News, Culture & Society

Euro 2020: Can England beat France, Germany or Portugal in the knockouts?

One of France, Germany or Portugal lie in wait if England win Group D. 

Here, Sportsmail assesses the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses…

PORTUGAL 

Strengths

An abundance of flair. Cristiano Ronaldo is a proven champion with a voracious appetite for goals, trophies and acclaim. 

His mentality drives a team with such an array of creative options that £108million wonderkid Joao Felix did not appear against Hungary.

Their full backs are decent in attack and, crucially, there is huge experience running through the squad, including wily boss Fernando Santos.

Cristiano Ronaldo (middle) is still at the top of his game and firing in the goals for Portugal 

Weaknesses

At the back. 

Pepe, at 38, strolled through against Hungary. 

He is less rash than in days gone by, has the athleticism of Ruben Dias beside him and is screened in midfield. But more severe tests await him than Hungary. Quicker strikers will disturb him.

The full backs take risks going forward and there are signs of Rui Patricio fading — the Wolves goalkeeper will feel he should have stopped the Hungary goal that was later ruled out.

At the back there are signs that the powers of No 1 goalkeeper Rui Patricio are now waning

At the back there are signs that the powers of No 1 goalkeeper Rui Patricio are now waning

England match up similarly. The best player and chief goal threat is at centre forward, there’s no shortage of pace and vision around him, there’s also physical presence in midfield and question marks hanging over the defence.

Can England’s defensive unit really keep out Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva and Diogo Jota? Or can they stretch Dias and Pepe and capitalise on the spaces in behind them?

Portugal’s nous and know-how through the knockout stages gives them the edge. But there’s always a chance, isn’t there?

GERMANY 

Strengths

The midfield will have more dynamism once Leon Goretzka is fit. 

The 26-year-old missed the opening game against France and Germany were a little one-paced without him. 

Coach Joachim Low believes Goretzka will play a part in the group stage — albeit maybe not during Saturday’s clash with Portugal — and his inclusion ought to make them a different proposition in central areas.

Germany will soon be boosted by the much-needed return of Bayern Munich's Leon Goretzka

Germany will soon be boosted by the much-needed return of Bayern Munich’s Leon Goretzka

It may prompt a change in shape, with a more efficient 4-3-3 rather than three centre halves.

What will encourage Germany is that they did eventually play with some tempo and emotion against the world champions.

An extra man breaking from the middle of the park would allow them to overload the opposition in key areas and swarm as they enter in the final third.

Weaknesses

Pace at the back, or lack of it, is what looks likely to hamper Germany at this tournament.

Mats Hummels was brought back from the international wilderness for leadership and experience but has never been blessed with speed and that showed against France.

Mats Hummels has looked shaky at the back and could be a weak link in the Germany side

England will have a selection of electric attacking stars licking their lips at the prospect of a foot race if they meet. Low also had problems down the flanks on Tuesday — an area of the pitch he had targeted beforehand to counter France’s central dominance.

The versatile Joshua Kimmich operated on the right, while Atalanta’s Robin Gosens struggled on the left. Gosens notably failed to produce going forward as much as Low would have liked.

The public in Germany are also crying out for a goalscorer.

FRANCE

Strengths

Where to start? The pace, the individual brilliance of each forward, the mere threat of the damage they can inflict. 

France are complete and it is going to take a real effort to stop them lifting this crown for a record-equalling third time.

Coach Didier Deschamps has engineered a winning machine, an efficient unit in which everybody knows their job without second-guessing each other.

With Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe up front, France are scaring all of their opponents

With Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe up front, France are scaring all of their opponents

Unlike many other international teams, France can switch into different shapes on countless occasions during a game at a moment’s notice, as evidenced in the first half on Tuesday night.

Dealing with that becomes a tricky task for teams who are not quite as familiar with each other.

Weaknesses

As good as they were against Germany, France actually only registered one shot on target in Munich and won via an own goal from Hummels.

They sat in after the break, willing to wait for counter-attacking opportunities, and appeared to play within themselves.

Perhaps that came from an absolute confidence in seeing the game out, and they did also have two close VAR calls for possible goals go against them. But with the right wind, there may be the chance to upset the favourites if that pattern is replicated.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk