-time World Cup winners), Portugal (the defending European champions) and Hungary (a nation that is enjoying a bit of a renaissance).

With all of the Group F games taking place in Munich and Budapest, Germany and Hungary will have a distinct advantage.
It might not be enough of an edge to push them past a strong France side that has welcomed Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema back into the fold following a five-year exile. Also remember that a Portugal team that has Cristiano Ronaldo, who despite his age (he turned 36 this year) continues to shine on big occasions.

Stable France
France have reached the final in each of the last two major international tournaments involving European nations. They will see being in the July 11 showpiece at Wembley as the minimum requirement once again given their embarrassment of riches. Not many opponents have the same quality and depth in each position. Coach Didier Deschamps is at home and is happy with his squad, so much so that he did not stand in the way of Aymeric Laporte as he declared his new allegiance to Spain.

Low’s farewell
Joachim Low has named an experienced squad, handing international recalls to Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels.
They will need to hit the ground running in the opener with France having failed so spectacularly in the 2018 World Cup and suffered a dismal first Nations League campaign later that year. Toni Kroos, Ilkay Gundogan and Manuel Neuer are still around, but a younger generation has emerged, spearheaded by Serge Gnabry, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.

Hungary
Despite a fiendish group, and the absence of star player Dominik Szoboszlai through injury, Hungary will be quietly confident of pulling an upset against at least one of their more fancied group opponents.

Coach Marco Rossi has overseen an encouraging run of form prior to the warm-up games, with Hungary losing just one of 11 games ahead of those friendlies. Onlookers may have written off Hungary’s chances, and their presence at the tournament was only guaranteed after they came through the play-offs via the Nations League. What could weigh in their favour, however, is that they play two of their group-stage matches at the Puskas Arena in Budapest.

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The champions
Portugal are seeking to win back-to-back European Championships in the same way Spain did in 2008 and 2012.

Curiously, they drew all three of their group stages matches five years ago, and it was not until the semi-final stage that his side won a game in normal time - extra time was needed to defeat Croatia and penalties to sneak past Poland. A surprise winner back then, a difficult group this time around will not prevent them from dreaming big again.

With 103 goals for Portugal to his name, Ronaldo is bidding to become the all-time leading scorer with a national team and has Ali Daei’s record of 109 goals for Iran in his sights. The Juventus forward said back in 2019: “All records must be broken and I will beat that record.”

 Ronaldo has been Portugal’s talisman for many years, but he now has a talent pool around him to help phase in the next generation of stars.

Joao Felix, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Ruben Dias and Diogo Jota will all want to help ensure Ronaldo’s is part of a winning Portuguese team at the championships after he memorably was forced off in the final against France through injury in 2016. 

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