The second round of group matches at Euro 2020 have been completed with a few surprises, but no major upsets. I’ll review the progress group-by-group…
Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales and Switzerland
Italy have already qualified for the final 16 thanks to their 3-0 victory over Switzerland. That’s six goals without conceding, making them a force to be reckoned with. The Italians face Wales next. The British side look like they have already done enough to progress further. Their win against Turkey means they have four points which should be enough to see them through even if only as one of the best four third-placed teams. It would need a whole string of adverse results to stop them. A victory for Switzerland in their final group match against Turkey would put them on the same points as the Welsh and then it would be down to goals difference. Turkey can gain three points at the most which doesn’t look like being enough.
I expect the group to end up in the following order … Italy, Switzerland, Wales and Turkey.
Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium and Russia
It’s good news and bad news for Denmark. The good (make that great) is that their player Christian Eriksen has been released from hospital after having a heart re-start device fitted. Will this allow him to continue his playing career? Let’s see. As previously, we wish him all the best. But his team are pointless after two matches – that’s the bad news. They gave the Belgians a fright by taking the lead before Kevin De Bruyne came on and restored sanity. I still haven’t seen much to say that Belgium won’t go all the way to the final. They are definitely into the last 16 following two wins. Finland and Russia are both on three points and face each other in their final match. What price a (convenient) draw which would almost certainly see both of them through.
Predicted group finishing order: Belgium, Finland, Russia and Denmark
Group C: Holland, Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia
With two wins under their belt, the Dutch are through to the next stage. In a similar situation to Group B, the last groupings will bring together two teams – Austria and Ukraine – who are both on three points. But, unlike Finland and Russia, there is no goal difference with both on zero. So how will UEFA split the two if they draw and end with four points each? I have looked this up and am very confused as a result. Some web sites say it will be about goal difference; others say it is the head-to-head. I’m hoping it doesn’t end in a draw, but wouldn’t bet against it.
Predicted group finishing order: The same as the order shown above
Group D: England, Croatia, Scotland and Czech Republic
I’m glad I didn’t get carried away after England had eased a win against Croatia. Their performance against the Scots was (word rhyming with height), forcing anyone thinking they might actually win the competition to come to their senses. Scotland did enough to win, in my opinion. Now the dust has settled, both teams have reasons to be glad. England, with four points, look to be through while the Scots can also reach four points with a victory over Croatia though I don’t expect them to get that win. But, while there’s life … and all that. Going into the final games England and the Czech Republic are both on four points. A win for England (not a given by any stretch) would see them top the group. But is that what they really want? Winners of Group D will face the runners-up in Group F. That means a match against one of France, Portugal, Germany or Hungary. The latter is a maybe, but only maybe having seen them against France. I wouldn’t fancy any of the four as an England fan. Finishing second would pitch England up against the second placed team from Group E (see below for the possibilities). This looks a much friendlier bunch.
Predicted group finishing order: England, Czech Republic, Croatia and Scotland
The next two groups are much more up in the air.
Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland and Slovakia
Any of these teams could still qualify for the next stage. Spain’s inability to beat Poland last night leaves their qualification a long way short of certain. They face Slovakia in their final group match needing a win. A draw would put the Spanish on three points which is unlikely to be enough. Though, that said, I expect them to have enough to beat the Slovaks. How Spanish fans would wish that they scored that penalty against the Poles. With Lewandowski up front, I think Poland may have too much for Sweden. He scored a great goal against Spain.
Predicted group finishing order: Spain, Poland, Sweden and Slovakia
Group F: Hungary, Portugal, France and Germany
As with Group E, any of these teams could go through. Hungary has the toughest task but, after picking up a point against France, they are hanging in there. Germany woke up against Portugal and posted a convincing win, leaving the two on three points each. As I think many (myself included) expected, this is a tight group and England might face one of them if they top Group D. Hungary travel to Germany for their final group match and I expect it to be their final involvement. But the big clash is France V Portugal. A draw looks likely to be enough for holders Portugal to progress, but I think world champs France will edge it. If that proves correct the Portuguese are doubts to progress. A defeat against France would only give them three points. It is shaping up that four is the minimum requirement to have a chance of progressing as one of the four best third place finishers.
Predicted group finishing order: France, Germany, Portugal and Hungary
In summing up, eight teams will be eliminated after the group stages – the bottom teams in all six groups plus the two worst third place finishers. Several of these eight look nailed on after two games, so there is no great punditry involved in attempting to name the eight. But, I’ll try to list them anyway.
The eight I expect to progress no further are: Turkey, Denmark, North Macedonia, Austria, Scotland, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary.
Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that, it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.