Preview: Euro 2020 Group B
After failing to qualify for the 2016 Euros, the Danes will be looking to impress this time around. All three of their group stage matches will be played at the 38,000 capacity Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, giving them an extra advantage.
Denmark went unbeaten during qualification, finishing second in their group behind Switzerland. Their star player is undoubtedly Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen. The midfielder has scored 31 goals in 95 appearances for his country so far and his form will play a major part in determining how successful their campaign will be.
Captain Simon Kjær is also a vital player for the Scandinavians. The Sevilla centre-back has spent the season so-far on loan at Atalanta, and is likely to reach the 100 cap milestone during the championships next summer.
One of Denmark’s most underrated squad members is 28-year-old midfielder Thomas Delaney, who has been one of the Bundesliga’s stand-out players in recent seasons. He joined Borussia Dortmund from Werder Bremen in 2018 and is a regular in Die Schwarzgelben’s midfield.
As well as being packed with experience, Denmark also have plenty of youth to call upon. Kasper Dolberg joined Nice from Ajax in the summer and the 22-year-old has already amassed 17 appearances for the Danes. 21-year-old Borussia Dortmund forward Jacob Bruun Larsen made his debut last summer and will be pushing for a place in the squad, as will young Bournemouth midfielder Philip Billing, who is yet to win his maiden cap.
While Denmark’s recent record in the competition is not great, they famously won the Euros in 1992, despite failing to qualify. After Yugoslavia were kicked out, the Danes were selected to replace them, going on to beat Germany 2-0 in the final to create one of the most famous shocks in international football history.
Finland will compete at their first ever major tournament next summer, after finishing second behind Italy in their qualifying group. Considered the weakest side in the group, they will need to get off to a good start in their opening fixture, the Nordic derby against Denmark, to give themselves a chance of reaching the knockout stages.
Whilst their squad doesn’t contain many household names, one is Norwich striker Teemu Pukki. The 29-year-old was top scorer in the Championship last season as the Canaries won the title, and got off to a superb start in the Premier League, winning August’s Player of the Month award in a month which included him netting a hat-trick.
The Fins will be pinning much of their hopes upon Pukki to score the goals to bring them success at the tournament, but he is not the only talented player within their ranks. Former Arsenal midfielder Glen Kamara has impressed in Scotland since joining Rangers and will be a key part of their plans next summer.
Captain Tim Sparv is amongst their most experienced players, and the midfielder will face the country where he plays in their opening game, with the 32-year-old currently at Danish side Midtjylland. Goalkeeper Lukáš Hrádecký is another of their more accomplished players; he joined Bayer Leverkusen from Eintracht Frankfurt in 2018.
Undoubtedly favourites to finish top of the group, and arguably to win the competition outright, Belgium have a squad stacked full of talent which they hope will help them improve on their previous European Championship performances.
Belgium reached the semi-finals in 1972 and the final in 1980, where they lost 2-1 to West Germany, but have only qualified for three tournaments between then and next summer’s competition. They will be looking to build upon both their performance in France 2016, where they reached the quarter-finals, and the 2018 World Cup where they secured a third placed finish.
Among the star names manager Roberto Martinez has to call upon are Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and Real Madrid forward Eden Hazard.
De Bruyne has been nothing short of sensational since joining City from Wolfsburg in 2015 and will be looking to continue that form at Euro 2020. He has already featured in three major tournaments for the Red Devils and was named in the 2018 World Cup team of the tournament.
Real Madrid’s Hazard is another big name certain to be included in their squad. The captain, who moved to Madrid last summer following seven seasons at Chelsea, has also featured in three major tournaments and won the World Cup Silver Ball in 2018. He has won over 100 caps for his country, scoring 32 goals in the process.
Romelu Lukaku is arguably Belgium’s third most influential player. The striker, who left Manchester United to join Inter Milan last summer, boasts an incredible goal record in international football, scoring 52 goals in just 84 games. He has similarly played in the last three major tournaments for Belgium and scored four goals at the 2018 World Cup.
Belgium also boast an impressive crop of young talent, with perhaps none as impressive as Leicester midfielder Youri Tielemans. He earned a permanent move to the Foxes for £40m last summer having impressed on a six-month loan spell from Monaco, and will surely have a big part to play in next summer’s tournament.
Belgium will open with a clash against Russia in St Petersburg; they also met in qualifying where Belgium won both their meetings en route to topping the group.
Russia, who qualified for the tournament after finishing second behind Belgium, will play two of their three group games at home in the 68,000 capacity Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg.
Competing as the Soviet Union, they won the first ever European Championships in France in 1960, which was followed by two final appearances and a semi-final. However, since competing as Russia, they have failed to get out of the group stage all bar once, when they reached the semi-finals in 2008.
Almost their entire squad play at home in the Russian Premier League, with just a few notable exceptions. One of these is Monaco midfielder Aleksandr Golovin, who joined the French side from CSKA Moscow in 2018. The 23-year-old is arguably Russia’s most talented player, and much of his nations hopes will rest upon his shoulders.
Golovin is not the only talent within the Russian squad, however. Valencia winger Denis Cheryshev was one of the stars of the 2018 World Cup, scoring four goals as Russia reached the quarter-final stages. The former Real Madrid player will be hoping to play another starring role and his goals will be crucial to determining how far they can go.
Russia’s main threat up front however will be 31-year-old striker Artem Dzyuba. The Zenit St Petersburg frontman has 24 goals in 42 appearances for his country, including three at the last World Cup and eight in qualification. While he might be getting on a bit, his physical presence will be no less of a threat next summer.
June 13 – Denmark vs Finland – Copenhagen
June 13 – Belgium vs Russia – St Petersburg
June 17 – Denmark vs Belgium – Copenhagen
June 18 – Finland vs Russia – St Petersburg
June 22 – Russia vs Denmark – Copenhagen
June 22 – Finland vs Belgium – St Petersburg
Copenhagen Stadium image by Валерий Дед for Creative Commons
Eriksen image by Дмитрий Неймырок/Dmitriy Neymyrok/Dmitrij Nejmyrok for Creative Commons
Sparv image by Petteri Lehtonen for Creative Commons
Belgium image by Эдгар Брещанов for Creative Commons
Russia image by Кирилл Венедиктов for Creative Commons