Don’t give up the day job – that’s what I’m telling myself after most of my attempts at predicting who would finish where in the Euro 2020 groups pretty much blew up in my face. The only exception was Group F, the “pig” of a group. I got the final order correct – France, Germany, Portugal and Hungary – but on a night of amazing twists and turns at one time Hungary were qualifying and Portugal were headed home.
A UK TV commentator noted that, at different stages in the two matches, Portugal occupied all four positions in the group. By the way, that penalty for France against Portugal was a joke, wasn’t it? If I saw something like that given against England I would be very unhappy.
So, I plan a recap of my predictions and how far they were off beam…
In Group A I said the order would be Italy, Switzerland, Wales and Turkey. I got the top and bottom correct, but Wales leapfrogged the Swiss and now head to Amsterdam to face Denmark on Saturday. More on the Danes shortly. I think this is a match the Welsh can win and let’s all wish them well.
Group B is the one I got seriously wrong. I predicted Belgium, Finland, Russia and Denmark and that only the Danes would be eliminated. The finishing order was Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Russia with the last two going no further. I didn’t think Denmark had a prayer given they were pointless after two games and had had the setback to Christian Eriksen. But I really don’t mind being proven wrong.
In Group C I expected the table to finish Holland, Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia. I got Austria and Ukraine the wrong way round, but both sides have progressed into the last 16.
For England and Scotland’s group, Group D, I thought England would top the group. They did, but were not very convincing. Top of the group with only two goals to show for it. My prediction that the Scots would take delight in denting England’s hopes, but do nothing against Slovakia or the Czech Republic was borne out. No prizes for that. A parting thought regarding Scotland. They are team that lacks players of stand-out quality so I think they did well to make it into the final stages of the tournament. Stop and think for a moment – how many of their squad of 26 can you name? I dropped out after five. I’m not sure Scotland have been a real footballing force for many years now. I can recall a time when Scottish players such as Law, Dalglish, Lorimer, Gemmill and Souness graced the game with top English teams and were excellent. But the country’s ability to produce top players seems to have dropped off after the English game started to welcome in players from outside the British Isles. The Scots have not recovered fully. This is another group where I got top and bottom correct but the middle two the wrong way round.
Group E had some weird results with the Spanish finally waking up and knocking in five in their last group game. I said the group would end Spain, Poland, Sweden and Slovakia. Didn’t even get one of them right. It finished Sweden, Spain, Slovakia and Poland. I thought Poland might be the dark horses of the whole thing given they had Lewandowski up front. He got three goals (one more than England in total) but it still wasn’t enough and they drop out of the tournament completely.
As already mentioned, I got Group F correct. One out of six. Pretty poor, huh?
So, here is the set-up for the last 16. I have highlighted the teams I expect to go through in bold:
Saturday June 26
5pm: Wales vs Denmark, Amsterdam
8pm: Italy vs Austria, Wembley
Sunday June 27
5pm: Netherlands vs Czech Republic, Budapest
8pm: Belgium vs Portugal, Seville
Monday June 28
5pm: Croatia vs Spain, Copenhagen
8pm: France vs Switzerland, Bucharest
Tuesday June 29
5pm: England vs Germany, Wembley
8pm: Sweden vs Ukraine, Glasgow
Yes, you will note that England’s name is in bold. England never do well against Germany (apart from 1966), but I think that the Germans do not look too good this time. Mind you, given how badly the rest of my punditry has been to date, I fear I may be putting the black spot on England.
Yes, England never do well against Germany. But the fact is that once England had won their group (I was praying for a late Czech equalizer) they were in trouble. England also never do well against France and Portugal. So, England were stuffed, however Group F worked out. I would have slightly preferred to face Portugal, but there was never a lot in it.
A lot of nonsense was talked about the value of England topping its group so their next game would be at Wembley. But that’s all it was – nonsense. After the Czech game some England players were trotting out the cliché about having to face the best teams some time. Yes, some time… but not in the next round!
At the moment, I am on a course of antibiotics which finishes next Monday. Thank the Lord for that. Trying to watch the match against Germany without a stiff drink to hand would be a trial.
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.