Euro 2020 preview: Tips and analysis with Italy, Wales and Belgium set for opening games

Finally, after over a year’s worth of build-up, Euro 2020 begins in Rome on Friday night as Italy take on dark horses Turkey.
Turkey and Italy fans pose together in Rome. Photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty ImagesTurkey and Italy fans pose together in Rome. Photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images
Turkey and Italy fans pose together in Rome. Photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

In March 2020, UEFA officially postponed the tournament meaning fans across the continent would have to wait to see who can challenge Portugal for the crown they captured in 2016. 2020 marked 60 years since the first Euros and this tournament is a diversion from the usual format as games feature in 11 different venues across 11 countries.

This means sides such as Germany, Spain, England, Netherlands, Denmark and Italy will play in front of their home fans for all of their group stage games. Hungary only play two of their group stage games in Budapest but the Puskas Arena is the only stadium that aims to bring in 100% of fans to the 61,000 seater arena.

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Following the opener in Rome on Friday night, Saturday's action features Wales taking on Switzerland in Baku, Denmark facing Finland in Copenhagen and finished off with Belgium taking on a Russa side who’ll be playing in St. Petersburg.

France are the overwhelming favourites at 9/2 but they do compete in the ‘Group of Death’ with previous winners Portugal and Germany who are both 8/1. England are the bookies’ second-favourites coming in at 11/2 showing how well Gareth Southgate has rejuvenated the side over the past few years as well as gaining a strong squad. Belgium have a world-class group of individuals and at 6/1 are tipped to finally win that competition that has eluded them until now. Spain will have to compete with Poland and Sweden in Group E but despite a build-up to the tournament in which Covid-19 has affected the squad, they are also at 8/1 to get their first title since 2012.

Turkey versus Italy is the pick of the games over the weekend with the Azzuri strong favourites at 9/20. Roberto Mancini’s group of experienced and young players are 8/1 to win the whole competition and are the form side coming into the Euros on an unbeaten run since 2018 and an eight-game winning streak. Turkey have been touted as dark horses due to having the youngest squad out of the 24 teams and claiming a huge scalp in qualifying by beating France 2-0. They’re fancied at 15/2 for this tie with inspirational striker and captain Burak Yilmaz to score 7/2 anytime.

Wales face a tough task against Switzerland who are ever-present in international competitions. Robert Page’s team will be hoping to emulate their semi-final place from 2016 and get over the disappointment of not making the World Cup two years on from that. Wales are slight underdogs at 29/10 with Switzerland’s experience edging them ahead at 23/20.

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The Swiss’ target man Haris Seferovic scored 22 goals in 38 games for Benfica and he is the bookies’ tip to score anytime at 15/8. He’ll find it tough against a Welsh squad who have gained a reputation for being a solid defensive unit against their rivals keeping 12 clean sheets in the last 18 games.

It’s hard to look beyond Gareth Bale in scoring anytime at 5/2 and despite the rumours circulating about what will happen to him after the Euros, he’s still had a good season for Tottenham Hotspur excelling in goals per 90 minutes. Kieffer Moore excelled for Cardiff this year but there are doubts whether he will start in Page’s much more fluid and counter-attacking system. Leeds’ Tyler Roberts or Manchester United’s Daniel James are safer bets at 4/1 and 5/1 to score respectively.

Denmark are expected to start off their Euros campaign with three points against a Finland side who are arriving at their first international tournament in their history. The Danes are at 4/9 and Finland would certainly pull off the shock of the weekend if they were to beat the 1992 winners at 8/1.

While the Danes could win comfortably, Teemu Pukki scored 10 goals for Finland during qualifying and has refound his form that escaped him for part of 2020. He scored 26 goals for Norwich City back in the Championship and could easily create chances with his intelligent movement and is 11/4 to score anytime.

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Christian Eriksen is the bookie’s tip to score during the game at 13/8 which shows the lack of quality strikers the Danes have given Eriksen is rarely on the scoresheet at club level. However, he did manage five goals in qualification for this tournament showing he does have to step up and perform a role different to his deep-lying position at Inter Milan.

Belgium versus Russia completes Saturday’s fixtures and Red Devils will be wanting a fast start as favourites to win the group. Russia’s vocal home support could dampen their spirits and despite having a side that hasn’t improved since the 2018 World Cup, Stanislav Cherchesov’s side did beat Egypt 3-1 in that competition at the St. Petersburg’s Stadium.

Belgium are 7/10 for the contest while Russia’s odds stay at 4/1. Roberto Martinez will be concerned about the fitness of Eden Hazard (21/10 to score anytime) and Kevin de Bruyne (9/4 to score) going into the tournament and there are doubts about whether either will be available for the opening game. Romelu Lukaku is likely to score at 3/1 but Dries Mertens who will dovetail around the Inter Milan striker is also good odds at 5/2 to find the net anytime.

Russia’s threat comes in the form of Artem Dzyuba who many fans will remember from the 2018 World Cup. He scored three goals thanks to his strong aerial presence and comes into the tournament having got 20 goals for his club Zenit St. Petersburg. Playing in his own club’s stadium could have a significant impact and he is second to Lukaku in terms of odds to score over the 90 minutes at 13/8.

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