The draw for the 2020 European Championship finals is on Saturday (watch live on ESPNEWS and ESPN3 from noon ET in the U.S.). There are 20 teams who have secured their place in the draw, with another four spots yet to be decided via playoffs.
Here we look at the contenders, outsiders, wild cards and no-hopers for next summer’s continent-spanning tournament, which will be broadcast live across ESPN networks from June 12-July 12.
Much like in 2000, you could make an argument that world champions France are entering the European Championship in even better shape than the previous world cup. But that could depend on injuries: If Hugo Lloris, Aymeric Laporte and Paul Pogba are all fit, they should in theory be too strong for anyone else. But if they aren’t, the field could open up.
To someone like Belgium, for example. Might this be the last chance for this great generation? Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Dries Mertens, Vincent Kompany and Axel Witsel are all in their 30s and, while Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne will still be going strong in 2022, the heart of their side will almost certainly be weakened. Will the imperative drive them on to tangible success?
England are arguably the wild card of the whole tournament, mainly because they probably have the best forward line but a defence that often doesn’t seem to know which way is left or right. They might have to bank on Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford to bail out the back line by sheer weight of goals.
Spain and Germany are two great sides who have undergone existential crises since the world cup. Jogi Low is rebuilding his side after the catastrophe in Russia, with Serge Gnabry and Kai Havertz among those representing a new generation, although the absence of Niklas Sule with a cruciate ligament injury will be a major blow. Meanwhile, Spain qualified handily enough. But how will they react to the clumsily handled re-appointment of Luis Enrique, whose return has led to a bitter and public row between him and the former assistant who temporarily took charge?
Netherlands might be the most interesting team in the competition and could quite easily count themselves among the genuine contenders, but there are enough doubts about their candidacy to rank them slightly lower. The patchy form at Juventus of Matthijs de Ligt, for one, or perhaps a lack of consistent genuine international class in attack. They feel like one of those teams that could just as easily win the whole thing as they could go out in the first round.
File Italy under that category, too. Embarrassingly absent from the World Cup, they breezed through an admittedly moderate qualifying group, winning all 10 of their games with a goal differ