So, you looked at all of the UEFA EURO 2020 groups, and you want to know which team will be on the podium at Wembley Stadium July 11 with the cup on parade?
You, and every gambler around the world.
Maybe more than any other competition, it is really tough to predict which teams are going to make a run at this tournament. The 2020-21 domestic seasons around Europe were very compact, with a lot of games in a shorter period of time. Add in the fact that leagues had to end the 2019-20 seasons last summer, and players come into the EURO 2020 without much rest.
All things equal, though, that means most of the teams are probably tired, and maybe that evens out the field.
Six of the top seven teams in the current FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings are from Europe, as are 10 of the top 14. Think about that, though: only eight teams make the quarterfinals of this tournament, and four go to the semifinals, so some of the best teams in the world will be done before July.
But that also means the knockout stage matches should be incredible. Remember, six of the eight quarterfinalists at the 2018 World Cup were from Europe (hosts Russia, Belgium, Croatia, England, France, and Sweden), as were all of the teams from the semifinals and the final. An amazing 11 of the Round-of-16 teams made up the 2018 bracket.
Basically, there are going to be great games all the way through the bracket.
Round of 16
Saturday June 26
1: 2A vs 2B, 12 p.m EDT, Amsterdam (ESPN) my pick, Turkey vs. Denmark
2: 1A vs 2C, 3 p.m. EDT, London (ESPN) my pick, Italy vs. Ukraine
Sunday June 27
3: 1C vs 3D/E/F, 12 p.m. EDT, Budapest (ESPN) my pick, Netherlands vs. Poland
4: 1B vs 3A/D/E/F, 3 p.m. EDT, Seville (ABC) my pick, Belgium vs. Germany
Monday June 28
5: 2D vs 2E, 12 p.m. EDT, Copenhagen (ESPN) my pick, Croatia vs. Sweden
6: 1F vs 3A/B/C, 3 p.m. EDT, Bucharest (ESPN) my pick, France vs. Russia
Tuesday June 29
7: 1D vs 2F, 12 p.m. EDT, London (ESPN) my pick, England vs. Portugal
8: 1E vs 3A/B/C/D, 3 p.m. EDT, Glasgow (ESPN) my pick, Spain vs. Scotland
Look at some of these games: there could be matches that should be finals in the Round-of-16.
In the first contest on Saturday, June 26, I have Denmark beating Turkey in a close, high scoring battle. The second match that day shock see Italy get past Ukraine.
On Sunday, June 27, I have Netherlands taking out Poland in the first game. But take a look at that second contest: Belgium against Germany, which I picked to finish third in Group F, could be epic. I see Belgium moving on, though, at the Germans’ expense.
Monday, June 28 should see Croatia knock off Sweden, while the defending World Cup champions France make light work of Russia.
On the final day of the Round-of-16 (Tuesday, June 29), the opening game is the tie of the round. England, which should breeze through its group, has to take on the Group F (Group of Death) runner-up. It could be France or Germany too, but I think it is Portugal. Football is not coming home, as Portugal knocks out the Three Lions.
Friday July 2
QF1: Winner 6 vs Winner 5, 12 p.m. EDT, St. Petersburg (ESPN) my pick, France vs. Croatia
QF2: Winner 4 vs Winner 2, 3 p.m. EDT, Munich (ESPN) my pick, Belgium vs. Italy
Saturday July 3
QF3: Winner 3 vs Winner 1, 12 p.m. EDT, Baku (ESPN) my pick, Netherlands vs. Denmark
QF4: Winner 8 vs Winner 7, 3 p.m. EDT, Rome (ESPN) my pick, Spain vs. Portugal
Remember, this could be all over the place at this point depending on how the group stages went.
I have France beating Croatia in the first quarterfinal on Friday, July 2, while Italy takes out Belgium in the second quarterfinal that day.
The Netherlands should move on against Denmark, but that could be an interesting contest. Finally, Portugal has too much for Spain in the Iberian Peninsula battle.
Tuesday July 6
SF1: Winner QF2 vs Winner QF1, 3 p.m. EDT, London (ESPN) my pick, Italy vs. France
Wednesday July 7
SF2: Winner QF4 vs Winner QF3, 3 p.m. EDT, London (ESPN) my pick, Portugal vs. Netherlands
This should be a battle of superpowers, no matter which teams are here. If Belgium beats Italy in the quarterfinals, we could have a 2018 World Cup semifinal rematch with France.
I think Italy is the team to take on the French, though, but Les Bleus have too much for the Italians, and move on to their third straight major tournament final.
Which brings us to the other semifinal, and the ultra-talented Portuguese side. We get our EURO 2016, and Group F Matchday 3, rematch, as Portugal knocks off The Netherlands.
Sunday July 11
Winner SF1 vs Winner SF2, 3 p.m. EDT, London (ESPN) my pick, France vs. Portugal
Amazing if it comes down to this. If France and Portugal finish one-two in Group F, you could switch their runs through to the final, and we could get this game anyway.
The two most talented teams will battle in a rematch of the EURO 2016 Final, which was won by Portugal 1-0 in extra time thanks to a Eder goal in the 109th minute. France dominated the regulation, but saw shots just go over the bar or off the post.
This time, it will be France that gets revenge, to duplicate what their last great team did (1998 World Cup, 2000 EURO), and hold both major trophies at the same time.