Why This Is The Most Unpredictable Euros Ever
Euro 2020 already shapes as the most unique European Championship of all time.
Being played in an odd year (and a year late) and across 11 host cities with 5 substitutes per match, this unprecedented tournament is going to be as hectic as ever.
Whilst the argument can absolutely be made that knockout football is unpredictable, this campaign is sure to produce shock after shock.
While yes, we mightn’t see an upset as truly shocking and monumental as Denmark’s 1992 win or Greece’s 2004 triumph, or perhaps even matching the scale of England’s 2016 capitulation, Euro 2020 still promises to be an absolute devil of a tournament, and here’s why.
A paddock of dark horses
Everyone loves an underdog; and the Euros has been full of them in the past, and this year is going to be no different.
From Eastern Europe to the Nordic homeland, let's have a brief look at some of the nations who could cause a shock at Euro 2020.
Sweden - These Swedes love to perform on the big stage. Despite the squad at their disposal, they always find a way to outperform their expectations and defy the odds.
Janne Andersson’s rigid 4-4-2 system is both hard to break down and fluid on the attack. Using width to their advantage, players like Alexander Isak, Emil Forsberg and Juventus midfielder Dejan Kulusevskiwill provide attacking flair and brilliance, whilst Victor Lindelöf will supply the all-important solidity and leadership in defence.
And even though Zlatan hasn't recovered from injury in time, this Swedish side will produce some shocks, the likes of which could even arrive against Spain in Seville.
Switzerland - Similar to Sweden, Switzerland is ever-present at international tournaments, participating in their 5th Euros in 7 attempts having made the last 3-straight World Cups.
While the Swiss have actually only won 2 total games at Euro level (from their 13 played) this new-look Swiss outfit is more than capable of making a splash this time round.
Manager Vladimir Petković is in his 7th year in charge of the ‘Red Crosses’ and will unleash his 3-4-3 formation that's sure to have Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri pulling the strings. Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka and Atalanta’s Remo Freuler will form a midfield double pivot with Manuel Akanji and Nico Elvedi marshalling the backline. This side is one to look out for.
Austria – Austria actually looks at Switzerland’s rather tepid Euro’s record in envy, as their only 2 appearances at this tournament have resulted in a measly 2goals scored and 2 points accumulated.
With that said, they’ll take a solid squad into this tournament, the likes of which might be able to to mix it with the big boys and advance to the knockout stages. And it's a path which might be possible considering the relatively weak standard of their group which while including the Dutch, will also consist of Ukraine and North Macedonia.
German manager Franco Foda takes in a squad capable of playing within a variety of systems. With the experience, expertise and versatility of new Real Madrid recruit David Alaba, the Austrians will also lean on the attacking flair of Marcel Sabitzer as well as the former Premier League wildcard Marko Arnautović up front.
Turkey - Turkey are no strangers to causing massive upsets on the big stage, famously booking a 2002 World Cup Semi-Final appearance, while also making a shock Semi-Final appearance at the Euro’s six years later.
Yet for all of Turkey’s ability to cause shocks, they’ve got an equally pronounced penchant for flopping, yet most indications are that the former is possible at this tournament as Şenol Güneş’ squad is one of the nation’s most talented in history.
Led by Caglar Soyuncu, Ozan Kabak and Juventus’ Merih Demiral in defence, and with Inter’s Hakan Calhanoglu weaving his magic in midfield, this Turkish team isn’t without international stars.
Up front, veteran Burak Yilmaz has just come off a campaign where he contributed 16 goals to Lille’s French championship, while this could also be the campaign Enes Ünal puts his name on the map having impressed in Spain recently off the back of initially being signed by Manchester City as a teenager.
Scotland - Incredibly, this is only Scotland’s 3rd Euro appearance, and first since 1996. The little cousin to their neighbours down south, this golden generation for Scotland could well be the side to finally put them back on the map.
Having two of the top-5 left-backs in the Premier League in Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney and decorated Liverpool defender Andrew Robertson requires manager Steve Clarke to come up with a system that fits both their talents, and which his 5-2-1-2 seems to have done.
Like Scotland did in qualifying, any noise they’re able to make this tournament will arrive courtesy of its rock-solid defence, as this isn’t a squad dripping with goalscoring power. In fact, Aston Villa's midfielder John McGinnis the only Scottish player heading to the Euro’s with double-digit national goals next to his name.
Denmark - Whilst probably not being a complete underdog, Denmark have a squad capable of going quite deep this tournament.
They’ll first have to channel the spirit of their shock 1992 winning team, yet they can also rely on a more tangible reality insofar as this team is actually littered with star power all over the park. In defence, recently minted Champions League winner Andreas Christensen will lead the way, while their midfield is full of international talent such as Tottenham’s Pierre-Emile Hojberg and Inter’s Christian Eriksen, while counting on the always reliable Tony Delaney to make sure any leaks are plugged.
Like Scotland, Denmark’s chances of springing a surprise will be enhanced by a home-field advantage that will see all 3 of their group games played in Copenhagen.
So many ‘Home Games’
This edition of the 'Euro’s is like no other', played across 11 host cities all over the continent also has certain quirks which could have a massive say in the tournament.
Chiefly, more teams are going to play games in their home city, which creates a somewhat unfair advantage considering the travel restrictions due to Covid-19.
For Example, Italy are playing all their group games in Rome, where they have never lost a competitive match in their history prior to this tournament. This is also the reason why a couple of the aforementioned 'underdogs' mightn't be as such.
As indicated, Denmark get to play all their group matches on home turf, while Scotland will play at Hampden Park in Glasgow twice, with a London assignment against England thrown in between. Russia will play two games in St. Petersburg, the Netherlands play all their group games in Amsterdam, while Spain also has the benefit of not having to leave home until at least the knock-out phase. England seem to always run into bad luck at international level, yet having their three group games at Wembley Stadium should provide them with a relatively smooth runway through to the Round of 16.
The fallibility of the big teams
What makes the Dark Horses of the tournament even more likely to go deep this Euro's is that nearly every big team has something that might perhaps undermine thier campaign. Put simply, no team is a lock for anything at this tournament.
The likes of Spain, Germany and Netherlands are all in a transitional phases. Spain is still trying to let go of that old guard which carried them in the last World Cup, with Germany in a similar situation, while this will also be their last international foray with Joachim Löw at the helm.
The Dutch are of course still recovering from the rise and fall of the Ronald Koeman era, while this talent-laden squad is still yet to prove itself on the big stage.
And then there's the likes of England and Belgium, two teams positively dripping with superstar talent, but whom continue to disappoint once the lights are shining brightest.
Will this year be different, who knows? But what is for sure is that these Euro’s are going to be an absolute cracker.
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