Euro 2021 Preview – Who will conquer the Continent?

Stephen Reynolds

Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo smiles while posing with the trophy after Portugal won the Euro 2016 final football match between Portugal and France at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on July 10, 2016. / AFP / FRANCISCO LEONG (Photo credit should read FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)

There’s something about an international tournament that sends football fans into a euphoric frenzy. You could argue it’s heat stroke, but by any bet that would be the pride fans feel when their country plays. You read that right: patriotism isn’t dead. Add the fact that we were robbed of the Euros last summer, fan anticipation is at its peak.

For the first time in its history, the competition will not be held in one or two countries.

The games have been shared across member countries, with Dublin hosting four games. However, due to problems with the vaccine rollout across Europe and a rise in COVID-19 cases across the continent, it looks unlikely.

Step forward UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, who has offered to host the Euros as they are ahead of the pack in regard to the vaccine process. This could mean fans can attend games

Other factors need to be considered too. It’s been an extremely strenuous season with games being played more frequently, so managers will be praying that their players don’t go far in European competition at club level. You’d hope that there won’t be COVID-19 outbreaks in camps which may convince UEFA to take Johnson up on his offer.

Now, for what you clicked on this article for. Who’s going to win the competition?

There are quite clearly five to six contenders, but it is quite clear that Portugal and France will be the two favourites going into the tournament.

The World Cup champions haven’t looked back since they conquered the world and have their young star, Kylian Mbappe, scoring hat tricks at the Camp Nou like it’s nothing. But they don’t have the Antoine Griezmann of old as who has struggled to reach his old heights in Catalonia.

The likes of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté have also struggled for form at club level, so it’s fair to say this isn’t 2018 France.

Then, there is the team who beat them in Paris to win the competition in 2016, Portugal, who have added the newly formed Nations League to their trophy cabinet. Portugal has an even better team now with the emergence of Joáo Felix, Bruno Fernandes and even Liverpool’s Diogo Jota.

The countries trying to cause an upset consist of England who arguably have the most talented squad, Germany who are always in with a shout but might struggle defensively. Spain are definitely not the team we grew up watching and Belgium may miss their captain Eden Hazard due to ongoing injury issues, but both are capable of upsetting the odds.

 There’s only one real dark horse that will cause an upset and that is Roberto Mancini’s Italy.

The ‘Azzurri’ boast an impeccable qualifying record and have only conceded six goals in their last 18 competitive games whilst scoring an impressive 48. They’ve got everything to win it including a mouth-watering midfield and the European Golden Shoe holder, Ciro Immobile, to lead the line.

As the sun starts to shine over Europe, and with the evenings getting longer, there seems to a real excitement building for the Euros and everyone is ready for the summer. But until then, the question fans will continue to ask themselves is, “will it be our year?” Well, it just might be.

Stephen Reynolds

Image Credit: Getty Images