Champions League action couldn’t be further away, but that doesn’t mean a summer without watchability rankings. Soccer fans will be spoiled over the next month as (most of) the world’s best players clash throughout Euro 2020.
The 24-team tournament starts Friday, June 11, and will crown a champ on July 11 at 3 p.m. Eastern.
Long before anyone can think about raising a trophy, though, every team will have to navigate group play, which is where the watchability rankings come into play. Some of these groups (Group F) offer a lot more intrigue than others (looking at you, Group A).
A quick note on who will reach knockout play (the round of 16): The six four-team groups will all send their top two finishers on to the next round. But 12 teams wouldn’t make for much of a “round of 16,” so UEFA will round out the knockout stage with the four best teams that finished in third place in their respective groups.
On to the rankings! (No tiers here, because I can’t come up with more than two: “Group F” and “everyone else.”)
All Euro 2020 matches will be broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC.
1. Group F
This is an easy decision. France enters the tournament as the favorite and boasts an absolutely terrifying XI led by Kylian Mbappe (at +475, they’re a good bet to win the whole thing). Germany is quite a few years removed from that dominating title run in Brazil in ’14, but they still have a hell of a mystique about them, if nothing else.
Somehow, this group also includes reigning champ Portugal, which will be box office thanks to the combination of the veteran CR7 and Joao Felix.
With the first-favorite (France), fourth-favorite (Portugal, +800) and sixth-favorite (Germany, +900) all here, “Group of Death” doesn’t quite do this foursome justice.
2. Group D
probably definitely betraying the fact that I consume an unhealthy amount of U.K. media coverage, but I find myself excited about everything at stake when England and Scotland meet. And yes, I do realize England should end up winning comfortably, no matter how much hype we’re going to hear.
This group is also solid on the strength of England alone — in terms of both notoriety and talent — and when you throw in the hysterics that will surround this squad regardless of what happens, Group D will be one to watch.
Croatia isn’t getting much love, but between Luka Modric, Matteo Kovacic and Ivan Perisic, the 2018 World Cup runners-up aren’t lacking for proven players.
3. Group B
Belgium will be a fun team to watch, whether they get anything from Eden Hazard or not. If you’re not excited about the prospect of watching Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku on the same side, I’m not sure what to tell you.
The rest of group B is not quite must-see, but Denmark, led by Christian Eriksen, has generated some buzz. I don’t totally buy the hype around them, but wanted to put that out there.
4. Group E
The headliners here are a mostly young Spanish squad that should entertain, if not make a deep run. And like England, Spain’s press will blow everything out of proportion in a way that dramatically increases the intrigue. Yes, the days when Xavi and Co. dominated the world are a distant memory at this point. But the likes of Man City’s Ferran Torres (21), Barcelona’s Pedri (18) and Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno (27) all deserve your attention, especially if they’re not on your radar already. And speaking of Spanish players with bright futures, it’s a shame we won’t get to see Ansu Fati due to injury.
While none of Poland, Slovakia or Sweden appear to be major threats to raise the trophy, Poland would warrant a close look even if Robert Lewandowski were playing by himself.
5. Group A
There’s a dropoff from Nos. 1-4 to Group A, which features an Italian team looking to get back on the right track after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. For what it’s worth, they impressed in qualifiers for this tournament, but the pressure is on. If you don’t follow Serie A closely, the Italian squad is short on names you’ll recognize. But some players to get familiar with include Ciro Immobile of Lazio and grizzled veteran defender Leonardo Bonucci of Juventus.
Switzerland and Turkey both have a solid chance to reach knockout play, and Wales has a couple intriguing pieces in Gareth Bale (despite what Real Madrid fans would tell you) and ManU’s Daniel James.
6. Group C
The Netherlands are the team in Group C with the most players casual fans would recognize, including recent PSG signing Gini Wijnaldum. He will be joined in a stout midfield by Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong and the latest young talent in the Ajax pipeline, Ryan Gravenberch. Between those three and Memphis Depay up top, the Dutch should win this group comfortably. Or at least I think so – I don’t have a ton of faith in manager Frank de Boer.
As for the rest of the group, I’ll come clean: I don’t have a ton to say about North Macedonia, Ukraine or Austria.