The third and final round of the Euro 2020 group stage will begin on Sunday as teams look to seal a berth in the knockout phase of the tournament. With two rounds of group stage fixtures played, the much-hyped tournament has lived up to the expectations of the fans, producing some exciting, close contests and a few upsets.
At the end of two rounds of fixtures, here’s our group-by-group analysis of the tournament so far and predicted future outcomes:
The twenty-four teams taking part in the tournament have been divided into groups of six groups of four teams each. The top two teams in each group automatically advance to the knockout rounds, while the top four of the six third-ranked teams advance to the knockouts as well. If two or more teams are equal on points, there are elaborate tie-breaking criteria to decide on the outcome – which begin with the head-to-head results and superior goal difference in the match.
GROUP A: ITALY ADVANCE AS THE SWISS STRUGGLE
The Azzurri were the first team to advance into the knockout phase with two comprehensive victories over Turkey and Switzerland, winning both fixtures with 3-0 margins. A draw would be enough for Italy to secure their spot at the top of the group, whereas Wales would need to beat the Azzurri to win the group.
Wales and Switzerland are in a tight contest for the second berth, with second-placed Wales facing Italy while Switzerland take on minnows Turkey. While Switzerland are clear favourites to win tonight’s fixture, they have a GD of -3 compared to +2 for Wales. A strong performance from the Welsh will force Switzerland to hope for entry into the knockout rounds through a good ranking among the third-placed teams.
Turkey had entered the tournament as dark horses, but they have failed to live up to expectations. While the Turks have no points so far and a GD of -5, they can still finish third if they can beat Switzerland their last game.
Prediction: Wales will join Italy in the knockout rounds while Switzerland will miss out due to a poor goal difference tally.
GROUP B: ERIKSEN INCIDENT STRANGLES DENMARK
Belgium, the top-ranked team in the world, have breezed through to the knockout rounds with victories over Russia and Denmark. Their golden generation has been meticulous in both their matches and except for an early scare against Denmark, dominated the field. With six points and a GD of +4, they look like a safe bet to top the table.
Russia and Finland are locked in a tight contest for the second spot with three points each, and Russia hold the upper hand with a 1-0 victory over Finland if it comes to tiebreakers. Moreover, Russia will face an out-of-form Denmark, while Finland have to deal with Belgium in their last round – giving a clear advantage to the Russians.
Denmark’s campaign has been overshadowed by Christian Eriksen’s unfortunate health issues – and the incident seems to have taken a mental toll on the Danes. They have looked lacklustre on the field, and despite an early goal against Belgium, were unable to make an impact. While technically in the tournament, they have to defeat Russia at least 3-0 to have a chance at making it to the knockout rounds.
Prediction: Belgium and Russia to advance as Winners and Runners-up, while Finland will join them as one of the top four third-placed teams.
GROUP C: NETHERLANDS EASE THROUGH
The Netherlands have secured their berth in the knockout rounds after defeating both Ukraine and Austria. They had a late scare against Ukraine but managed to win the match 3-2 courtesy of Denzel Dumfries’ goal. Ukraine emerged as the surprise of the group, giving the Dutch tough competition and winning 2-1 against North Macedonia.
Austria and Ukraine are locked in a tight battle for the second spot with three points each, and their fixture tomorrow will be one of the most keenly watched encounters. A win for either team will see them enter the knockout rounds directly. North Macedonia have already been eliminated.
Prediction: Ukraine to join Belgium as runners-up, while Austria will enter the knockout rounds as of the top four third-placed teams.
GROUP D: ENGLAND AND CROATIA STRUGGLE
England and Croatia entered the tournament as clear favourites of the group, assured of a top-two finish. But a surprising tenacity from both the Czechs and Scots have turned the tables, and the table is wide open as the teams face off on Tuesday.
The Czech Republic and England are locked in a tight contest for the top spot – both teams have four points each and with a GD gap of just one in favour of the Czechs. They take on each other on Tuesday in what will be a crucial encounter for Gareth Southgate’s men – not just for advancement into the knockouts but also to answer questions that have been raised in their fixture against Scotland.
Croatia are having a disastrous tournament. The 2018 World Cup finalists have lost 1-0 against England and could only manage a draw against the Czechs. They face a surprisingly tenacious Scotland on Tuesday, and it will be a tough task for them to bridge the gap to England in the second spot. If they can defeat the Scots comprehensively, they can hope to get through to the knockout rounds as a third-placed team.
Prediction: England will top the group with a victory over the Czechs, while Croatia will struggle against Scotland and will hope they can make it to the top four of third-placed teams.
GROUP E: TIGHTEST CONTEST OF THE EUROS
Dark horses Poland have made Group E the tightest and most exciting contest of the tournament. Their 1-1 draw with Spain last night has left the table wide open for all the teams in the group to the knockout rounds.
Sweden currently top the table with four points, while Slovakia sit second with three points with their victory over Poland. Former European champions Spain have just managed two draws and face a strong Slovakian side on Wednesday. Poland sit fourth with just one point but their performance against Spain showed that they can play spoilsport once again against Sweden.
Prediction: Spain and Sweden expected to reach the knockout rounds, but expect a few surprises on Wednesday.
GROUP F: GROUP OF DEATH LIVES UP TO EXPECTATIONS
The Group of Death has been much hyped before the tournament, as it involves giants France, Portugal and Germany along with dark horses Hungary. The contests have lived up to expectations as the Hungarians held back world champions France while Germany inflicted a crushing 4-2 defeat on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal last night.
With four points and a GD of +1, France are assured of a top-three finish, but Didier Deschamps will rue missed chances against Hungary as they face a strong Portugal next. Portugal and Germany are in contention for second place with three points each, but Germany will have the clear advantage heading into the last week of the group stages. Not only do they face minnows in Hungary, but the team has also been able to find their rhythm in recent days, giving them the much-needed confidence boost.
Hungary, despite their strong performance yesterday, have a near-insurmountable GD of -3. Their hopes rest on a victory over the Germans – either with a significant margin or only if France defeat Portugal.
Prediction: France, Germany and Portugal will make it to the knockout rounds, but predicting the table in the Group of Death is an impossibility.