Euro 2020 has endured a tough start due to a heart attack for Denmark’s Christian Eriksen during the game against Finland on Saturday. The Danish playmaker is on the mend and stable. From the competitive perspective, there have been numerous one-sided games in the first three days of the tournament until now. However, there are numerous teams making a strong case for the ultimate prize in the tournament.
Many national teams have been performing consistently well in the past few years. There are few outright favourites, but there is a group of teams that have the potential to go all the way. Let’s look at the top five teams to watch out for in Euro 2020.
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The four-time world champions are one of the most underrated teams in this tournament. Italy has not tasted success in recent years and they didn’t even qualify for the 2018 World Cup for the first time in 60 years but under Roberto Mancini, the team has come up to the ranks once again as they are 28 games unbeaten right now in Europe.
The Azzuri have a good set of players in the current squad which includes some of the star names like Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne in attack, Jorginho and Marco Veratti as midfielders. The team also has an experienced center-back duo of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. Italy started their Euro 2020 journey with a sensational 3-0 win against Turkey where they dominated the whole game as they had 24 shots with 64% possession. Even though it is not a vintage Italian team, they are one of the strong contenders for the title due to good form and structure under Mancini.
The 2014 World Cup winners had a disappointing run in the last World Cup as they were eliminated in the group stage. Since World Cup 2018, it has been a run of inconsistent results for Germany with the lowest point coming last year during 6-0 defeat against Spain in the UEFA Nations League. With the return of Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels to the squad, they can be serious contenders for the European championship.
The most exciting thing about the German squad is their midfield as they have some of the best players in Europe. Toni Kroos, Leon Goretzka, Ilkay Gundogan, Thomas Muller, and Joshua Kimmich provide the experience in the midfield. Meanwhile, the likes of Kai Havertz and Jamal Musiala provide x-factor in the team. Bayern Munich forwards Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane can causes problems for best defenders. Meanwhile, Antonio Rudiger, Havertz, and Timo Werner will be coming into the tournament on the back of winning the Champions League. Joachim Low will be looking to end his 15-year tenure as a national team coach with silverware at Euro 2020. Even though they are part of the group of death with Portugal and France, Germany has the talent pool to go all the way in Euro 2020.
England has been one of the best-performing sides in Europe and they have a serious number of young talents and experienced players in their squad. Led by Gareth Southgate, the English team are expected to perform to the highest level as they have players like Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount, Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish, Jude Bellingham, and Phil Foden in their attack which gives them a lot of options at front.
In the midfield department, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice are going to be the starters for England as Jordan Henderson is recovering from injury. The Three Lions have stacked three right-backs which include, Kyle Walker, Kieron Trippier, and Reece James. Harry Maguire and John Stones are the ideal centre-back partnership for England and they also have Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell as left-backs, which shows that they have serious competition within the squad. England is in Group D which includes their old rivals Scotland, Croatia, and the Czech Republic. They started off their Euro 2020 campaign with a 1-0 win over Croatia in a group stage game. England has been serial underachievers in big tournaments over the years, but the current squad has the quality and unity to break the trend of poor performances in big competitions.
The current defending champions were the underdogs in the previous but this time they have a squad stronger than ever. The Portuguese attack includes Juventus star striker and captain Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Felix, Bernardo Silva, Diogo Jota, and Andre Silva. All attacking players are coming off a productive season with their respective clubs. Manchester United’s midfielder Bruno Fernandes will also play a crucial role after a very productive season at the club level. Renato Sanches, Ruben Neves, Danilo Pereira other solid midfield options for Portugal.
Portugal boasts one of the best defensive units with the center-back pairing of Ruben Dias and Pepe. Rui Patricio will be the main goalkeeper in the squad. Full-back positions are also very well covered despite Cancelo pulling out at the last moment after testing positive for COVID-19. The Portuguese team is favourites to make it two Euros in a row like Spain did in 2008 and 2012.
The current world champions need no introduction as everyone is aware of their capabilities which we witnessed in the 2018 World Cup. There’s no surprise that France are favourites for various pundits due to the sheer amount of match-winners in the squad. The group of attacking players is the best in the world with Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Kingsley Coman, Ousmane Dembele in the attack. Real Madrid star striker Karim Benzema has also been added into the squad for the first time in six years.
N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba were outstanding as midfield duo in Russia two years ago. They remain the first-choice midfield pairing for Didier Deschamps. The defense is also well stacked with some of the best defenders in Europe. The French team suffered heartbreak in Euro 2016, but winning World Cup in 2018 gives them an edge in Euro 2020.
New regulations are to be introduced that will limit the number of headers professional footballers practice in training per week.
Over the last few years, heading within football, especially among children, has become a hot topic.
A study conducted in 2019 found that footballers are more likely to suffer from degenerative brain diseases Dementia compared to people whose jump doesn’t involve frequently heading a ball.
In February of last year, the practice of heading in training sessions was banned for all children aged 11 or under in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland at all levels.
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Several high-profile former footballers such as Sir Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles and Jeff Astle have all died within the last few years after suffering brain disease, with Charlton suffering from Dementia before his death.
In order to protect players, they will be limited to 10 ‘high force’ headers per week in training at ever level of English football including the Premier League.
“Our heading guidance now reaches across all players, at all levels of the game,” said FA chief executive Mark Bullingham.
“We are committed to further medical research to gain an understanding of any risks within football. In the meantime, this reduces a potential risk factor.
“It is important to remember that the overwhelming medical evidence is that football and other sports have positive impacts on both mental and physical health.”
What has the reaction been?
Former Arsenal, West Ham and England central defender Matthew Upson told Sky Sports he is in favour of the rule change.
“I 100% back the research and the studies that have gone into making this step,” he said.
“There’s been a lot of work behind the scenes, researching the impact of heading the ball and it seems a very reasonable request if I’m honest.
“The key words are the ‘high impact’ contact. You can still practice heading, technically, as let’s be honest, heading is a real art – a matter of timing, technicality towards it.
“Those big ones when you’re heading from a goal kick or from a corner – it just makes sense in training not to expose yourself to that impact.
“Save it for opportunities in matches when three points are on the line. In training, it just makes perfect sense, so I fully welcome the change.”
Studies have shown that it can have an impact on your health
When asked whether he looks back on some training sessions in the past and worries about his own health, Upson admits he wouldn’t agree to them now.
“I sometimes cast my mind back to some of the sessions that I’ve done over the 20 years as a professional footballer, and looking back, you wouldn’t entertain a training session like that,” he continued.
“You wouldn’t head a number of large balls into the box. When as an apprentice practicing those big, headed clearances and getting your head on kicks from the halfway line.
“There isn’t really a need to practice that in mass numbers. Studies have shown that it can have an impact on your health.”
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The Boston Bruins are looking to bring in a veteran center for their next playoff push and Ryan Getzlaf is one of the leading options.
NHL Free Agency opened on Wednesday and has already kicked into full gear with signings and rumors flying in. The latest comes from TSN’s Pierre Lebrun as the Boston Bruins are one of the top destinations for Ryan Getzlaf if he leaves the Anaheim Ducks for the first time in his 16 year career.
The Bruins join the Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens among the potential destinations.
The move makes a lot of sense for the Bruins, who are still looking to get another Stanley Cup with their main core before the window closes. A potential Bruins-Getzlaf signing feels reminiscent of when Boston brought in David Backes during the 2016 offseason. While that partnership didn’t ultimately work out for either side, it did give them another center and more leadership for the team.
What could Ryan Getzlaf bring to the Boston Bruins?
Getzlaf is an interesting addition for anyone this offseason. The 37-year-old is far from his prime anymore and had the worst statistical season of his career during the 2020-21 season. In 48 games, Getzlaf totaled career lows in goals, assists, and points with 5-12-17. To be fair to him, however, the Ducks were terrible this season. The only team to finish worse than them was the Buffalo Sabres.
A better assumption of what Getzlaf could bring to the table this season would be to look back at the 2019-20 season. He totaled 13 goals and 29 assists, good for 42 points overall. Seeing that the Bruins are looking for secondary scoring and overall solid play from their third and fourth lines, Getzlaf feels like the perfect fit for them this season and maybe even beyond.
The former Stanley Cup champion could channel his former linemate, Corey Perry, by leaving the Ducks as Perry has found success and has made it to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals. Seems like a good fit if the Bruins and Getzlaf can come together on a deal.
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