Joachim Löw hoping to leave Germany on a high
With Joachim Löw departing after the tournament and a replacement already set to take over, expectations are low for Germany at the European Championship.
Quite low, especially considering the team’s dismal performance as defending champions at the last World Cup and the 6-0 drubbing by Spain last year in the Nations League.
Germany’s recent record does not give grounds for much optimism. The defense was uncertain against North Macedonia, a team ranked 65th in the world, while the attack lacked a clinical touch.
Forwards Leroy Sané and Serge Gnabry play with Robert Lewandowski at Bayern Munich, but Germany lacks a traditional No. 9 in the mold of the Poland striker. Timo Werner missed an open goal against North Macedonia and has yet to live up to expectations.
For Euro 2020, Löw has recalled striker Kevin Volland to help make up for the shortfall. Germany has other excellent players. No one is questioning the quality of Neuer, Toni Kroos, Ilkay Gündogan, Leon Goretzka or Joshua Kimmich, but they alone can’t drag the team to success without the help of the supporting players. Löw was able to pick his best available team for the tournament, including recalling veterans Thomas Müller and Mats Hummels for their quality and experience.
Benzema and Mbappe could light up France’s attack
The benefit of ending a long feud with Karim Benzema is that France coach Didier Deschamps will start the European Championship with arguably the tournament’s strongest attack.
Even the generally pragmatic Deschamps struggled to contain his enthusiasm when asked recently about a forward line featuring Benzema alongside Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann.
Deschamps has few worries elsewhere.
Hugo Lloris remains reliable in goal, even though the veteran had an average season with Tottenham. Mike Maignan excelled for French champion Lille, and is pushing Steve Mandanda to be No. 2.
In defense, center half Raphael Varane is long established and will likely start alongside Presnel Kimpembe, who must improve his composure after two red cards for PSG this season.
Holding midfielders N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba have found their best form at club level for Chelsea and Manchester United, respectively, which is a huge boost for Deschamps and makes them automatic picks.
Ronaldo backed by talented Portugal squad
A record-chasing Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be the only attraction for Portugal when it tries to win a second straight European Championship title.
Ronaldo will attempt to become the all-time leading scorer with a national team, but this time there will be a lot more to watch for in Portugal’s squad.
The 36-year-old Ronaldo will be backed this time by the likes of João Félix, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Rúben Dias and Diogo Jota. Also included in the Euro 2020 squad was 22-year-old forward Pedro Gonçalves, who has never played for the senior national team. The defense again will be led by 38-year-old Pepe, the most valuable player in the Euro 2016 final, when Portugal defeated host France.
Hungary challenged by tough group and injury
A tough draw and the injury absence of its best player give Hungary quite a challenge at this year’s European Championship. Hungary coach Marco Rossi will have to do without attacking midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai when his team plays three semifinalists from 2016 in Group F.
Ádám Szalai is by far the most experienced member with 70 international appearances and 23 goals. The Mainz forward is one of four Bundesliga players in the team.