Quick as a flash, the group stage of Euro 2020 is done and dusted. Some 36 matches crammed into 13 frenetic days has left us with 16 survivors and sent eight teams home early.
The first portion of the tournament has seen Italy, Holland and Belgium emerge with perfect records while the likes of France, Germany, England and Spain have yet to fully fire.
We’ve seen nations such as Hungary, Finland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic all play above expectations – for one match at least – but not necessarily make it into the last-16.
England. The feeling before the tournament was that their strength lay in attack with all the options Southgate has at his disposal but it hasn’t turned out like that. I don’t know how anyone could be excited by what we have seen so far. We have not even seen 50% of what this team can do. If Gareth Southgate can finally find the right formula, this super-talented team has so much more to give than the three average performances that we have seen so far. England were only saved by a bit of individual brilliance from
Germany have been unpredictable and flutter between being ruthless and flimsy. For the brilliance of their 4-2 win over Portugal, there was also their limp performance against France and the 2-2 draw against Hungary showcased them at their best and worst. They’re still weak at the back, and though they look far better in a 3-4-3 than with four in defence, there are opportunities for the opposition. They’re more effective when Thomas Muller and Leon Goretzka are on the field, but this is a team still trying to gel.
Joachim Low is departing the Germany job after this tournament and his side must markedly improve if they are to give him a winning send off.
It’s good to have Italy back
After they failed to even make it to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, it is good to see a revitalised Italy back at a major tournament.
They’ve been the stand-out team so far, cruising through Group A with three wins from three and not a single goal conceded in vintage Italian fashion.
You’d imagine Roberto Mancini’s side will make light work of Austria in the last-16 though a quarter-final against either Belgium or Portugal may see them finally tested.
Players that have impressed
There have been some outstanding unsung heroes. Wales’ Danny Ward and Czech Republic’s Tomas Vaclik have both been outstanding in goal. Across the back, Germany’s Robin Gosens, Netherlands’ Denzel Dumfries, Austria’s Stefan Lainer, Ukraine’s Mykola Matviyenko and Finland’s Paulus Arajuuri have all impressed. Italy’s Manuel Locatelli has had a great tournament in midfield, while Denmark’s Mikkel Damsgaard, Switzerland’s Breel Embolo, Wales’ Kieffer Moore and Czech Republic’s Patrik Schick have done well up front.
France remain Favourites despite a few hiccups
France. Despite winning just one of their Group F games, France still emerged top of the toughest section and they’ve still not hit top gear. It really doesn’t matter that France didn’t finish first with maximum points like the winners of other groups, they remain the most fancied to win the tournament for a reason.
When it was required, their midfielders Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Adrien Rabiot just stepped up the pace almost imperceptibly.
They are in the tough half of the draw but this team thrives in a big-game setting. They will be strong, physically and mentally, with their experience in finals after lifting the 2018 World Cup in Russia and their runners-up performance as hosts at Euro 2016. On the other side of the bracket.