The qualifying stages for Euro 2020 are now past the half way point. While tournament favourites like England and Belgium seem all but guaranteed to finish at the top of their groups, things are far less clear-cut for of other high-profile teams including France and Germany.
Here, we run through all ten groups, with a particular focus on those who are punching above their weight and stand a genuine chance of featuring in the final stages of next year’s UEFA European Championship 2020 when the tournament proper gets underway on 12 June in Rome.
England have emerged victorious from four high-scoring affairs and stand well clear at the top of the group. However, it’s Kosovo that has been hitting the headlines. The so-called Brazil of the Balkans is a team that fears nobody, and went into their game against England on the back of a 15-game winning streak. The eight-goal extravaganza against the group leaders could easily have turned that into 16 and impartial fans are looking forward to the two teams next meet-up with relish.
As defending Champions, Portugal have the luxury of automatic play-off qualification. They might just need it the way Ukraine and Serbia have been playing so far. The former have a five point advantage over the rest of Group B at this stage, and the team has a perfect balance of youth and experience. Ukraine meets Portugal next month and the result of that game will clarify the picture in this group.
Germany needed an authoritative performance in the qualifiers after the disaster that was the World Cup. However, they have looked lacklustre against both The Netherlands and Northern Ireland so far. Meanwhile the Irish have done exactly what they had to do, beating Estonia and Belarus home and away. One good performance against the Dutch could see them through for the second tournament in succession.
The Republic of Ireland is a team capable of great performances, but few expected them to be heading Group D at this stage. Now, the men in green need to hold their nerve in what are certain to be gritty and low-scoring encounters against Switzerland and Denmark.
Can qualifiers have a Group of Death? If so, it was always going to be Group E, and Wales will need to muster all the resolve currently being shown by their rugby players in the game in hand they have against Slovakia, which will take place behind closed doors on 10 October.
Spain’s dominance of Group F is no surprise to anyone. In fact, they’ve lost just five of the 121 World Cup and European Championship qualifying matches they have played over the past 25 years. The real point of interest here is who will win through out of Sweden, Romania and Norway, who are separated by just two points. Sweden might be the favourites with the bookies, but don’t rule out Romania.
Here’s a group that the pundits found difficult to call from the outset, lacking either a star team or a rank outsider. At this stage in the proceedings, Israel deserves an honourable mention for producing the top goal scorer of the qualifiers to date. Eran Zahavi has gone from journeyman to superstar, with nine goals, including a hat trick in the game against Austria.
Turkey’s record in the biggest tournaments has been patchy, to put it mildly. Their 2-0 victory over France back in June was one of the biggest surprises to date, and were it not for the subsequent defeat at the hands of Iceland, they would be well clear at the top.
When Russia surged to the quarter finals of last year’s World Cup, it was seen as evidence of how the emotion of home advantage can drive a team forward. However, that view is having to be reassessed, as five victories in succession have placed them in a clear second and eight points clear of the following pack.
For Finland, it’s been a long wait for a new footballing hero following the retirement of Jari Litmanen. But in Teemu Pukki, they might finally have their man. Five goals from the Norwich forward have placed the Finns in a prime position to participate in a major tournament for the first time.
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