YES, BELGIUM IS NOT HEAD OF GROUP B !!
Welcome back to another one of our EURO 2020 – GROUP PREVIEWS, and now it’s group B turn. This is the first group where there is one of the tournament’s favorites. Albeit they are not top of the group, you think Belgium would be there by the end of the group stages. However, opposite to most thoughts, there is more than one reason to suggest that this might not happen.
Denmark seems like a shoe-in for 2nd place, but Russia and Finland can throw a spanner in the works. The group in general seem like a one-team group, but the devil hides in the details. And those details can be pretty tricky for Roberto Martinez’ “golden generation”.
Let’s get to the second of our EURO 2020 – GROUP PREVIEWS, and dive into Belgium’s Group B…
Starting with “The Red Devils”, this tournament seems like the penultimate chance for this unbelievable crop of talent to achieve any kind of major honor. Next year’s World Cup might be the last for a generation that, as great as it is, ended up as “perennial underachievers”. Their 3rd place in Russia 2018 felt earned, mainly because they did it on the hard side of the bracket. However, since then, a lot has changed, and nothing changed at once.
Roberto Martinez is still the coach, and Belgium still plays a 3-4-3, so what did change exactly?. Well, Vincent Kompany retired, leaving a past-their-prime Vertonghen and Alderweireld. Eden Hazard’s last TWO seasons are basically a long stay in hospital. And the new influx of talent doesn’t feel ready yet, with the likes of Trossard, Vaneken, Dendoncker, and Doku still feeling their way through.
This is a hill i would die on, but the Belgian squad this time is average. Sure, they are better than the sum of their parts, and have a big name or two in every department. Also, they are a much better unit than people credit them for. But, it just feels like they are disjointed particularly the back-three which will be Vertonghen, Alderweireld, and whoever was lucky to be between them. You can bet your house on 2018’s Belgium to top the group easily, however as good of a bet as they are this time around, it’s not as safe anymore.
Denmark might just be the next Belgium, and for all the good reasons really. Yes, they lack a striker but are definitely a good side that could be considered one of the “dark horses”. That expression gets thrown around a lot, but it fits Denmark this time around. You don’t exactly know what kind of formation or style you are getting, because they can play many. Such is the flexibility in their squad, albeit the lack of striker could really hurt them.
In the back, they have a variety of options, with many potential CB pairings. Their midfield has the right mix up of solidity and creativity, spearheaded by Christian Eriksen. Even with the lack of a potent number 9, Youssef Poulsen and Martin Braithwaite are still really good options forward. This Dane generation feels like an extension of the great 1992 Euro winning side, which can be a burden sometimes.
They might look like a side made for 2nd place in the group. However, the home advantage they will have in their first two games might determine if that is the case.
It was Iceland in 2016, and now it’s another Scandinavian side making its debut in 2021. Their story might be a tad less romantic than that of Iceland, but still a very impressive underdog story. Finland qualified by being second to Italy in group J, scoring 16 goals of which Teemu Pukki scored 10. In a group where there is 2004 anomaly winners, Greece, and usual group dark horses, Bosnia, that is an ACHIEVEMENT.
They can look like the basket of the group, but they are no pushovers. Obviously they are going to play a defensive game, particularly against Belgium. Their aim will be to pounce on the counter-attack, and hopefully Pukki will be as effective as he was in the qualifiers. If they make anywhere close to Iceland’s heartwarming story, Finland might be this year’s underdog that everybody would stand behind.
Rounding up our EURO 2020 – GROUP PREVIEWS for group B, we take a look at Russia. A side that made an amazing run in 2018 World Cup on their home soil, and were really good as seconds to Belgium in this Euro qualifiers. They still have the same coach, play the same formation and possess the same core in their squad.
But, there lies the problem. Russia are pretty basic in their football, with either a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2 formation. And when you add a basic style of football to an ageing side, particularly at the back, it will be “combustible” to say the least. The whole back line for Russia is old, albeit still reliable as long as they are not forced to chase the ball. Upfront, they have some creative options, but you only expect them to take forefront against Finland.
They might not carry the lineage of the great USSR side that won the very first championship, but if they play their basics right we are in for some upsets. Russia’s true strengh is their compactness, which served them well in 2018, so who’s to guarantee that it won’t get them something again now??.
Group standings predictions:
1st place: Belgium
2nd place: Denmark
3rd place: Finland
4th place: Russia
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