Whether it be the Champions League, World Cup, or the Euros, nearly all major football tournaments entail a proverbial “group of death.” For this rendition of the European Championship, Group F is packed with top-tier teams, making it the obvious group of death. The unfortunate Hungarians are matched up against all the winners of the last four major competitions in which European clubs compete, dating back to 2014. Despite having plenty of young talent between their three squads, the likes of France, Portugal, and Germany will all be reliant on their experienced players to make it to the knockout round.
- France (6 pts)
- Portugal (6 pts)
- Germany (3 pts)
- Hungary (3 pts)
The World Cup holders head into this summer as the outright favorite to come out on top, and rightly so. Les Bleus are stacked from top to bottom with world-class talent and have plenty of depth options that would contend on their own. However, with only three group stage games against other world-class opposition, there is no margin for error. Karim Benzema, who hasn’t played for France since 2015, adds another level to an already strong French attack, alongside star-in-the-making Kylian Mbappe and the iconic Antoine Griezmann. I could drone on and on about the plethora of flair and aptitude on this French squad, but it only matters if they grind out the results. Expect France to control Group F from the start and win it with ease.
After a much-needed injection of youth, this Portugal squad is looking a lot different from the one that brought home glory 5 years ago just North of Paris. In the back the new addition is Ruben Dias, coming off a stellar debut campaign with Man City that saw him win Premier League Player of the Season. Up top, Cristiano Ronaldo is partnered with wonderkids João Felix and Diogo Jota, two versatile wingers who have struggled at times, but their quality should shine through this summer. Like France, Portugal certainly has the squad to lift another major trophy, but they will first have to navigate the tough group stage. A 2nd-place group finish or better it would be up to par for the Portuguese.
No team is tougher to predict this summer than the Germans, who could win it all just as easily as they could flame out in the group stage. The talent is clearly there, but after the infamous show at the 2018 World Cup, there are reasonable doubts surrounding Die Mannschaft. On paper, they rival France, with an astounding 11 Champions League winners. Thomas Muller is back and should make an immediate impact up top, in addition to the in-form Kai Havertz. Only a disaster class by manager Joachim Low, who is resigning at the end of the tournament, would send this team in the wrong direction. Anything short of a quarterfinal berth is unsatisfactory.
Ah yes, the poor minnows in the group of death. Hungary is not a bad team by any stretch of the imagination, entering the tournament on an 11-game unbeaten run, but they are obviously nowhere near the titanic levels of their counterparts. 20-year-old Dominik Szoboszlai has struggled with injuries since moving to RB Leipzig last winter; Hungary’s star man remains out for the tournament. Despite their hot run of form, the Huns don’t stand a chance, but I figure they will pick up a fluky 3 points against Germany and exit the tournament with their dignity intact.