Soccer, Soccer News

2020 European Championships Preview Part 2

Spain Need to Clip Norway and Italy Must Squash Greece to Qualify for the 2020 Euros

They will likely not be the first teams to secure passage to the 2020 European Championships, but perennial powers Spain and Italy can claim spots among the 24-nation field that will contest the title across Europe with victories Saturday in Groups F and J, respectively. 

Before that, however, Friday’s matches offer plenty of intrigue across Groups A, B, and H, as England, Ukraine and reigning World Cup champions France look to create some separation atop their groups in these crucial matches. 

We’ll start with Friday’s matches to meet the drama head-on. 

Group A 2020 Euro Qualifiers

Football will “come home” at some point during the 2020 Euros as Wembley Stadium will host the semifinals and finals, and England are looking to take a step closer to making sure they will have the opportunity to leverage that home-pitch advantage. The Three Lions are -250 favorites to maintain their 100 percent record as they face the Czech Republic (+650) in Prague. 

Gareth Southgate’s squad have a substantial margin of error with a match in hand and a three-point lead over the Czechs, but also play three of their final four contests outside England. They likely will also play a far more compact game than last month’s ragged 5-3 win over Kosovo in which England fell behind in the first minute before erupting for five first-half goals. 

Speaking of Kosovo, the European debutants will be keen observers before hosting Montenegro on Monday with the potential opportunity to pip the Czech Republic for second depending on Friday’s outcome. Montenegro (+105) and Bulgaria (+260) are essentially playing a de facto elimination match Friday, with the winner keeping faint hopes of a runners-up finish to qualify. 

Group B 2020 Euro Qualifiers 

Ukraine (-1,200) have a golden opportunity to consolidate their hold on first in Group B with Friday’s home match versus Lithuania (+2,600). The Yellow-Blue have conceded just one goal in five qualifiers and are five points clear of Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, whom they host Tuesday. 

Speaking of Ronaldo, he and the Selecao das Quinas (-3,000) are under pressure to keep pace with Ukraine as they host group minnows Luxembourg (+6,500). Portugal have a match in hand as they try to fend off Serbia for second in the group, and the reigning European and inaugural Nations League “A” winners will be looking to Ronaldo to add to his staggering haul of 93 goals in international play – a figure that trails only Iran’s Ali Daei (109). 

 Group H 2020 Euro Qualifiers 

In terms of pure intrigue and potential chaos, Group H figures to have the most going on as Turkey, France, and Iceland are separated by three points, with Les Bleus currently holding the edge on goal difference over Turkey despite losing in Konya earlier in the qualifying cycle. 

The reigning World Cup champions are still dealing with a spate of injuries ahead of their trek to face Iceland (+650) in Reykjavik. France (-220) are again without playmaker Paul Pogba and striker Kylian Mbappe through injury, and Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris joined the list with a dislocated elbow suffered in last weekend’s loss at Brighton.  

Didier Deschamps, though, still has a staggeringly deep squad to fill those voids. Veteran Olivier Giroud likely will lead the line with Anotine Griezmann underneath, and PSG’s Alphonse Arreola will be between the sticks deputising for Lloris. 

Iceland, who have never beaten France in 14 competitive matches, were pole-axed 4-0 in Saint-Denis in March and need at least a point to have any realistic hopes of qualifying as they must still venture to Istanbul in November. 

The Crescent Stars (-250) host Albania (+750), and a victory would essentially end Albania’s hopes of qualifying for a second straight continental tournament as they enter the match fourth on nine points. France then get their chance for revenge against Turkey on Monday in Saint-Denis, while Iceland will host Andorra. 

 Group F 2020 Euro Qualifiers 

Spain (-220), who won the 2010 World Cup between 2008 and 2012 European titles, can at least book a spot in the 2020 edition Saturday with a victory at Norway (+600) as it would guarantee them no worse than second in Group F. La Roja carry a 100 percent record through six qualifiers, scoring 17 while conceding just three, but the Norse gave them their toughest match of the six, falling 2-1 in Valencia to open group play. 

Second-place Sweden and third-place Romania are both on the road against group lightweights Malta and Faroe Islands, respectively. The Blagult (-1,800), who are one point better than Romania, eased to a 3-0 win over Malta (+4,400) in June. Romania (-460) also had little trouble in their reverse fixture, running out 4-1 winners over the Landsliðið (+1,200) in March. 

Group J 2020 Euro Qualifiers

Like Spain, Italy (-550can assure themselves of no worse than a second-place finish with a victory Saturday over Greece (+1,500) in Rome. The Azzurri will be sporting a rare green jersey for the match, dubbed “The Renaissance Kit” that marks the 65th anniversary of their 2-0 win over Argentina in Stadio Olimpico. 

Italy’s closest pursuers in the group – Finland (+270– can take a huge step towards qualifying for their first major tournament in history with a victory at Bosnia (+115). The Huuhkajat are six points behind the Azzurri but have the inside track to second having already played them twice. Bosnia need to claim all three points to have any realistic chance of finishing runners-up as they enter this match five points back of Finland and also two behind Armenia. 

Group D 2020 Euro Qualifiers 

Nothing can be settled in the first set of Group D matches Saturday, though Switzerland (+230) have an opportunity to be joint-leaders with a win in Denmark (+130) coupled with a loss by Ireland (+125) in Georgia (+260). Die Nati are playing their match in hand after losing to Portugal in the finals of the “A” Nations League but will again be without Xherdan Shaqiri as the Liverpool winger is out through injury.