Hey, as I always say, my predictions are never wrong…it’s the players who play the actual matches who gum them up!
So, here we go…
Group A: Italy, Turkey, Switzerland, Wales: Italy ought to be good enough to make it at least to the quarterfinals, but anything after that would be quite a story. Turkey and Switzerland could flip spots, but the nod here goes to Turkey, which is considered a possible dark horse side. Wales isn’t good enough to steal enough points and avoid last place.
Group B: Belgium, Denmark, Russia, Finland: The top two in this group look set. This might be the last chance for this squad from Belgium to win a major tournament, while the Danes could surprise and make it into the quarterfinals. Russia and Finland are hoping to snag one of the four knockout-stage places that will go to a third-place group stage team.
Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, North Macedonia: The problem with this quartet is none of them excites you once you get to the knockout stage. In fact, you could make the case that in any other grouping, none would be better than second place. Austria might benefit from a favorable grouping and steal a knockout stage spot.
Group D: England, Croatia, Czech Republic, Scotland: England is head and shoulders above the other teams in this group, but the path is treacherous once the knockout stage begins. Croatia or the Czech Republic will fight for second place, which will guarantee playing one more game before going home.
Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, Slovakia: Looking for a group stage favorite in the deepest trouble? Hola, Spain! While it’s doubtful Spain would finish worse than second in this quartet, it’s not a certainty it will win this group. Sweden or Poland will fight for second place or steal the group if Spain struggles even more than anticipated.
Group F: France, Portugal, Germany, Hungary: Poor Hungary. If that team gets 1 point out of the group stage, it will be a monumental success. France and Portugal could end up playing twice in this tournament; and if that’s the case, then they’d be playing for the championship. Is Germany a dark horse team? Ja!
Round of 16
(1B) Belgium v (3F) Germany: A match that deserves to be played in the quarterfinals instead determines whether the chronically underachieving or the recently underachieving move on. Germany might end up playing three of the four semifinalists and lose to all of them.
(A1) Italy v (2C) Ukraine: The Ukrainians have received lots of attention because their jerseys have angered the Russians. Imagine how mad the Italians would be if Ukraine pulled an upset here. Don’t count on it.
(1F) France v (3B) Russia: Rue Facile for France, which has no problem disposing of Russia, which would find itself as the biggest underdog of any team in this round by playing France. Come to think of it, France might be on Easy Street in the quarterfinals as well.
(2D) Croatia v (2E) Sweden: Looking for a match in this round that could be destined for overtime? This could be it. To the winner, Sweden,…congratulations, you get to get whacked by France a few days later.
(1E) Spain v (3C) Austria: Spain continues to benefit from a favorable draw, but it had better be healthy coming out of this match because an enormous challenge awaits in the quarterfinals.
(1D) England v (2F) Portugal: Every fan of England has to be muttering under their breath. Win your group and play Portugal or maybe France or possibly Germany in the Round of 16. And lose. Or blow it and finish second in your group…and be buried in the quarterfinals.
(1C) Netherlands v (3E) Poland: The Netherlands side benefits from another rather easy match up here. Poland should make this a tight match for roughly 75 minutes before the proverbial roof caves in.
(A2) Denmark v (B2) Turkey: Lots of chatter about these being the squads with the best chance to make a deep run in the tournament. Denmark keeps the conversation going with a narrow win over a solid Turkish team.
Belgium v Italy: Two sides with something to prove. Belgium wants to keep past failures in the past, while Italy believes it has the right mix of youth and experience. The Azzuri are right.
France v Sweden: France keeps on rolling. Let’s be honest, at this point in the tournament its two toughest games were in the group stage.
Portugal v Spain: If Spain had any lifelines entering this tournament, they’ve been used up by now. Portugal advances.
Netherlands v Denmark: Can the Danes keep that dark horse talk going? Sure. Will the Netherlands’ luck finally run out? Sure.
France v Italy: Italy has had a nice run. Buona notte, Azzuri.
Portugal v Denmark: Dark horse teams rarely beat elite squads.
France v Portugal: France has all the pressure because winning this tournament gives them the double — simultaneous ownership of the the World Cup and Euro crowns. Bet on it.