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Euro 2020: Tournament favourites, dark horses and play-off hopefuls
France are rated as Euro 2020 favourites but England are not far behind them and several other sides are in strong shape too
Last Updated: 20/11/19 9:03am
The group stage of European Qualifying is over but who are the favourites for next summer's tournament? Who are the dark horses? Who's hoping to make it through the play-offs? And could it finally be England's year?
The big guns are firing
The Netherlands were the major casualty of the last European Championship qualifying campaign. This time around, however, the big guns - including the Oranje - have navigated their way through without problems.
Already qualified: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Wales
In the play-offs: Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Northern Ireland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Scotland, Slovakia
Belgium became the first side to seal their qualification when they beat San Marino 9-0 last month, and they followed that up with further victories over Kazakhstan, Russia and Cyprus, giving them a perfect record in Group I, with 40 goals scored and only three conceded in 10 games.
Roberto Martinez's side were not the only ones to win all their qualifying games, either. Italy were similarly impressive in Group J, their 10 out of 10 record - achieved with a 9-1 thrashing of Armenia on Monday - raising hopes that, having failed to reach the 2018 World Cup, they may be a genuine force again next summer.
Holders Portugal, still inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo, booked their place in the tournament with their 2-0 win over Luxembourg on Sunday, while Spain, Germany, France, Croatia and, of course, England, sealed their qualification in the last few days too. It seems the big guns are now primed for a big tournament.
Could it be England's year?
England are rated as second-favourites for the tournament behind only France. Kosovo manager Bernard Challandes described them as the "best team" in Europe after their 4-0 win in Pristina on Sunday, while Gareth Southgate has admitted they are stronger than they were when they reached the last four of the World Cup two years ago.
Euro 2020 Sky Bet favourites
- France 7/2
- England 9/2
- Belgium 13/2
- Spain 7/1
- Germany 8/1
- Netherlands 8/1
- Italy 12/1
- Portugal 12/1
Certainly, if this qualification campaign is anything to go by, their attack will take some stopping. Despite only playing eight games, England scored the second-most goals in qualifying, their total of 37 putting them only three behind Belgium and level with Italy, both of whom played two more games than them.
Harry Kane accounts for 12 of England's total, making him not only the top scorer in qualifying but also the first player from any country to find the net in every qualifying game.
Raheem Sterling hit another eight, and with Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi providing further support, and Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Chilwell storming forward from full-back, there is plenty of cause for optimism.
The problem, of course, is that, England will not need more than a free-scoring strike-force if they are to go the distance at a major tournament. Southgate's side only conceded six goals in their eight qualifying games, but their defensive frailties are there to be exploited by better teams and there are still questions marks over the midfield too.
This England side is young, hungry and talented. But can they control games against top opposition? Does the midfield contain the right balance between defensive solidity and creativity? These are the unanswered questions which may ultimately define England's Euro 2020 campaign. But their prospects do at least look brighter than they have done in the past.
Mixed campaign for Wales, Scotland, ROI and NI...
Wales followed England through with their 2-0 win over Hungary on Tuesday night, but the rest of the home nations will have to fight their way through the play-offs in order to reach Euro 2020.
Scotland endured some dismal moments on their way to a third-placed finish in Group I, suffering heavy defeats not only to Belgium and Russia but also Kazakhstan.
There were low points for the Republic of Ireland too, who failed to win any of their final three games in Group D, allowing Denmark to pip them to second place with some fans also questioning the quality of the football they have produced under Mick McCarthy.
Northern Ireland knew they would be up against it when they were drawn in the same group as the Netherlands and Germany, and while they were thrashed 6-1 by the latter nation in their final game, they will take heart from their four wins out of four in their games against Estonia and Belarus.
Who are the dark horses?
Perennial dark horses Croatia can no longer be considered as such after reaching the World Cup final last year, but there are several other nations who will fancy their chances of upsetting the odds next summer.
Poland (80/1) are one of them. They did not make it out of the group stage at last summer's World Cup, but they were quarter-finalists at Euro 2016 and, following a strong qualifying campaign in Group G, they will approach next year's tournament hoping to go deeper into the knockout stages.
Their main strength, of course, is Robert Lewandowski, who has racked up a scarcely-believable total of 26 goals for club and country already this season. They boast further attacking firepower in the shape of AC Milan's Krzysztof Piatek, who scored four goals in qualifying, and they are also strong in midfield and in goal, where Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny continue to wrestle for the No 1 jersey.
Switzerland (66/1), winners of Group D, could be another team to watch.
They have reached the knockout stages of the last three major tournaments they have appeared at. Last summer, they upset the odds to secure a place in the UEFA Nations League finals, beating Belgium 5-2 along the way. They are light on star quality, but they are young, hungry and well-organised under long-serving head coach Vladimir Petkovic.
Ukraine (100/1) endured a disappointing Euro 2016 campaign and failed to qualify for last year's World Cup, but they have shown signs of considerable improvement since then. They qualified for Euro 2020 as Group B winners, beating Portugal at home and holding them to a draw away, and have only lost one of their last 21 games in total.
Their squad does not contain any players with a profile like legendary striker Andriy Shevchenko, who is now their head coach, but it does include Premier League duo Oleksandr Zinchenko and Andriy Yarmolenko. Their fine form over the last two years has earned them pot one status for the group stage draw.
Finland blaze trail for history-makers
There were scenes of celebration in Helsinki last week as Finland qualified for a major tournament for the first time in their history, their 3-0 win over Liechtenstein sending them through as Group J runners-up behind Italy. Teemu Pukki scored 10 goals during a qualifying campaign in which Finland finished four points clear of third-placed Greece.
The Finns could be joined by more European Championship newcomers next summer, with Israel and Bosnia and Herzegovina hoping to earn a spot at the tournament for the first time via the play-offs. Georgia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Belarus, meanwhile, are also in play-off contention and - like Finland - targeting their first major tournament appearances.
Remember, you will be able to follow the Euro 2020 play-off draw live on Sky Sports' digital platforms at 11am on Friday. The ties will then take place at the end of March before the tournament begins in June.