A year is a heck of a long time in sport, and soccer, in particular, is a game in which 12 months can present a complete about-turn in form, confidence, and player fitness.
When Euro 2020 was postponed in the summer of that fateful year due to the pandemic, some nations breathed an almighty sigh of relief. They had a squad made up of injured players or those woefully out of form, and so the extra 12 months grace came in rather handy.
On the flip side, there were teams raring to go last year. They were injury-free, and their players were bouncing after a season of domestic success.
Any betting advice for the European Championships, which kick off on Friday, June 11, should take into consideration these fluctuations in fortunes and how the time factor could be crucial in determining who will lift the trophy on July 11. To find informed opinion, knowledgeable predictions, and the most attractive odds, check out the professional reviews of betting sites such as this PointsBet review.
So, which of the betting market favorites have benefitted/suffered as a result of the year-long delay of Euro 2020?
Now installed as the sportsbook favorite to lift the trophy, the year-long delay has proved a Godsend for England.
If the tournament had taken place in the summer of 2020, the Three Lions may have had to make do without their primary goalscorer Harry Kane, who had suffered a torn hamstring, and his likely deputy Marcus Rashford, who was nursing a stress fracture of his back.
Both will be fit for the rescheduled Euro 2020, and England head into the competition with several players enjoying success with Manchester City, Chelsea, and Manchester United, who are all into the finals of their respective continental tournaments.
It’s not been a perfect preparation – Jordan Henderson may miss the event through injury, while fringe players like Joe Gomez, Harvey Barnes, and Nick Pope may also have to watch from home.
But, all things considered, England is in rude health for a tournament of which they are the main hosts – playing the semi-finals and final on home soil, with no away fans, is an extraordinary advantage.
The reigning champions will finally have a chance to defend their trophy this summer.
It was a tough season for Juventus, but Cristiano Ronaldo continues to thrive in Italy – he scored 33 goals in Serie A and Champions League – and so Portugal’s talisman is in an excellent place right now.
It’s amazing how many Portuguese players have thrived in the past year. Ruben Dias was crowned FWA Player of the Year in England, while the likes of Joao Cancelo, Bruno Fernandes, and Diogo Jota are all – arguably – better players now than they were 12 months ago.
Factor in the goals of Andre Silva, who scored more than 25 for Frankfurt in Germany, and the renaissance of Jose Fonte, who at 37 led Lille to a shock Ligue 1 title, and even the loss of injured Wolves duo Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence won’t be felt that hard.
The Portuguese are dark horses to defend their crown in 2021.
At the time of writing, there are no major injury worries for France, who will be boosted by the return of Karim Benzema, who hasn’t played for the national team since 2015 due to a self-imposed exile.
He will be joined in the Les Bleus squad by Raphael Varane, his Real Madrid teammate, and Antoine Griezmann of Barcelona – all of whom will be hurting after watching Atletico Madrid claim the La Liga title. Similarly, Kylian Mbappe and Presnel Kimpembe will be hoping to put the hurt of PSG’s title loss out of their minds.
In English football, the likes of N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba have been reinvigorated this season, and so the world champions are in a good place if their stars can overcome their domestic club blues.
Even the loss of Aymeric Laporte, who has opted to pledge his allegiance to Spain instead, won’t hurt them too much.
It has been a challenging first season in English football for Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.
The big-money duo was supposed to fire new club Chelsea to glory this term, and while that may still happen, neither has shown their top form – a concern for Germany supporters.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Bayern Munich, the spine of whom is German, were all-conquering at a domestic level once more, while defensive duo Antonio Rudiger and Niklas Süle have been reborn after a loss of form and injury respectively.
They may be shorn of injured duo Marco Reus and Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but that is not catastrophic. Germany’s big tournament pedigree speaks for itself.
The year’s delay means that Euro 2020 may now almost certainly be the last international hurrah for the likes of Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, both of whom are on the wrong side of 30. Another veteran of previous tournament successes, Sergio Ramos, won’t feature at all following his shock omission from the recently announced squad.
They will want to sign off on a high, although there are some conundrums for head coach Jose Enrique to solve. David de Gea, his reliable goalkeeper, has lost his place in the team at Manchester United – will his lack of match sharpness show?
Spain is still, in many pundits’ minds, short of a striker – even one that deploys the ‘false nine’ position. The vacancy will not be filled by precocious youngster Ansu Fati, who has undergone surgery and will not return until next season.
There are bright spots for Spain, not least Koke’s La Liga title win with Atletico Madrid and the late-season form of Thiago at Liverpool.
It’s been a season of club-level glory for the Belgians, and that will give them plenty of confidence heading into a tournament where they are expected to do very well.
Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne, and Yannick Carrasco have all been celebrating league title wins for Inter Milan, Manchester City, and Atletico respectively, while Youri Tielemans was part of the Leicester City side that claimed the club’s first-ever FA Cup victory.
To make matters all the more appealing for the Belgians, Eden Hazard would have originally missed Euro 2020 – the rescheduling has got the Real Madrid ace back in the fold, and while Axel Witsel may miss the tournament through injury this is a Belgium squad in rude health.