Welcome back to TGH’s preview of the EURO 2020 championships taking place this summer. The first post previewed Group A and the nations involved, in this post TGH will preview the members of Group B and give predictions as to how far each nation will advance in the tournament. Group B consists of Belgium, Denmark, Russia, and Finland and will be an intriguing group to watch.
Belgium’s “golden generation” have simply not lived up to the hype that was promised. Vincent Kompany has retired, followed soon by Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, and Thomas Vermaelen. They still have world-class attacking options in Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, who each won the league titles with Inter Milan and Manchester City, respectively. Lukaku scored seven goals in qualifying and was a big part in Belgium winning 10 out of 10 matches. In charge of FIFA’s number one ranked nation is Roberto Martinez who will be looking to cash in on Belgium’s aging talent. They still have a young central midfielder star in Youri Tielemans who can show his class in the midfield with Leicester City. A key player in this side will be Eden Hazard, who has had a bad run of form and injuries since his transfer to Real Madrid from Chelsea. Will the “golden generation” win one in their last attempt? Only time will tell.
Denmark didn’t lose any of the eight group matches in qualifying and they have only lost one out of their last eight matches. The Danes barely made it out of their group, despite all the wins. Kasper Hjulmand was going to take over as manager after the tournament, but did unexpectedly in July 2020. Last time around, Denmark did not qualify for the EUROs and they actually won the tournament back in 1992.
World-class goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel will be important in defense for Denmark, alongside center-backs Simon Kjaer, Andreas Christensen, and Joachim Andersen. Christian Eriksen will provide the play-making spark and Pierre-Emile Højberg will hold the middle like he does well for Tottenham. The front-line struggles for goals but Barcelona’s Martin Braithwaite and Leipzig’s Yussuf Poulson have enough experience to lead the line.
Prediction: Round of 16
The last time Russia won a match at the EUROs was in 2012, their opening match against the Czech Republic. They went all the way to the quarter-finals of the Word Cup when they hosted back in 2018. The only club they lost to in qualifying was Belgium, so manager Stanislav Cherchesov will have to get it right this summer for a chance to go through. Their best finish was in 1960 when they won it as the USSR.
Artem Dzyuba will be the key in Russia’s attack. Their active top scorer, he is getting close to breaking the Russian record of 30 goals set by Aleksandr Kerzhakov. His successor is a secret weapon also in the squad, Aleksandr Sobolev. Sobolev got his first call-up in October in a win against Sweden. Goalkeeping and defense will be the biggest question marks, as legendary goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev has retired. Russia has scored against lesser opponents, but their struggles against the tougher nations makes qualification look like an uphill fight.
Prediction: Round of 16
Getting here is a huge achievement for Finland, as they have not qualified for the EUROs ever in their history. They finished runner-up to Italy in qualifying after winning six of their matches. Coach Markku Kanerva spent 12 years with the U21 Finland team before taking over the senior side in 2016.
Finland only let in 10 goals in qualifying and goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky is a big reason they are so tough defensively. Glen Kamara anchors the midfield to provide cover for a tough backline. The one weakness in this Finnish side will be the lack of goals, as relying on Norwich’s Teemu Pukki will only get them so far in this tournament. The defense will make life difficult for the attackers, but this a big step up for the Fins in their first international tournament.
Prediction: Group Stage Exit
June 12th, 12pm EST: Denmark vs Finland (Copenhagen)
June 12th, 3pm EST: Russia vs Belgium (St Petersburg)
June 16th, 9am EST: Russia vs Finland (St Petersburg)
June 17th, 12pm EST: Denmark vs Belgium (Copenhagen)
June 21st, 3pm EST: Denmark vs Russia (Copenhagen)
June 21st, 3pm EST: Belgium vs Finland (St Petersburg)