The European Championships are finally upon us, and England will finally get their campaign underway on Sunday afternoon as they come up against their old rivals, Croatia. The Croatians ended England’s World Cup dreams just as fans were beginning to believe that football was going to come home in 2018, but the Three Lions come into the tournament this year with newfound belief that this could finally be the year. However, could England go all the way this year?
England fans were cautiously optimistic when the groups were drawn for the EUROs, as on paper it didn’t look like the most difficult proposition. However, as the first game has drawn around, fans are beginning to become more pessimistic about the opposition, with genuine worries hanging over the Scotland game. The last thing that Gareth Southgate and his side will want is to lose the first game against Croatia, meaning that the Scotland game at Wembley becomes must-win. Therefore, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the England boss is already teasing that Luke Shaw could be deployed in a back three for the opener.
The Three Lions must not lose the opening game, but it’s likely that some fans will not be appeased unless maximum points are achieved. The threat of the Scots is clear for all to see, with energy all round their team with players such as John McGinn, Scott McTominay and Andrew Robertson. Make no mistake about it, the Scots will be up for causing a shock. Czech Republic are the final team to make up the group, and England would be wary of writing them off as a threat after they beat England in qualifying. However, maximum points and a top spot will be expected, but second would also be enough to keep fans onboard.
Round of 16 & Quarter Finals
Many have already argued that a second-place finish may be a more welcome finish in the group, as the Three Lions would play the runners-up of Group F in the first knockout round should they win the group. That could mean a crunch match against France, Portugal or Germany, not forgetting about Hungary, who also may be looking for a shock outcome themselves.
Should England finish second, then a likely showdown with Sweden or Poland could lie in wait, depending on who finishes second in Group E. Meanwhile, many would consider a third-place finish as disastrous, as England would come against the group winners of either C, B or E. That could involve a fixture against the Netherlands, Belgium or Spain.
The quarterfinals become more complex. If England win the group, then they will play the winner of the round of 16 showdown between the Group E winners (which could be Spain) or the team that finishes as best-placed third in Groups A, B, C or D. A runner-up finish in the group would likely mean a match against the team that tops the group of death. Meanwhile, should England finish third and make it to the quarters, then it could mean a showdown with Turkey, Italy, France, Germany, Portugal, or the team that finishes England’s group top.
Could England Reach The Semi-Finals or Final?
There isn’t any reason why England shouldn’t be able to reach the very late stages of EURO 2020. They have one of the best squads on paper in the competition, and an abundance of young attacking quality, such as Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford. Add to that the fact that they potentially have the best number nine in world football, Harry Kane, then it should be a minimum target. Defensively there are certainly issues, and we will only know more about how strong England are at the back when the tournament is underway.
England will have the bonus of playing semi-finals and the final at Wembley if they reach that far. However, there is no denying that there are a stack of teams that could be in the mix. Italy have gone under the radar and were perfect throughout qualification. Portugal, France and Germany have deep squads that have experience of winning major tournaments. Meanwhile, it would be hard to rule out Belgium finally delivering a success with their golden generation.
This could be the summer that football finally comes home, but there isn’t much doubt that England will need to be at their very best, and also have a fair slice of luck if they are to achieve something truly special.
Article contributed by Contributor Alex. Comments are appreciated on our Facebook page.