How Far Can the Home Nations Go at Euro 2020?

20 May 2021
By Roger Jones
roger@TheCork.ie

Soccer

There will be no Irish interest at this summer’s European Championships, with both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland suffering tough losses after 90 minutes in the qualifying playoffs. In their stead it falls to the likes of Wales, Scotland and England to represent the home nations at this year’s tournament, held in eleven different cities around Europe.

Wales

The biggest story of Euro 2016, Wales return to Europe’s quadrennial tournament dreaming of going one step further than that semi-final defeat at the hands of Portugal. They sit in a sturdy-looking Group A with Italy, Turkey, and Switzerland.

Italy are the presumptive favourites to win the group, fancied in the tournament’s opening game, as per the Turkey vs Italy odds, but with Gareth Bale in the squad, Wales will fancy themselves against anyone. Behind Bale, coach Robert Page will rely on Aaron Ramsey to steady the midfield, while in David Brooks and Harry Wilson he has two of the most exciting players from the Championship this season.

Opening their campaign against Switzerland on 12 June, Wales’ biggest question mark may be at the back. Aside from newly-minted centurion Chris Gunter, the defence is lacking leadership since the departure of Ashley Williams.

England

This bright young English side has only a few holdovers from the squad that suffered humiliation at the hands of Iceland in 2016. Gone are Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling, Wayne Rooney no longer features in midfield and Harry Kane is off corner duty. Instead, the Three Lions will roll into their Wembley group games with an exciting team featuring the likes of Phil Foden and Jack Grealish as its primary X factors.

Three years on from a run to the World Cup semi-finals, Gareth Southgate’s side are favourites to win their first major tournament since 1966. Harry Kane, favourite for the Golden Boot, is a major part of that, while Mason Mount, John Stones and Luke Shaw have been among the standouts of the 2020/21 Premier League season. There is still a question to be answered at goalkeeper, however, where Jordan Pickford faces competition from Nick Pope, who has eleven clean sheets to Pickford’s nine this campaign.

Scotland

Scotland head to Euro 2020 by the narrowest of margins after a penalty shootout victory over Serbia in the playoffs. They slot in beside England in Group D, where they will face both Croatia and the Czech Republic at Hampden Park on either side of a trip to Wembley.

There is Premier League quality in the squad, especially at left-back where one of Andrew Robertson and Kieran Tierney might find themselves played out of position to accommodate both. Scott McTominay and John McGinn have also played a lot of Premier League football this year and will surely start against the Czech Republic on 14 June. Elsewhere, Steve Clarke will have to make a decision on Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour, immensely talented but still very raw at 19 years old.

Scotland’s biggest question mark is upfront, where Che Adams looks to have played his way into contention to start after a promising year for Southampton. Likewise, Lyndon Dykes has 12 goals for QPR this season – after years of no out-and-out striker, it seems Clarke now has at least two to choose from.

With as many as three teams making it out of a single group, Scotland will like their chances of upsetting the apple cart in 2021.

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