Thanks to an exciting Euro 2020 group stage, you don’t even have to wait for the knockouts to tuck into some bangers, with Auld Enemies going renewing hostilities, heavyweight clashes, and an ageing superstar facing off against the second coming.
France vs Germany
Tuesday, June 15 | 8pm (ITV)
There’s no love lost between this pair, who have a history of knocking each other out of competitions (and wars), and their newest clash could well decide the fate of Group F.
Stylistically, too, it’s a contrast of identities: Les Bleus vs Die Mannschaft, artistes vs artisans. Furthermore, France are winding down from conquering the world, while their opponents hope to start a new cycle of victory. But never write off the Germans.
“France are favourites, but maybe there’s a bit of unfinished business there,” German midfielder Josh Kimmich told FFT. “We lost to them in the semi-finals of Euro 2016, despite being the better team that day.”
England vs Scotland
Friday, June 18 | 8pm (ITV)
A full 25 years have passed since Gazza looped the ball over Colin Hendry, walloped it into the net, then laid expectantly on his back in the blazing Wembley sun. If you’re anything like FFT, most memories of that day are a bit hazy, which means it’s time to make some new ones – and so, a quarter of a century later, England and Scotland reignite hostilities on the big stage.
This is the Scots’ first major tournament since France 98, and a result against the Auld Enemy would set them up nicely for a knockout tilt. Meanwhile, England expects a comfortable victory – though probably not a repeat of the 9-3 win in 1961 (below).
Spain vs Sweden
Monday, June 14 | 8pm (BBC)
By their nature, upsets are hard to predict, but especially so in international football as we don’t see these players working together for 10 months of the year. Yet if an opening fixture at Euro 2020 can put the cat among the pigeons, it may well be this Group E tie.
You’d favour Spain, of course. However, several big figures have left the side, they’ve fewer match-winners than before, and the goalkeeping situation looks a little flimsy, so La Roja can’t afford a slow start against the well-oiled Swedes (now there’s an image). It is likely to be a fascinating battle of passing architects against Viking organisation, with the extra frisson of an Isak-Ibra partnership.
Italy vs Wales
Sunday, June 20 | 5pm (ITV)
After an incredible run to the semi-finals in 2016, Wales hope for similar success again, but facing Switzerland and Turkey won’t make that at all easy.
Italy, meanwhile, are resurgent under Roberto Mancini after their 2017 annus horribilis saw the Azzurri absent from a World Cup for the first time since 1958 – when Wales reached the quarter-finals in their first and last appearance. A Welsh win against Mancini’s men would be a huge statement.
The tie is enticing enough, with the extra twist of Aaron Ramsey lining up against his Juventus (opens in new tab) team-mates, but it’s also likely to be pivotal for both teams. First two games gone well? Then it’s a fight for top spot and the easiest last 16 game one could ask for. Struggling? Then it’s do or die. Tantalising.
Denmark vs Belgium
Thursday, June 17 | 5pm (ITV)
Belgium should have come of age by now. What remains of the golden generation is at its peak, with Romelu Lukaku battering Serie A defences while Kevin De Bruyne rules the Premier League. So, with the likes of Youri Tielemans and Timothy Castagne adding necessary balance to a star-studded side, it really is now or never – especially as the Red Devils’ youth teams are struggling.
Denmark will be an intriguing test for Roberto Martinez’s side. With a solid spine of Kasper Schmeichel, Simon Kjaer, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Christian Eriksen and Barcelona (opens in new tab)’s Martin Braithwaite, the Danes will have one eye on topping the group. For Belgium, this is exactly the sort of early test that will determine if they have the steel to be genuine contenders, or if they’re destined to perish in the knockouts again.
Portugal vs France
Wednesday, June 23 | 8pm (ITV)
The obvious standout from the Euro 2020 group stages is a rematch of 2016’s Final, and effectively a Super Cup-style meeting between two tournament favourites: France as the reigning world champions, with Portugal holding the European crown.
There are mouth-watering battles across the field. Manchester United (opens in new tab)’s Bruno Fernandes will face club-mate Paul Pogba; Antoine Griezmann will stare down his replacement at Atletico Madrid (opens in new tab), Joao Felix; and master will meet apprentice, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappé cast a wandering eye towards the Ballon d’Or.
And – together with Germany vs Hungary, which kicks off at the same time – this seismic clash will end the group stage, giving us plenty to digest in the two rest days that follow. What a way to finish.
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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. Over his time on the brand, he has interviewed the likes of Aaron Ramsdale and Jack Wilshere, written pieces ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career, and has been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals, working for FFT.
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