IT'S (not) COMING HOME | EURO 2020 ROUNDTABLE
Welcome to the EURO 2020 Roundtable, where Pro Wrestling Musings' contributors share their thoughts and predictions ahead of the delayed European Championships this Summer. Please note writer's views are their own.
Yes, this is a wrestling website. But it's coming home and we had to let the world know.
Our contributors today are: -Gareth Ford-Elliott: @RHWGareth [GFE]
-James Levy: @chunkyboyjames [JL]
-Dom: @Dom_DeLonge [DW]
-Griff From GA: @GriffFromGA [GA]
-Craig William: @CraigPWMusings [CW]
1) Who are your predictions to win EURO 2020 (in 2021)?
[GFE] So I did write that intro, but it is not coming home. My pick are Italy. They’re undefeated since September 2018 which is almost all of Roberto Mancini’s reign in charge of The Azzurri. I just see them as the best unit of a team and the best machine usually wins tournaments.
Italy are full of young, exciting players mixed with experienced winners. A top keeper, an experience, top class defence, dynamic midfield and an attack in their prime mixed with Mancini’s tactics are the ingredients that will make for success. Nobody else has all of those.
It’s a close tournament though, honestly any of the favourites could win it. But well organised teams like Germany and Italy generally do better than star-studded squads like Portugal, England and France. But of course, IT'S COMING HOME! IT'S COMING-
[CW] I’m going France. I think they’re still the strongest and are the team to beat unless they self-destruct in some sort of Benzema-fuelled nonsense.
Kylian Mbappe is the heir apparent to the Messi/Ronaldo throne and Paul Pogba seems to like playing for France. Add this to their very defensively sound tactics and backline, they are perhaps the best *team* as well as just being a collection of good players (looking at *you* Germany).
I also really like the look of Portugal. Usually, a defensively sound set up however this time with Virgil Van Dijk-compared Ruben Dias to build that around. Then add in the maturing attacking stars Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Jota to play around Ronaldo, and you’ve really got a potential force, right there.
[GA] It has to be France. In the world of wrestling, France is comparable to Jungle Boy or MJF. Absurdly talented, already qualified and disgustingly young. Frankly, there is no complete team in Europe right now that I feel is good enough at every position to compete with the French. This is a team coming off a World Cup victory and, with every nation missing out on competitive games for a long spell in 2020, that means France’s deep run and experience in big moments will make it easier for them to deal with the lack of competitive fixtures.
However, just because I believe France is a step above every other team in terms of talent right now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t teams of comparable ability. England, Germany, Italy and Belgium are all elite in the world plus World Cup runners up Croatia return to the fold as well. I believe, however, that there are glaring weaknesses for each of these sides. I believe France can overrun England in the midfield, out-pace Germany on the wings, shut down Italy’s attack too easily, pass around Belgium’s back line and frankly out-class Croatia like they did in 2018. For my money, there is no team out there who presents the depth of quality that France does.
[JL] The French have the best all round squad with a wealth of attacking talent, Griezemann, Mbappe, Benzema, Pogba, Koman etc. It’s also a mark of how strong their defence is that Aymeric Laporte is not playing for France (his birth country), but Spain, the country of his family (they’re Basque). So they have to be my favourites; in terms of quality, and if you imagine the Euros as a giant Royal Rumble, they’re the Daniel Bryan – brilliantly talented, and would be the most popular choice amongst fans & pundits.
However (and the fact I have drawn them in my office sweepstakes has no influence on this whatsoever), there’s also the Roman Reigns of teams, who are the defending champions – Portugal. Like Reigns they won the event in 2016, and like Reigns, they’re hated (mainly because Cristiano Ronaldo is so immensely dislikeable).
[DW] I'm here for the ‘casual’ fan’s perspective as I haven't followed much football for a couple years. Even so, I can only see France winning. They have star power up and down the pitch and their deep squad could give them an edge tactically with the extra substitutions allocated.
2) Who will be the biggest heels and babyfaces of the tournament? The villains and the underdog stories.
[GFE] Portugal have too many nasty players to not be the heels. They’re also full of players with big egos who don’t gel well together. Too much quality to be bottle jobs, but they’ll rely on dirty tactics to progress.
I think Denmark will do well this tournament. Win their group with the advantage of playing games at home, get a favourable draw before being put to the sword by Italy in the quarters in heart-breaking fashion. Scotland will also surprise people.
[CW] The biggest heels are Russia. Already kicking up a fuss because Ukraine put Crimea on the map of Ukraine on their shirt. Funnily enough, they’re not getting much sympathy on that one. Then there is the phrase ‘state-sponsored doping’ which was the charge of their Olympic team. Oddly, their World Cup team played like super athletes and then dropped off the face of the Earth. I’m not suggesting their World Cup team utilised the same methods as their Olympians, I’m outwardly stating you’d be foolish not to believe it.
Also... The English media. Oh! And anyone booing the BLM knee. Unreal scenes.
The faces? Scotland will slip into that role as they take on England! The oldest story in football! Hungary will also be in the role of underdog babyfaces as they take on France, Germany and Portugal in the Group of (slightly less than usual) Death.
[GA] As a team, Portugal has the largest collection of heel players. Obviously, Russia’s issues when it comes to the state-sponsored doping mentioned previously make that entire team the heels as well even if that scandal didn’t directly implicate this squad. As we know, narratives are enough to turn fan support one way or another. Speaking of which, any Ronaldo fan on Twitter who makes a comparison to Messi has immediate X-Pac heat with me. It was funny the first time, now it’s just lame.
As a player, no one draws waves of hatred quite like Sergio Ramos so he’s a prime candidate for the kind of nuclear heat we’ve seen the likes of Kenny Omega and Don Callis draw recently.
Because of this, the first Swedish player to sit Ramos down during their opening group game will be the de facto baby face for this crowd.
[GFE] I interrupt Griff here to remind everyone that Sergio Ramos will not be at the tournament. Let the world rejoice, and back to Griff...
[GA] We also know underdogs are the easiest baby faces so the Scotlands, North Macedonias and Finlands of the world will be automatic faces. Speaking of Finland, Teemu Pukki is a career baby face given his calm demeanour, humble attitude and undeniable talent. As an American with no dog in this fight, I will be rooting for the athletes that connect with me and Pukki is certainly an example of that.
[JL] As mentioned previously, Portugal are the heels. Ronaldo is more obnoxious than MJF, more arrogant than Kenny Omega, and they’re dirtier than peak Ric Flair. I mean, I kind of have to hope they do well as my sweepstake is riding on it, but I guess we all root for some heels.
As for babyfaces, you have various ones. Hungary are the unfortunate Lee Johnsons of the tournament, being drawn against France, Germany & Portugal, and then you also have the likes of Scotland, Austria, North Macedonia, Finland and Denmark who are all underdogs. England are arguably tweeners. Faces to some thanks to our young squad with no fear, and heels to others because we’ve got the most matches at home (if we go all the way), and thanks to Brexit....
[DW] England will be the heels as off-the-pitch controversy often mars their tournament runs leaving them hard to get behind in a positive way. As for the babyfaces, I can see that being Wales if they can recreate even some of the magic of their last Euros run. If not, I’ll be rallying behind the Scots who I’m sure will fight from underneath as if they’re a cruiserweight taking on Brock Lesnar.
3) Who will be the big floppers of the tournament? The bottle jobs, the team who should win but will crash out early. Think England losing to Iceland, Belgium twerking for Hal Robson-Kanu, Italy collapsing to the mighty Ireland all in 2016.
[GFE] As much as I have England going to the semis, we could also easily finish with 4 points in the group and get dumped out in the round of 16. Regardless of how far England get, it’ll end in heartbreak.
But this award belongs to Belgium because, of course it does. Their defence is ageing and overrated, their midfield has talent but no balance and poor Romelu Lukaku will be hoping and praying he gets service. They should get through the group, but could easily go out at any stage. I predict a thrashing from France in the quarters.
[CW] Without stating it just for a laugh, it could be England. Some great Attacking Midfielders and Harry Kane is great, but they have little in the way of a foundation. Their defensive rock is, somehow, Harry Maguire, and he is an injury doubt. Then the entire midfield base seems to be on the shoulders of a Jordan Henderson who sat out the end of the season with injury!
[GA] Talk about drawing heat, an American coming in here saying England will be the bottle jobs of this tournament might get me removed from the site. But I will make my valiant comeback to prove my point.
The issue with England is not talent. The issue with England is the wrong mentality for this tournament. While it’s great the Three Lions have so many quality back line players at their beck and call, how many can you use in a game? We Americans just watched our side win Nations League glory with five but two of them are basically wingers playing wing back for the sake of defending. Even if England went five in the back, the injury to Trent Alexander-Arnold keeps out their most dangerous attacking fullback and leaves them with slower, more defensive-minded options.
Combine that with a midfield that will feature either Jordan Henderson or Declan Rice, two men who are not known for their stellar on-ball attacking prowess, and you don’t have very many places to go if they win the ball in the defensive third. Sure, the attacking quality is there. Phil Foden, Harry Kane, Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish are all supremely talented options and we don’t even know if Jude Bellingham will make an appearance but he presents attacking quality as well. However, if you can’t get them the ball, they can’t score. If you don’t buy a ticket as they say...
[JL] If England win our group, us. Win our group and we play the runners up of Group F, so one of France, Germany or Portugal. We would almost certainly be out in the 2nd Round. However, there is ALWAYS a perennial winner of this – the Dutch. The Netherlands fail at almost every tournament they ever enter. Aside from winning Euro 1988, they’ve not won any other major tournaments, and didn’t even qualify for the last World Cup OR Euro 2016. For a country which produces so many prodigiously talented players, they sure do fall short a lot.
4) Which individuals stands out at EURO 2020? Who will be the top scorer? The best player? Best young player?
[GFE] The top scorer will likely depend on who goes deep in the tournament. I think Benzema will have a point to prove and is in the form of his career. Can’t look past Thomas Muller for player of the tournament, I think he will revitalise Germany. He is by far the best attacking player at the tournament. Diogo Jota is a shout for either of those awards. He is a clutch player who pops up at important times.
As for best young player, it’s hard to look past Kylian Mbappe with all the support he’ll have around him. Keep an eye out for Italy’s Giacomo Raspadori though, if given the chance he could arrive on the scene. Spain are also giving various young players a shot, Pedri stands out for them.
[CW] I want to see a mega-star confirmation performance from Mbappe! At least 5 goals while leading France to the trophy or at least the final. We need to move on from Messi and Ronaldo and this is a prime opportunity for Mbappe to announce he’s taking that spot. Then he should leave PSG, because France’s domestic scene is rubbish!
For best young player, I’d like to see Jadon Sancho really get a chance to shine. His numbers in Germany are fantastic and he looked tasty in that weird line-up England had out at the weekend.
[GA] No region in the world is as flushed with talent as Europe. I believe the most dangerous goal scorer in this tournament is Robert Lewandowski, whose mind-boggling 48 goals in all appearances was the best total for any player in Europe this year. But his team may not make it off the starting line because of the quality of their group. If Poland make it past the round of 16, I believe Lewa is a lock for Golden Boot.
Should they fail, however, then I’d give the nod to Kylian Mbappe. His 42 goals in all competitions is frightening coming from a team that didn’t win its own league. The dark horse here would have to be Ciro Immobile. While his numbers are not as gaudy as the previous two, his solid output in Serie A plus his one-goal-per-game average in the Champions League shows how dangerous he can be and he will have ample service given the quality of the Italian midfield.
Young player will be Kylian Mbappe. The fact he still qualifies for that award makes my eye twitch; but here he is at 22 years old and in line to be anointed the best footballer in the world. If it can’t be him, then Jadon Sancho will be the next best option assuming England’s issues I discussed earlier don’t hurt his chances too much.
[JL] Top goalscorer will probably be someone unlikely as many of the top sides will share goals around. But if I had to pick a shortlist then Robert Lewandowski, Ciro Immobile, Kylian Mbappe and Harry Kane. However as an outside shout, Haris Seferovic. The Swiss have a relatively comfortable chance of qualifying (sorry Wales), and he has been banging in the goals in the Liga Nos in Portugal.
As for the awards – POTT will be Kylian Mbappe, YPOTT will be Jadon Sancho or Phil Foden, and best player overall could be Bruno Fernandes.
5) What are your general thoughts on the group stages?
[GFE] Some of the groups aren’t too juicy and fairly predictable, but the ones that may throw up some shocks are Group B, D and the “Group of Death”, F. I’ve already explained why I think Denmark will top Group B above Belgium in question 3.
In Group D I fear for my country of birth, England. We’ll progress but I don’t trust us to score many goals. I can see draws against Croatia and Scotland, whilst Czechia should be a win. I see Croatia winning the group on goal difference. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for England. It’ll likely be an easier path onwards.
Group F is where it gets interesting as, honestly, all four teams have a shot. Hungary play two of their games at home with full crowds and will make themselves difficult to beat. World Champions France will always be a threat whilst Germany are hungry, full of talent and play all three games in Munich. Portugal meanwhile probably have the most balanced starting team.
I think Hungary fall short, Portugal make themselves hard to beat taking top spot, Germany beat France and finish second. But honestly anything could happen in this group.
[CW] Honestly? I think it may be a little Champion’s League group stages. Most of the third-place teams go through, which really saps the drama and sporting challenge out of things. Portugal won the last Euros without winning a group game. A bit non-sensical if you ask me!
[GA] The new format of the Euros makes certain groups basically pointless after two matches which is unfortunate. However, there aren’t any groups that won’t feature some compelling races either at the top or at the bottom. I am a believer that any team who makes it through the gruelling qualifying rounds is qualified to play in this competition, meaning that even Finland and North Macedonia could potentially be threats to the big boys in their groups. With that being said, because four of the six third placed teams move on in this format, I don’t expect any Germany-crashing-out-of-World-Cup-group-stages type of performances here.
My personal pick for most compelling group is Group B. Belgium is ageing, Denmark is a dark horse, Finland has one of the most dangerous goal scorers in the tournament and Russia always turns up in these tournaments. Do I believe the eventual champion is going to come from this group? No. But think of this group as the Intercontinental Championship scene: who knows which team in Group B could use this to launch their eventual World Title run?
[JL] Aside from the obvious group of death (Group F), Group A looks exciting. Wales may struggle against the organisation of the Swiss, and Italy have been known to be the victims of the odd upset. My bracket reflects my predictions, and I actually think England will finish runners up in our Group as I suspect Croatia will take points off us.
[DW] Group A looks tough for the Welsh but I think the group placements (underneath Italy) will be interesting. Similarly in Group B, whilst Belgium are set to win it if you ask me, the positions underneath are all to play for. Group F is where the party is though, and should produce the tournament winners, be it France or not.
6) What are your full Bracket Predictions for EURO 2020?