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, it’s an open field that features a lot of strong teams that will fancy their chances.. 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. There’s also a Group B preview which can be found here.
Up next it’s Group C, which features the Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia.
⚽ Euro 2020
📺 Free Live Euro 2020 Streaming on BBC & ITV + Catchup on BBC iPlayer & ITV Hub
📅 11 June – 11 July 2021
Coach: Frank DeBoer
Captain: Gini Wijnaldum
Previous Best Performance: Winner – 1988
Path to Euro 2020: The Dutch finished as runners-up in Group C of the qualifiers behind Germany. An impressive 19 points, accrued through six wins and a draw from their eight games saw them qualify comfortably ahead of Northern Ireland, Belarus and Estonia. Their only defeat came in the home game against Germany, but they did beat Germany in the return game and their 6-5 aggregate score against their great rivals gave them quite a lot of confidence.
Key Player: Matthijs de Ligt. With Virgil Van Dijk, the captain of the team and organiser of the defence, out through injury the Netherlands will need De Ligt to be at his very best. He’ll have the excellent Stefan de Vrij next to him but when the best defender in the world is missing, the pressure passes to the guy who’s long been tagged as a future carrier of that moniker. De Ligt has not had an ideal first two seasons with Juventus, injuries of his own and the calamitous mis-management of the club by upper management have seen Juventus fall well short of their expected level. Because it’s illegal to blame Cristiano for not delivering what is expected, some fans have pointed fingers at De Ligt as the signing who hasn’t worked the way it was intended to, forgetting that he’s still only 21.
Youngster to watch: Ryan Gravenberch of Ajax. It’s a predictable choice but it’s the right choice. Gravenberch is one of the most talented midfielders in the world right now, rightly in the conversation with Eduardo Camavinga and Jude Bellingham in terms of who will go on to be seen as the best midfielder in the game. Gravenberch can do just about everything at a high level. His touch, passing ability, striking of the ball and vision are exceptional, and he reads the game brilliant. He takes up very clever positions in possession but does need to work on his positioning when the Netherlands are out of position. The only big knock on him is that he can sometimes appear disinterested in the defensive side of the game but as a young player, that’s not always surprising. With Donny Van De Beek ruled out through injury, Gravenberch may get a bigger role in the team than originally planned.
Squad Strengths: If Van Dijk had been fit, it would have been the defense. Even without VVD, it’s still a strong unit but not as strong as the midfield. With the brilliant Frenkie De Jong orchestrating, the ever reliable presence of Gini Wijnaldum filling in the blanks, the non-stop endeavour of Martin de Roon, the leadership and passing range of Teun Koopmeiners and the potential of Gravenberch all at their disposal, the Dutch should be able to stand toe to toe with anyone in the centre of the park.
Squad Weaknesses: There’s two major ones. The first is the goalkeeper situation. None of Steklenberg, Krul or Bizot could be termed “top class” and both Steklenberg and Krul are on the downsides of their careers at age 38 and 33 respectively. The second is the manager. Frank DeBoer looked like he might become one of the top coaches in Europe when he led Ajax to four straight titles but his career has down downwards and sidewards at a rapid pace ever since. He failed at Inter Milan and was sacked after 14 games. He failed even quicker at Crystal Palace and was sacked after 5 games. He took over the best team in the MLS and made them worse so while it wasn’t an out and out failure like his two previous jobs, it certainly wasn’t a success. He’s been less than inspiring as manager of the Netherlands and his tactics and team selections have had a lot of fans wondering if he’s truly suited to management anymore.
Coach: Andriy Shevchenko
Captain: Andriy Pyatov
Previous Best Performance: Group Stage – 2012, 2016, 2020
Path to Euro 2020: Ukraine pulled off one of the biggest surprises of the qualifying phase when they topped group B ahead of Portugal, Serbia, Luxembourg and Lithuania. Six wins and two draws, with an impressive record of only four goals conceded, gave them a total of 20 points, two more than Portugal who they drew with in Lisbon but defeated in Kyiv.
Key Player: It’s a close call here between the excellent Vitaliy Mykolenko at left back and, his club mate, the brilliant Viktor Tsyhankov who will likely line up on the right wing. I’ll go for Tsyhankov who will be relied on to bring goals and creativity to the team from his roaming role off the right. Owner of the proverbial “wand of a left foot” Tsyhankov has averaged better than a goal every two games for Dynamo over the past four seasons, which is particularly impressive when you factor in that he’s only 23 and that he also averaged an assist every three games in that time. Overall, in all competitions, he has amassed 69 goals and 48 assists for Dynamo in the past seasons. It will be extremely surprising if he is plying his trade in his home country next season but it won’t be surprising if he earns the move away off a starring role in these Euros.
Youngster to watch: Ilya Zabarnyi of Dynamo Kyiv, who established himself at club level this season and immediately won a place in the National team is one of the most promising young central defenders in Europe. Not the biggest or the strongest, he’s still a forceful defender who’s more than comfortable with the physical side of the game. An excellent man-marker, he has the ability to stick with quicker players using good anticipation and the ability to move his feet quickly and readjust. Zabarnyi is already attracting attention from around Europe and it’s hard to see him staying with Dyiv for long if he has an impressive showing at the Euros.
Squad Strengths: Ukraine’s strength is in it’s midfield, were they have a fantastic balance of youth and experience. Along with the well known names of Andriy Yarmolenko, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ruslan Malinovskyi, there are the less well-known Tsyhankov and Shaparenko who come into the tournament having helped Dynamo Kyiv win their first title in five years and primed to make a big impression at the Euros. Veterans like Taras Stepanenko, a stalwart at Shakhtar Donetsk for the past decade, will play a key role in enabling the more attack minded midfielders to go and play their games.
Squad Weaknesses: Ukraine have a pretty well balanced squad but they have been hit by really bad injury luck in the lead up to these finals, which has cost them multiple important players. Experienced wideman Yevhen Konoplyanka, midfielder Viktor Kovalenko and striker Artem Kravets can all have expected to be part of the squad and playing crucial roles before injuries ruled them out. Their replacements are inexperienced and unlikely to fully have the trust of Shevchenko.
Coach: Franco Foda
Captain: Julian Baumgartlinger
Previous Best Performance: Group Stage – 2008, 2016
Path to Euro 2020: Austria qualified as runners up from Group G behind Poland, and ahead of North Macedonia, Slovenia, Israel and Latvia. With six wins and a draw from their 10 games, they finished on 19 points which left them six behind the impressive Poles.
Key Player: Marcel Sabitzer. RB Leipzig’s heartbeat plays a key role for Austria and will be relied upon this summer to use his creativity and drive from midfield to get them moving from an attacking sense. With an excellent range of passing, good shooting ability and well timed runs beyond the last defender, Sabitzer can hurt teams in a variety of ways and it’s that multi-faceted skillset that has long drawn admiring eyes from Tottenham among others. Rumoured to be available this summer for around €15mil as he only has one year left on his contract, an impressive summer could give Sabitzer plenty of options as he looks to make his next move.
Youngster to watch: Sasa Kalajdzic. There aren’t many 6’7 players in football, and there are even fewer who play upfront. But it would be wrong to pigeonhole Kalajdzic as a target man just because of his height, he’s a player with great touch and the ability to play on the ground as well. He has surprisingly quick feet and an ability to get his shot away under pressure. This past season was his coming out party in the Bundesliga as he combined with the brilliant duo of Silas and Nico Gonzalez to fire newly promoted Stuttgart to an impressive 9th place finish. His 17 goals in all competitions was a very impressive return and has brought admiring eyes upon him from both Brighton and West Ham. If he impresses at the Euros, he might attract an even higher level of suitor.
Squad Strengths: Like the Netherlands and Ukraine, Austria’s strength is in their midfield. Sabitzer, Xaver Schlager and Konrad Laimer represent a relentless trio of pressers who have the durability to run the opposition off the pitch, while also the ability to play through opposition presses. Laimer has just returned from a serious ankle fracture which caused him to most almost the entire season and likely won’t be at full fitness but even in a reduced role he will provide relentless energy off the bench. Schlager was a key player in Wolfsburg march to a top four finish in the Bundesliga with his progressive passing, ability to win the ball and protect the defense. One of many vocal players in the team, he plays like a player much more older than his 23 years.
Squad Weaknesses: It has to be the goalkeepers. Pavao Pervan, Daniel Bachmann and Alexander Schlager are all solid options but none have real experience at international level as they hold just seven, two and six caps respectively. Pervan is the backup keeper at Wolfsburg, Bachmann spent last season playing in the Championship and while he did unseat Ben Foster as the number 1 choice he still has only 86 senior club appearances under his belt despite being almost 27. Schlager is the first choice at LASK but struggled for form in the latter part of the season.
🇲🇰 North Macedonia
Coach: Igor Angelovski
Captain: Goran Pandev
Previous Best Performance: First Appearance
Path to Euro 2020: North Macedonia had to go the hard way about qualification, finishing third in Group G behind Poland and Austria, they found themselves in the play-off phase and defeated Kosovo and Georgia in Path D to secure their place at last summer’s competition which takes place this summer. Four wins, two draws and four defeats in the group left them level on points with the more fancied Slovenia team but their performance in the Nations League saw them land the favourable draw in the play-offs.
Key Player: Goran Pandev is the most famous North Macedonia player of all time, and depending on how you view the great Darko Pancev, he may be the best ever. He’s the most capped player, with 119, and has scored the most goals for the national team with an impressive 37. This summer marks 20 years since he made his international debut in a World Cup qualifier against Turkey in June of 2001 and after establishing himself the following year, he’s rarely been out of the team since. He’s had an impressive career, mostly spent in Italy with Lazio, Inter, Napoli and now Genoa and one wonders if this competition might be his farewell. He’s an inspirational leader for the team, and though his playing powers have waned, he is still capable of grabbing a goal and inspiring those around him.
Youngster to watch: Elif Elmas is a hugely talented midfielder who has established himself as an important player for his nation, and his club Napoli over the past couple of seasons. After breaking through at Rabotnicki he was snapped up by Fenerbache where he developed into a quality midfielder than had plenty of teams interested when Fenerbache’s financial situation meant they had to cash in. It was Napoli who won the race for his signature, paying £15mil for the then 19 year old. After being used in squad role in his first season there, he took on a bigger role under Gennaro Gattuso following the departure of Allan and is seen by many as an important part of Napoli’s future. If he translates his club form to the national side this summer, he could further enhance his reputation.
Squad Strengths: Team spirit. This isn’t a team full of stars, but it’s a team built to play together. There are only six players in the squad with less than 20 caps, which shows that it’s a squad of experienced players who’ve largely been together for years. In their first ever appearance at a major tournament, North Macedonia will just want to do themselves proud and will give absolutely everything for the cause. Expect their players to run themselves into the ground for three straight games.
Squad Weaknesses: They lack real high end quality. For all their endeavour, they struggle to create chances and while Pandev remains key, he is undoubtedly past his best at the age of 37. In tournaments such as this, eventually the lack of real quality will cost you and unfortunately for North Macedonia there is a ceiling on what they can accomplish this summer. That shouldn’t matter to the players or the fans though, merely qualifying was an incredible achievement and something they should all take great pride in.
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