June 1, 2021 9:31:52 pm
Young stars, home comforts boost England hopes
A squad bristling with young and exciting talent. Home advantage through the final. A strong recent tournament record.
England has much going in its favor heading into the European Championship, putting one of the world’s underachieving soccer teams among the favorites.
Can the nation that invented the sport end a 55-year wait for a major title? England coach Gareth Southgate could hardly have a better chance.
Phil Foden. Mason Mount. Reece James. Jude Bellingham. Jadon Sancho. Mason Greenwood. The list goes on and on.
England will play all of its group games at Wembley Stadium, while the team’s last-16 match will be staged there if it finishes at the top of its group.
With the semifinals and final also being held at Wembley, there’s the possibility that England would only have to play one game — in the quarterfinals — away from home.
England might not have ended its long wait for a title but the team has been going deep in competitions under Southgate, giving players experience in pressure matches.
The run to the World Cup semifinals was England’s best performance at a major tournament since 1996 and included the team’s ending its so-called curse in penalty shootouts, against Colombia in the last 16.
Modric and Perišic back with Croatia, but no Sosa
One of Croatia’s breakthrough players this season has not been included in the country’s squad for the European Championship.
And he is not going to play for Germany, either.
Borna Sosa has been torn between two nations, and that will cause the 23-year-old Stuttgart defender with dual citizenship to miss Euro 2020.
Some regard him as Croatia’s best left winger since Robert Jarni, an 80-time international who played for Juventus and Real Madrid in the 1990s.
Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandžukic have retired, but key players like Luka Modric and Ivan Perišic still form the core of the team under coach Zlatko Dalic.
Czechs on the rise after disastrous Euro 2016
With the memory of last time’s early exit far behind, the Czech Republic is bringing a rebuilt team to this year’s European Championship. Urgent action was needed to turn things around and Jaroslav Šilhavý, who took over as coach.
Unlike Bruckner, Šilhavý doesn’t have the stars of the past like Rosický, Pavel Nedved or Karel Poborský, but he still has players who can make a difference. The core of his team is formed by former and current players from Slavia Prague, a team that just clinched its third straight Czech league title and has reached the quarterfinals of the Europa League twice in the last three years.
Two of them, midfielder Tomáš Soucek and defender Vladimír Coufal — now teammates at West Ham in the Premier League — are key names on Silhavy’s squad along with another former Slavia midfielder, Alex Král from Spartak Moscow.
Another Czech player to watch will be Adam Hložek. The 18-year-old Sparta Prague forward became the youngest player to score a hat trick in the Czech league.
Scotland’s coming home to end 23-year wait
Scotland’s return to a major international soccer tournament after a 23-year wait was perfectly timed.
The first final tournament game ever to be played in a Scottish stadium will see the home team hosting the Czech Republic on June 14 in Glasgow in the European Championship.
Goals are usually hard for Scotland to find, and Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn’s 10 is the most in the current squad.
Arguably the two best players are both left-backs. Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney typically plays in a central defensive three with Liverpool’s Andy Robertson captaining the team at left wingback. Manchester United’s Scott McTominay is another player to look forward to.
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