Following its Covid-19 postponement, Euro 2020 is being played in 2021 with Free Live Streaming on BBC iPlayer and ITV Sport. Need a Euro 2020 Football VPN?
Euro 2020 in 21 kicks off this Friday and the buzz is really starting to build. While France are the strong favourites to go one better than they did in 2016 and win the competition. We’ve already previewed Group A, featuring Wales, and Group D, featuring England and Scotland, and you can read them by clicking here and here.
Now it’s time to turn our attention to the rest of the groups and the logical place to begin is with Group B which features Denmark, Finland, Belgium and Russia. Games will be played at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen and the Gazprom Arena in St. Petersburg.
⚽ Euro 2020
📺 Free Live Euro 2020 Streaming on BBC & ITV + Catchup on BBC iPlayer & ITV Hub
📅 11 June – 11 July 2021
Coach: Kasper Hjulmand
Captain: Simon Kjaer
Previous Best Performance: Winner – 1992
Path to Euro 2020: The Danes finished second in Group D of the qualifiers, one point behind Switzerland. An unbeaten campaign of four wins and four draws from eight games against the Swiss, the Republic of Ireland, Georgia and Gibraltar was an impressive return for the Danes.
Key Player: Christian Eriksen. In a squad that lacks truly top class players, Eriksen is the only one who has ever even approached world class. His playmaking, ability to dictate games and ability from set pieces will all prove vital for the Danes. He is, by some distance, the biggest goal threat in the squad and his 36 goals for Denmark are 27 more than the next highest scorer in the squad.
Youngster to watch: Andreas Skov Olsen of Bologna, a wide forward who has struggled to find his best form since his move to Serie A but remains one to watch. Comfortable off either wing, he holds a preference for the right which allows him to cut in on his left foot and shoot. Tall and athletic, he is a powerful runner who makes up for a lack of high end pace with clever movement and timing. He doesn’t offer much from a creative standpoint and his defensive contributions leave a lot to be desired but there’s no denying his ability to turn a game with his shooting ability.
Squad Strengths: The Danes bring an experienced squad with a number of players who know what it is to play in a big tournament. They’re a close knit unit with plenty of leadership ability among the veteran core. They will hope that their togetherness and work rate can help make up for what they lack in terms of ability and match winners.
Squad Weaknesses: There’s question marks at left back and in the wide positions but Denmark’s real issue is scoring goals. Outside of Eriksen, nobody in the squad has a proven track record at international level and a look at the seven attackers chosen in the squad shows only one, Jonas Wind who plays in the Danish SuperLiga for FC Copenhagen, who isn’t coming off an extremely disappointing season in front of goal.
Coach: Markku Kanerva
Captain: Tim Sparv
Previous Best Performance: First appearance.
Path to Euros: The Finns finished as runners up in Group J behind Italy, beating out more fancied opposition in Bosnia and Herzogovina as well as Greece, Armenia and Leichtenstein. An allergy to draws saw them win six and lose four of their ten group matches, which was enough to see them finish four points clear of the Greeks.
Key Player: Teemu Pukki. The Norwich striker scored 10 goals in qualifying and with 30 goals in 91 caps he is both the highest scorer in the squad, and second all-time to Jari Litmanen, and the most experienced player. For the Danes to have any chance of qualifying from the group they will need Pukki to carry his qualifying form into the group stage, and hope that their defense does likewise.
Youngster to Watch: Marcus Forss of Brentford. The young targetman proved his worth at club level with a huge goal in the playoff semi-final second leg which sent the Bees to the playoff final and helped them secure Premier League football for the first time. A well rounded player, he shows well for the ball and is capable as both a hold-up player and a runner in behind. He needs to work on the timing of his runs, as he has an ongoing relationship with linesmans flags that would make Timo Werner proud, but he’s shown plenty of promise in his young career.
Squad Strengths: The collective. The Finns don’t produce top class talent very often, only Jari Litmanen and Sami Hyypia can lay claim to having reached the peak of the game, but they have great unity among their squad and will run themselves into the ground for the greater good. They came out of the qualifying stage with an impressive defensive record and will need Bayer Leverkusen’s Lukas Hradecky to be in top form for the duration of their stay in the competition if it is to extend beyond three games.
Squad Weaknesses: They lack real quality in the middle of the park and will struggle to retain possession. While they may be happy enough to allow the opposition the majority of the ball, that’s a tiring way to play football and any slip up can prove extremely costly at this level.
Coach: Roberto Martinez
Captain: Eden Hazard
Previous Best Performance: Runners-Up – 1980
Path to Euros: The Belgians topped Group I with a perfect record of 10 wins from 10 games, scoring 40 and conceding only 3. Russia, Scotland, Cyprus, Kazakhstan and San Marino were swept aside as the greatest group of talent that Belgium have ever produced heads into the tournament as one of the favourites.
Key Player: Eden Hazard. The real answer here is Kevin DeBruyne, who’s the best player in the team and potentially the best player in the tournament but the faith of the Belgians will rise and fall with which Hazard turns up. In what may be his last opportunity to really stamp his mark on an international tournament will we see the Eden Hazard who so often won games by himself for Chelsea, or the Eden Hazard who has looked overweight and uninterested for Real Madrid? If the former turns up, Belgium could be it with a chance of winning the competition. If it’s the latter, yet another “golden generation” will have fallen by the wayside.
Youngster to Watch: Jeremy Doku of Stade Rennais. Doku is the answer here in part by default after Martinez failed to pick a single other player under the age of 24, inexplicably leaving out the brilliant Yari Vershaeren. But Doku is also the answer because he’s one of the most exciting young players in Europe and at the age of just 19 has already shone in two different leagues and in the Champions League. His dribbling ability, burst of acceleration and knack for the unexpected have drawn comparisons to Sadio Mane and it is believed that Liverpool view him as the long term successor to Mane.
Squad Strengths: Belgium have potential matchwinners everywhere. In Lukaku, Hazard, Mertens, Tielemans and DeBruyne they possess an outstanding blend of creativity, pace and goalscoring ability. The key for Roberto Martinez will be putting his team in the best possible position to succeed, as he did at the 2018 World Cup when they finished 3rd. Lukaku comes into the tournament in the form of his life and DeBruyne just put together his second successive PFA Player of the Year season, even if there was some controversy around him winning the award over Harry Kane.
Squad Weaknesses: It’s an ageing squad with a lot of players over whom one could, and should, have concerns about injuries. Toby Alderweireld, Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen and Axel Witsel are all important members of the squad who are the wrong side of 30 and have a track record of injuries. Hazard is 30 and DeBruyne will turn 30 during the tournament and both of them have suffered from injury problems in recent years, with DeBruyne currently nursing multiple facial fractures and a doubt for the opening game.
Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov
Captain: Artem Dzyuba
Previous Best Performance: Winner – 1960
Path to Euros: Russia finished as runners-up in Group I behind Belgium. 24 points accrued through eight wins and two defeats was an impressive return though it was a fairly straightforward group for them. The lost twice to Belgium and beat everyone else twice scoring 33 goals and conceding just eight.
Key Player: Artem Dzyuba. As well as being the captain of the team, Dzyuba also carries the goalscoring burden for his squad. His record of 29 in 52 is impressive and he comes into the tournament off the back of the two best club seasons of his career scoring 43 goals in 71 games across the pair. He’s capable of playing as part of a pair or leading the line by himself. His work-rate is unquestionable and his ability to bring his team-mates into the game has always been underrated. He scored nine goals in qualifying, the most of anyone in the group, and was ably assisted by Denis Cheryshev who bagged five.
Youngster to Watch: Andrei Mostovoy of Zenit St.Petersburg. Russia have neither an old squad nor a young squad. Most of the squad is made up of players aged between 24 and 30, with a handful on either end. 23 year old Mostovoy is an all-action midfielder who can do everything well, who can play in multiple midfield roles. He’s not a huge goalscorer but managed six in both of the past two seasons. Russia are strong in midfield so his chances might be limited but if he does get to play, he could impress
Squad Strengths: Russia have a very strong midfield group that boasts Denis Cheryshev, Aleksandr Golovin, Aleksei Miranchuk, Robin Zobnin and Magomed Ozdoyev in their numbers. With a mix of ball-winning, creativity, goalscoring and intense work-rate, the Russians will be confident in their ability to compete with almost anybody in the middle of the pitch. They’ll need the midfield to be on top form in support of Dzyuba upfront and when it comes to shielding their defense.
Squad Weaknesses: Igor Akinfeev was the first choice goalkeeper for the better part of 14 years and when he retired in 2018 it left a massive void in the national team. The three goalkeepers named in the squad possess only 13 caps between them, despite two of them before well into their 30s. 34 year old Anton Shunin is likely to be first choice for the tournament and made his debut in 2007 but has accumulated only 12 caps, while 33 year old Yury Dyupin is yet to win his first cap. Matvei Safanov might be the best young goalkeeper in Europe not named Gianluigi Donnarumma but he has only 1 cap to his name and hasn’t yet gained the trust of his manager despite sparkling form for FC Krasnodar which has seen him linked with moves to a number of top clubs. The lack of experience among the trio, and lack of real quality if Safanov isn’t given then nod, is a major concern.
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