Euro 2020 Special

Euro 2020: Five Dark Horses

24 teams, 12 venues and a month of drama, and of course, controversy awaits in June, as Euro 2020 prepares to set the world of football alight.

With stars including Cristiano Ronaldo, Virgil van Dijk, Harry Kane and Antoine Griezmann lining up, we’re sure to have a 30-day blast between 12th of June and 12th of July, and we’ll be there every step of the way with SBOTOP.

This will be the first European tournament to be played across multiple nations, kicking off in Rome where hosts Italy will take on Turkey, and ending with the showcase final at Wembley Stadium in London.

The early Euro 2020 predictions have elevated England to be favourites, though France and Belgium are not far behind.

The Euro 2020 Playoffs take place in March and then we’ll know the final line-up. But for now, let’s take a look at five dark horses to cause an upset.


Germany to qualify from Group of Death

It almost feels disrespectful to categorise Germany as a dark horse, but having witnessed their lame performance at Russia 2018 I labelled them a donkey, and now that is disrespectful!

But hands up, they won their Euro 2020 group in impressive style, overcoming the Netherlands and finishing with 21 points.

Group F has taken the mantle of Euro 2020 Group of Death, and as such a big name could crash out.

But head coach Joachim Low has got his team back on the right track by introducing some fresh legs, and striker Serge Gnabry has been sensational. The FC Bayern youngster rounded off the group with a hat-trick against Northern Ireland and he could be one of the stars of Euro 2020.

In a group containing world champions France and Ronaldo’s Portugal, Germany has a much harder task than the one they fluffed in 2018. But if the resurgence continues then they could take a top two place and guaranteed progress.


Kosovo to make the finals

The playoffs have thrown up some fascinating clashes, and Europe’s newest football nation has a real chance of qualifying for the final 24.

Kosovo, ranked 115th in the world, came to the world’s notice with a battling performance to take third place in Group A – finishing ahead of Bulgaria and Montenegro while giving England a scare.

In Vedat Muriqi, Fenerbahche’s 6-foot-4 striker, Kosovo have an aerial threat which could be enough to see them through Pathway D. They have a winnable tie against North Macedonia followed by a final versus Georgia or Belarus.


Wales to make the quarterfinals

The Welsh left it late to qualify emerging victorious from a winner take all clash with Hungary, thanks to a brace from Juventus star Aaron Ramsay, but head coach Ryan Giggs will hope he can take his team deep into the competition.

Wales will look to surprise more than one opponent during the Euro 2020
                                                       Aaron Ramsey in action for Wales during their Euro 2020 qualifiers against Hungary

Wales overachieved in 2016 with a fantastic run all the way to the semi-finals. But with players like Ramsay, Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale and Manchester United’s Dan James, the Welsh have plenty of creative muscle.

I think they can navigate a tough group containing Italy, Switzerland and Turkey, but with little squad depth the last eight would be another great achievement.


Russia’s revival to continue

Hosting the 2018 World Cup went better than any Russian fan could imagine as Stanislav Cherchesov guided his unfancied side to the quarter finals, where they were eventually ousted on penalties by finalists Croatia.

Russia had already beaten one of the tournament favourites in Spain in a shootout, while striker Denis Cheryshev helped himself to four goals and an own goal.

Russia finished second to Belgium in qualifying and they meet again in Group B. The Red Devils are still ranked first in world football, while Russia are 38th. They are joined by Denmark, ranked 16th and outsiders Finland.

Russia vs. Denmark is the big game.


The future’s Oranje!

For a dark horse tournament winner I’m taking a look at the Netherlands.

Ronald Koeman’s side is ranked 14th in the world and they finished behind Germany on the group stages, but there is a balanced look to Koeman’s side, not to mention the best centre back team in the world.

Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt are a colossal pairing and the young Juve player is learning quickly, so he’s sure to feature heavily in the Euro 2020 highlights.

Van Dijk’s Liverpool teammate Gigi Wijnaldum has had another superb season in midfield, and alongside Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong and Ajax’s Donny van de Beek he will prosper at Euro 2020.

Up front, former Manchester United man Memphis Depay has grown in confidence at Lyon.

The Dutch have had a kind draw, with Ukraine, Austria and maybe Kosovo in their group. Let’s see how far they can go.

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