Group F Preview
After losing the final of Euro 2016 on home turf, current World Champions France will go to this summer’s tournament hoping to make amends having breezed through Euro 2020 qualifying with eight wins, only dropping points to Turkey.
They carried their qualifying form into the recent Nations League campaign, where they finished ahead of Portugal, Croatia and Sweden in Group A3, and will face Belgium in semis.
Didier Deschamps has been manager of the French national side since 2012, and he only needs nine more victories to clock up more wins for France than any other previous manager of the national side.
After a brief flirtation with 3 at the back at the end of qualifying and the beginning of the Nations League campaign, he reverted back to the four-man defence that he has used during his 9 years at the helm. During the recent Nations League campaign, he often chose to play two up front but reverted back to the sole striker for two of the recent World Cup qualifiers.
Tottenham’s Lloris (FT: £7m / EO: £6m) is still France’s undisputed no.1 and will wear the captain’s armband going in to Euro 2020.
PSG’s Kimpembe (FT: £6m / £5.5m) seems the likeliest to partner Real Madrid’s Varane (FT: £6.5m / EO: £6m) in central defence, having done so in 5 out of the last 6 competitive matches that the latter has played in. The main competition for the central defence birth is provided by Barcelona’s Lenglet (FT: £6.5m / EO: £5.5m), who took over from Umtiti as Varane’s partner during qualifying, and Red Bull Leipzig’s Upamecano (FT: TBC / EO: £4.5m).
Meanwhile, Bayern Munich duo Pavard (FT: £6.5m / EO: £6m) and Hernandez (FT: £6.5m / EO: £6.5m) should occupy the right and left back positions respectively.
As shown at the 2018 World Cup, France are a much better side when they have Man Utd’s Pogba (FT: £8.5m / EO: £8.5m) playing in midfield, and he should take on more of a chief midfield playmaker role with Chelsea’s Kante (FT: £7m / EO: £5.5m) holding the midfield.
With Matuidi now seeing out his career in the MLS, Juventus’ Rabiot (FT: £6m / EO: £6.5m) has been recalled from exile and would join in Pogba and Kante in a central three-man midfield role if a 4-3-1-2 formation is revisited. However, if a sole striker is used then he could also play out wide in a 4-2-3-1 formation – although he will face competition from the likes of Atletico Madrid’s Lemar (FT: £6.5m / EO: £6.5m) and Bayern Munich’s Coman (FT: £9m / EO £9.5m), both of whom started two of the last three World Cup qualifiers on the wings.
Barcelona’s Griezmann (FT: £10.5m / EO: £11m) was France’s most decisive player during the 2018 World Cup, but and will be the more focal playmaker in the no.10 role, with everything running through him. During qualifying, he got the most assists (7) and most recently set a post-war record of 45 consecutive France appearances during March’s World Cup qualifiers. He will be joined by PSG’s Mbappe (FT: £13m / EO: £12m) in supporting the lone striker, with the 22-year old scoring 27 goals in 31 appearances for the Ligue 1 runners-up this season.
Although Deschamps is a huge fan of Chelsea’s Giroud (FT: £8m / EO: £8m), questions have to be asked about his fitness due to only making 17 Premier League appearances this season – highlighted by the fact that he has only completed 90 minutes once for France since qualifying. This could be one reason why Real Madrid’s Benzema (FT: £10m / EO: £10m) has been recalled to the France squad for the first time since 2015, having had 31 goal involvements in 34 games in La Liga this season (23 goals, 9 assists).
Besides Benzema, there are no other standout options with Monaco’s Ben Yedder (FT: £7.5m / EO: £7m) failing to reproduce his club form at international level.
Then defending World Cup champions Germany finished bottom of their group at the 2018 World Cup, despite having a 100% record in qualifying. They will be hoping to do better this summer after suffering just one defeat in their Euro 2020 qualifying group (2-4 v. Netherland) and scoring 30 goals in eight games.
However, things have deteriorated since qualifying…
They endured their biggest defeat since 1931 when they lost 0-6 against Spain in the Nations League, before a 1-2 defeat against North Macedonia handed them their first World Cup Qualifying defeat since 2001, and only the third in their history.
Joachim Low took over from Jürgen Klinsmann in July 2006, and is currently the longest serving international manager. However, we will step down after Euro 2020 having led Germany to 2 Euro semis, 1 Euro Final, 2 World Cup semis and 2014 World Cup glory.
During the early stages of both qualifying and the Nations League, he dabbled with a back three but has stuck to a 4-3-3 formation in the last 5 competitive games.
Bayern Munich’s Neuer (FT: £6.5m / EO: £6m) is Germany’s captain and no. 1 choice between the sticks – but the defence is far from certain.
The recall of Dortmund’s Hummels (FT: £6m / EO: £5m) to the national team would certainly seem that he will have one of the two centre back positions nailed down. The slightest of preferences to partner him could be given to Chelsea’s Rudiger (FT: £6m / EO: £5.5m), taking into account the recent injuries that has hampered Bayern Munich’s Sule’s (FT: TBC / EO: £5.5m) end of season.
Strong consideration is also given to Borussia Monchengladbach’s Ginter (FT: TBC / EO: £5m) who played every minute in the Bundesliga this season, whilst also starting 14 out of Germany’s last 17 competitive matches since the start of qualifying – filling in at right back on three occasions.
There is also fierce competition in both full back positions. With no natural right back in the preliminary squad, the likeliest option would be RB Leipzig’s Klostermann (FT: £5.5m / EO: £4.5m) who can also play anywhere across the back line. At left back, Atalanta’s Gosens (FT: £5.5m / EO: £5m) could be given the go-ahead over RB Leipzig’s Halstenberg (FT: TBC / EO: £4.5m) with the former having had a fantastic season in Serie A where he has played a majority of it as a left-winger.
Another possibility for all areas across the back, as well as central midfield, is Dortmund’s Can (FT: £5.5m / EO: £5.5m) who filled in at left back and centre back in the recent World Cup qualifiers due to injuries.
Bayern Munich’s Kimmich (FT: £8m / EO: £6m) has registered 14 goal involvements from 27 games in the Bundesliga from the no. 6 position this season (4 goals, 10 assists), and will likely take up the same position for the Germans this summer. He should be joined by Gundogan (FT: £8m / EO: £7.5m), who finished as Man City’s top goal scorer with 13 goals in the Premier League, and Real Madrid’s Kroos (FT: TBC / EO: £7m), who could be favoured ahead of Bayern Munich’s Goretzka (FT: £7.5m / EO: £6.5m) due to the latter currently being out with a torn muscle fibre.
Despite spending having a fantastic goal scoring record at international level having spent most of his time playing as the sole striker (15 goals in 20 games), Bayern’s Gnabry (FT: £9m / EO: £9.5m) could be moved out wide to the left wing where he has been just as efficient in the Bundesliga this season. On the other wing will be his club teammate, Sane (FT: £8.5m / EO: £9.5m) who clocked up 16 goal involvements in 32 Bundesliga appearances this season (6 goals, 10 assists).
Completing the Bayern trio up front should be the recalled Muller (FT: £8.5m / EO: £9m) who registered 11 goals and 21 assists in 32 Bundesliga appearances this season – a career high goal involvement for one season in the Bundesliga, as well as his best goal scoring season since 2015/16.
His reappearance in the squad is likely to mean that Chelsea’s Werner (FT: £9.5m / EO: £8.5m) will take a place on the bench after an underwhelming debut season in the Premier League where he scored 6 and assisted 12 in 35 appearances.
Hungary ended a 30-year wait to participate in an international tournament when they qualified for Euro 2016, and went on to finish first in their group above Iceland and eventual winners Portugal despite winning once, before losing 4-0 to Belgium in the last 16.
They have taken an unconventional route to Euro 2020 after finishing fourth behind Croatia, Wales and Slovakia in qualifying (finishing only above Azerbaijan), before beating Bulgaria and Iceland in the playoff series thanks to a strong Nations League performance.
They head to this summer’s tournament in good form, losing just one of their 10 matches since qualifying (a 3-2 Nations League defeat at home to Russia) winning seven and drawing three.
Marco Rossi took the Hungarian national job in June 2018, winning 14 out of 27 games in charge so far. The Italian has also guided Hungary through back-to-back Nation League promotions, meaning they will participate in League A during the third season.
He originally played a 4-1-4-1 formation, but more recently has reverted to variants of a 3-5-2 setup.
Despite not playing the last two World Cup qualifying games, RB Leipzig’s Gulacsi (FT: £4m / EO: £4.5m) should go to this summer’s tournament as Hungary’s undisputed no.1.
Anchoring the three-man defence should be Gulacsi’s club teammate Orban (FT: £4m / EO: £4.5m) who will offer composure and stability, with Omonia Nikosia’s Lang (FT: TBC / EO: £4m) and Fenerbache’s Attila Szalai (FT: £4m / EO: £4.5m) the likeliest options to flank him.
The wingback positions are an area which is surrounded by uncertainty, although Ferencvaros’ Lovrencsics (FT: £4m / EO: £4.5m) started two of the three World Cup qualifiers on the right hand side, and has played on the left wing for the national side before.
On the left hand side of midfield, it seems likely that Partizan Belgrade’s on-loan Holender (FT: TBC / EO: £5.5m) will battle it out with Kasimpasa’s Kevin Varga (FT: TBC / EO £6m) with the former the likeliest to start despite missing the latest World Cup qualifying squad.
The three central midfield spots are pretty much set in stone. Bristol City’s Adam Nagy (FT: £4m / EO: £5.5m) will offer defensive protection, with NK Osijek’s Kleinheisler (FT: TBC / EO: £5m) and RB Leipzig’s Szoboszlai (FT: £5m / EO: £6.5m) making supporting runs from midfield – the latter being the most expensive Hungarian of all time when he made his move from RB Salzburg for £20m in January.
Despite playing on the right wing at club level for SC Freiburg – which is the reason he is listed as a midfielder in Fan Team – Sallai (FT: £4m / EO: £6.5m) has been deployed up front as part of the front two in his last three competitive matches for Hungary. He should be joined up top by Mainz’s Adam Szalai (FT: £4.5m / EO: £6m) who despite struggling in the Bundesliga (he only has 2 goals in two seasons), is in integral part of how Hungary play, with his clever movement and hold-up play allowing the likes of Szoboszlai to run into the empty spaces behind him.
The current holders, Portugal, have an impressive record at the Euro’s; never failing to reach the quarterfinals since the tournaments restructure in 1996 – reaching three semis and two finals in that time.
Despite winning the inaugural Nations League to cast aside their disappointing last 16 exit at the 2018 World Cup, Portugal were very suspect during qualifying – winning 5/8 games and finishing second behind Ukraine. In fact, they only managed to pick up 5pts against both Ukraine and third place Serbia.
In their recent Nations League campaign, they finished second behind France in their group, but were 10pts clear of third placed Croatia.
Their 0-1 loss against France in the Nations League has been their only defeat since qualification.
Fernando Santos has a good record at major international tournaments. He guided Greece got to the Euro 2012 quarterfinals and the last 16 in the 2014 World Cup, before winning Euro 2016 and the inaugural Nations League with Portugal.
Since taking over as Portugal manager in October 2014, he has overseen 52 victories in 82 games and has mainly used variations of the 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 formations.
Wolves’ Rui Patricio (FT: TBC / EO: £5.5m) is one of the few survivors from Portugal’s 2016 success where he kept 4 clean-sheets in 7 games, and will go into the tournament just 8 caps short of 100.
The back four for Portugal almost picks itself, with Man City duo Cancelo (FT: £6.5m / EO: £6m) and Dias (FT: £6m / EO: £6m) being joined by Porto’s Pepe (FT: £5.5m / EO: £5m) and Borussia Dortmund’s Guerreiro (FT: TBC / EO: £6.5m).
Shielding the back four will be PSG’s on-loan Danilo Pereira (FT: TBC / EO: £5.5m), who could also be partnered by Wolves’ Moutinho (FT: £7m / EO: £5.5m). The double-pivot of these players would allow Man United’s Fernandes (FT: £9m / EO: £10.5m) to join the front three, effectively turning the formation into a 4-2-3-1.
However, the likes of Sporting Lisbon’s Palhinha (FT: TBC / EO: £5m), Real Betis’ Carvalho (FT: TBC / EO: £5m), Wolves’ Neves (FT: £7.5m / EO: £5.5m) and Euro 2016’s Young Player of the Tournament, Lille’s Renato Sanches (FT: TBC / EO: £6m) will all be vying for a central midfield spot – such is the depth of the Portuguese squad.
Dovetailing the lone striker should be Man City’s Bernardo Silva (FT: £8m / EO: £8.5m) and Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix (FT: £8.5m / EO: £8.5m) – with the latter being preferred over Liverpool’s Diego Jota (FT: £8m / EO: £8.5m) who has seen injuries disrupt the latter part of his season. It should be noted that both Felix and Jota are listed as Forwards in the Fan Team game.
Juventus’ Ronaldo (FT: £10m / EO: £12m) is fast approaching 100 goals for Juventus after only joining 3 seasons ago, and will head to this summer’s tournament hoping to break two records – the all-time most international goals (6 shy of Ali Daei’s 109 total) and most goals in the European championships (1 goal short of beating Michel Platini altogether).
Another player who deserves a mention is Eintracht Frankfurt’s Andre Silva (FT: £6.5m / EO: £9m) who has scored 28 goals in 32 Bundesliga appearances this season, assisting an additional eight. Should he get the nod to spear head the attack, then you would imagine that Ronaldo would be moved out to the left side of the front three.
Group F Summary:
Using a budget of £80m on the Official game and a restriction of three player’s maximum per team, here is my best XI for Group F: