EURO 2020, Group F preview: France, Portugal, Germany and the group of death

EURO 2020: This is the European Championship’s group of death, with 2018 World Cup winner France, reigning Euro champion Portugal and heavyweight Germany put together with Hungary

It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that Group F is one to make mouths water. This is the European Championship’s group of death, with 2018 World Cup winner France, reigning Euro champion Portugal and heavyweight Germany put together with Hungary, a former powerhouse that’s no longer in the same class as its illustrious company.

France

France starts this Euro campaign as the strongest team on paper. What makes the Les Blues so lethal is the astounding depth in the squad. Manager Didier Deschamps has at least two good players for every position, which allows him not only greater cover for injuries, but also the leeway to tinker with his formations.

The team had another boost ahead of this year’s championship – the return of Karim Benzema. The striker had last played for his national side in 2015, having had a public falling out with Deschamps. But the two seem to have buried the hatchet as Benzema has been in red hot form this past season.

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France had a successful 2018 World Cup campaign with Olivier Giroud in the No. 9 position, and while he didn’t score in the tournament, he was praised for his hold-up play, which allowed Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe to thrive.

To France’s delight, Paul Pogba has found his rhythm just in time. He will be part of a midfield to watch out for along with N’Golo Kante, who himself is in brilliant form.

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Raphael Varane and Presnel Kimpembe will provide much-needed defensive stability for France, while one can expect full-backs Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez to lay out a balanced contribution in defence and attack.

Squad: Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris, Mike Maignan, Steve Mandanda; Defenders: Lucas Digne, Leo Dubois, Lucas Hernandez, Presnel Kimpembe, Jules Kounde, Clement Lenglet, Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Kurt Zouma; Midfielders: Kingsley Coman, N’Golo Kante, Thomas Lemar, Paul Pogba, Adrien Rabiot, Moussa Sissoko, Corentin Tolisso; Forwards: Wissam Ben Yedder, Karim Benzema, Ousmane Dembele, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Marcus Thuram.

Manager: Didier Deschamps

FIFA ranking: 2

Last 3 Euros: 2016 runner-up; 2012 quarterfinals; 2008 group stage

Last 5 matches: Wins 4, draws 1, goals for 9, goals against 3

Portugal

The surge of Portuguese players in the big leagues of Europe has made Fernando Santos’ team a hot topic ahead of this Euro championship. The winner of the Nations League in 2019, this team has cemented itself among the European heavyweights by developing a habit of churning out positive results despite a level of football not always attesting to the success Santos has enjoyed with his team.

Portugal has many match winners in its squad, with many of its players having enjoyed a successful season with their respective clubs.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes are among the key players in a talented Portugal squad. Photo: AFP   -  AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo’s name is synonymous with this Portugal side. The highest active international goalscorer, he will spearhead the Portuguese attack. Ronaldo was the highest scorer in the Serie A this season, but he invited criticism as his club Juventus lost the title to Inter Milan. But his performances for Portugal in clutch games, especially in the last edition of the Euro, should not be discounted.

With players like Bernardo Silva and Diogo Jota to aid Ronaldo, Santos will have an enviable attack to work with. Portugal’s midfield will be led by one of the world’s most impactful players, Bruno Fernandes.

Defensively, Portugal is as stable as it can be with the pairing of Pepe and Ruben Dias, who won the Football Writers’ Association (FWA) men’s footballer of the year for his exceptional defensive performances for Manchester City throughout the season.

Squad: Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes, Rui Patricio Rui Silva; Defenders: Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro, Nuno Mendes, Pepe, Nelson Semedo; Midfielders: William Carvalho, Danilo, Bruno Fernandes, Goncalo Guedes, Joao Moutinho, Ruben Neves, Sergio Oliveira, Joao Palhinha, Pote, Renato Sanches, Bernardo Silva; Forwards: Joao Felix, Diogo Jota, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andre Silva, Rafa Silva.

Manager: Fernando Santos

FIFA ranking: 5

Last 3 Euros: 2016 champion; 2012 semifinals; 2008 quarterfinals

Last 5 matches: Wins 3, draws 1, losses 1, goals for 9, goals against 6

Germany

Germany has been underperforming ever since the 2014 World Cup. A string of negative results and pressure from fans might be the reason why manager Joachim Low announced that he will step down from his role after the championship. However, the fact that he is a World Cup winning-manager should not be taken lightly ahead of his last tournament with Germany.

When Low released his squad list, the return of Thomas Muller was a topic of discussion. Had Low finally realised his mistake or was Muller’s heroics for Bayern Munich too significant to overlook? The inclusion of Kevin Volland was a surprise, too.

Thomas Muller’s return to the Germany squad was a topic of discussion ahead of the Euros. - Getty Images

 

In defence, Niklas Sule, Matthias Ginter and Antonio Rudiger will be expected to be solid, while Germany’s midfield looks excellent on paper with the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, the versatile Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Toni Kroos.

Up front, Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry, Kai Havertz, Muller and Timo Werner are enough to trouble any defence, but as has been evident over the past few years, Germany’s problem has not been quality, but the fact that it has not been functioning as a cohesive unit.

Squad: Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer, Bernd Leno, Kevin Trapp; Defenders: Emre Can, Matthias Ginter, Robin Gosens, Christian Gunter, Marcel Halstenberg, Mats Hummels, Lukas Klostermann, Robin Koch, Antonio Rudiger, Niklas Sule; Midfielders: Serge Gnabry, Leon Goretzka, Ilkay Gundogan, Jonas Hofmann, Joshua Kimmich, Toni Kroos, Jamal Musiala, Florian Neuhaus, Leroy Sane; Forwards: Kai Havertz, Thomas Muller, Kevin Volland, Timo Werner.

Manager: Joachim Loew

FIFA ranking: 12

Last 3 Euros: 2016, 2012 semifinals; 2008 runner-up

Last 5 matches: Wins 3, losses 2, goals for 8, goals against 9

Hungary

Hungary finds itself in dangerous waters ahead. Once a powerhouse in European football boasting the likes of Ferenc Puskas and Sandor Kocsis, the downfall over the decades has been drastic. As much as the notion of the ‘underdog’ may sound appealing, Hungary faces the danger of being completely steamrolled by France, Portugal and Germany.

But it’s not all gloom and doom for the Hungarians. Willi Orban will be a key player for Rossi’s men. A solid centre-back plying his skills with RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga, his no-nonsense style of defending will be crucial against the rich attacking prowess of the other three teams in the group.

It will be difficult for Hungary to carve out chances from open play given the stellar defence at the disposal of France, Portugal and Germany. As a result, set pieces become very important for Hungary.

Hungary has enjoyed success in its last five international outings, winning against Andorra and San Marino. Hard-fought draws against Serbia and Poland are indications that Hungary can hurt if given the chance.

Squad: Goalkeepers: Adam Bogdan, Denes Dibusz, Peter Gulacsi (Leipzig); Defenders: Bendeguz Bolla, Endre Botka, Attila Fiola, Akos Kecskes, Adam Lang, Gergo Lovrencsics, Loic Nego, Willi Orban, Attila Szalai; Midfielders: Tamas Cseri, Daniel Gazdag, Laszlo Kleinheisler, Adam Nagy, Andras Schafer, David Siger, Kevin Varga, Roland Varga; Forwards: Janos Hahn, Filip Holender (Partizan), Nemanja Nikolic, Roland Sallai, Szabolcs Schon, Adam Szalai.

Manager: Marco Rossi

FIFA ranking: 37

Last 3 Euros: 2016 round of 16; 2012, 2008 did not qualify

Last 5 matches: Wins 3, draws 2, goals for 13, goals against 5

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