The international break might be a bore for some, but in Europe, it is actually a race to see who the 24 teams in the UEFA Euro 2020 will be. With one month to go, before the group stage ends, there are 6 countries that have already qualified and will be marking presence on next Summer’s tournament.
Which country will host the Euro 2020?
The Euro 2020 will kick off on 12th of June, in the Stadio Olimpico, in Rome and it will happen, for the first time, in several stages across Europe.
Besides Rome, there are Munich (Allianz Stadium), Baku (Olympic Stadium), Bucharest (Arena Națională), Dublin (Aviva Stadium), Copenhagen (Parken Stadium) and Glasgow (Hampden Park).
Also, Budapest (Stadium Ferenc Puskás), Bilbao (San Mames), Amsterdam (Arena Johan Cruyff), St. Petersburg (Krestovsky Stadium) and finally London (Wembley). The latter will be the venue for the final.
The Mascot of the tournament was already chosen and his name is ‘Skillzy’.
Without further ado, let’s look at the 6 countries that already booked their place in the competition.
The first country to book their place for the tournament was Belgium. They won all the 8 games of the qualification stage, scoring 30 and only conceding 1.
Being included in the group with San Marino kinda helped, as the Belgians destroyed the lowest national team in UEFA’s ranking 9×0 at home. Then, in their away visit, they won comfortably 4×0.
The other teams in their qualification group were Russia, Scotland, Kazakhstan and Cyprus. Belgium still has to face Russia away, but they already have the qualification booked, having won at home against the Russians 3×1.
The current Belgium team, that has such players as Hazard and Mertens was 3rd in the last World Cup, only losing to the champion France. Current Inter Milan’s striker Romelu Lukaku is their top scorer in this qualifying group, with 6 goals.
They have qualified 5 times to the European UEFA tournament, with their best result being a second place in 1980. They lost to West Germany at the time.
After failing to qualify for the World Cup 2018 in a dramatic fashion, at a playoff against Sweden, Italy is back in major tournaments.
With Roberto Mancini as a coach, they topped their group and became the second team to book their ticket. They have beaten Greece at home 2×0 and then they secured the top spot, by winning 0x5 to Liechtenstein.
They had a fairly easy group in the qualifying, with Finland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia, Greece, and Liechtenstein.
The ‘Squadra Azzurra’, 4 times World Champions, won all their 8 games, scoring 25 and conceding only 3. Andrea Belotti, with 4 goals scored, is their current top scorer in the qualifiers.
This will be Italy’s 9th participation in a Euro Cup. They won once, in 1968, when they were the hosts.
The former World Cup hosts of 2018 confirmed they continue in a positive form. Under the guidance of Cherchesov, who took charge after they had an underwhelming Euro 2016 campaign, the Russians have gone to the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
Now, they qualified already, being currently in the 2nd place of Group I and having won all games, except one. That was the match against Belgium, where they lost 3×1.
The Russians still have a chance to win the group, if they win their two games and beat Belgium for a higher difference than 2 goals.
Artem Dzyuba is Russia’s top scorer, with 9 goals in just 8 qualifying matches. They also have other talented players such as Ozdoev, Ionov and Golovin.
They were in 11 editions, but only after the 1996 Euro, they participated as Russia. Before, they participated as the Soviet Union and CEI in 1992. They won the tournament as USSR in 1960 and in 2008, already as Russia, they went till the semifinals.
They were eliminated by Spain, who would later be crowned champions. Will they do better in 2020?
Lewandowski and company have booked their ticket to the Euros, as Poland currently tops Group G. The Polish team has won 6 games, drew 1 and lost 1 in their qualifying group.
They had Austria, North Macedonia, Slovenia, Israel and Latvia in their group. While Lewandowski himself is the top scorer of Poland in this stage, he is not the best scorer in the group.
Surprisingly, it is Zahavi, of Israel, who has 11 goals so far, besides his national team trailing in the 5th position. All teams in the group, except Latvia, can still qualify, even though Austria just needs 1 point.
Poland needs to win at least 1 of their last 2 matches to top the group, but they secured their qualification already. The Polish side has participated only 3 times, in the last 3 editions.
So, they will be in their 4th consecutive Euro and will try to do best than in 2016, when they were eliminated in quarterfinals, by Portugal.
Probably one of the biggest surprises so far was the road that Ukraine had in their qualifying route. They were trapped in a group with only 5 teams, with the current Euro champion, Portugal, and Serbia, who has been in the last WC.
They managed to beat Serbia 5×0 at home and they held Portugal at home to a 0x0 tie. Then, this Tuesday, besides Ronaldo’s 700th goal making the headlines, the Ukrainians won 2×1 to Portugal, breaking a chain of 13 games without losing from the Portuguese.
Credits must be given to former AC Milan legend, Andrey Schevchenko. He took charge of Ukraine in 2016 and, even though he failed to qualify for the World Cup, the team managed to make a clean route to the Euro 2020.
Schevchenko allegedly refused to take the job as Milan coach, that was given to Pioli because he wants to manage his country in the European campaign.
Yaremchuk is their top scorer of this qualifying stage, with 3 goals. They also have Zinchenko, from Manchester City and Yarmolenko from West Ham.
The team was not only able to get the ticket to the group stage, but they are also the only team, besides Italy, that have already secured the top place in their groups.
Ukraine was in the Euro 2012 and 2016 but they were never able to pass the group stage. Will they be able to do it now?
After 2008 to 2012 golden age, that saw the Spain team dominating world football, with 2 Euro Cups and 1 World Cups, the side seemed to have collapsed. An early exit in the World Cup 2014 group stage and then knocked out in the round of 16 of Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018.
The team also saw 4 different managers since 2014, after Del Bosque resigned. First, it was Lopetegui, who quitted just before the World Cup to coach Real Madrid. Then former Real Madrid legend, Hierro, took charge during the competition but did not stayed afterward.
Luis Enrique was picked to manage the team but sadly had to leave the team due to personal problems. His replacement was young manager Robert Moreno.
At just 42 years of age, Moreno manages a new squad of Spain, that combines experienced players, such as Ramos and David Silva, with talents like Odriozola, Fabian Ruiz, Pablo Fornals and City’s 70 million signing Rodrigo.
His task wasn’t easy, but Spain managed to be unbeaten in the 8 games so far, winning 6 and drawing 2. They are in a tough group, with Sweden, Romania, and Norway as the underdogs and Faroe Islands and Malta as the outsiders.
They qualified this Wednesday, with a late goal from Valencia’s striker Rodrigo, in a draw against Sweden. If they get 1 single point in the two closing games, La Roja will top their group.
Spain participated in 10 European Cup editions, winning 3 times: 1964, 2008 and 2012.
Who can still qualify?
There are still 16 places to fill and most teams in the qualifying groups can still qualify.
In Group A Czech Republic and debutants, Kosovo will face off in November to decide who goes through. England is also likely to book their place, with a win over Montenegro being enough.
In Group B, Portugal is 1 point away from Serbia and can’t slip. They need to win to Luxembourg and Lithuania, which on paper seem like easy tasks for the current holders.
Meanwhile, Group C has 2 previous winners of the Euros: Germany and the Netherlands. It is likely that both teams qualify, but Northern Ireland is close and they can have an opportunity since they will play both direct opponents in the last two matches.
Group D has the Republic of Ireland and Denmark tied in first place with 12 points. Switzerland is close by, with 11 and Georgia still has some hopes, having 8 points at the moment.
Croatia tops Group E and 1 single win will send them through. Hungary and Slovakia will compete to second place, with Wales still hoping for a miracle to happen.
Spain has already qualified, but they haven’t topped Group F yet. A single point in the next match will be enough. Sweden and Romania are competing for second place, with Norway close by.
Poland has qualified from Group G, but they need another win to top the group. Austria is second and North Macedonia, Slovenia, and Israel still hold chances to go to the Euros.
Surprisingly, the World Cup champions France still haven’t qualified from Group H. A draw against Turkey, saw them postpone their fate. Turkey is proving a tough cookie so far and they are likely to qualify. Iceland and Albania are the outsiders.
In Group I, all settled. Belgium and Russia qualified. Cyprus and Scotland hold the hope of a playoff place.
Finally, Italy won Group J already, but Finland is second and needs just a point to qualify. Teemu Puuki has taken his team to an unbelievable Euro place. Armenia and Bosnia have a chance to take part in Summer’s tournament too.