Group B at Euro 2020 is comprised of one of the outright favourites Belgium, Euro 1992 champions Denmark, 2018 World Cup quarter-finalists Russia, and first-time qualifiers Finland. Who are the favourites to progress from Group B and what can be expected from the four teams? Read on to inform your predictions.
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Euro 2020: Group B predictions
Pinnacle projected points
Euro 2020: Group B schedule
All times listed are CEST (Central European Summer Time).
June 12, 18:00: Denmark vs. Finland
June 12, 21:00: Belgium vs. Russia
June 16, 15:00: Finland vs. Russia
June 17, 18:00: Denmark vs. Belgium
June 21, 21:00: Belgium vs. Finland, Denmark vs. Russia
Manager: Roberto Martinez
Key player: Kevin De Bruyne
FIFA World Ranking (April 2021): 1st
Recent performances: Euro 2016 - Quarter-finals, 2018 World Cup - Semi-finals
Odds to win Group B: 1.740*
Odds to win Euro 2020: 6.470*
Belgium were arguably the most impressive team throughout Euro 2020 qualifying, winning all 10 of their matches while both netting the most goals (40) and conceding the joint-fewest (three).
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez can call upon an intimidating attack but also an arguably aging defence.
Since then, they have also topped their group at the most recent edition of the Nations League, prompting broad suggestions that their ‘Golden Generation’ are finally ready to convert their prowess into silverware. Indeed, Belgium are firmly among the outright favourites at 6.470* and will perhaps be able to boast the most world-class players at the tournament, most notably including Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, and Romelu Lukaku.
Manager Roberto Martinez has carried over his preference for attacking flair onto the international stage, often lining up with a 3-4-2-1 formation to pack the team with offensive talent. This has thus far reaped benefits, with Belgium also averaging the most shots on target per game and only England posting a higher shot conversation rate during qualifying.
Intimidatingly, De Bruyne and Lukaku have both enjoyed impressive campaigns at club level, while Michy Batshuayi and Christian Benteke can call upon decent goal-scoring records for their country.
If any component of Belgium’s squad were to be labelled the weak link, it would probably be their still talented but ultimately ageing defence. Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, and Thomas Vermaelen are now all 32 or older, meaning they could struggle with the unrelenting tournament schedule and the likes of Jason Denayer and Thomas Meunier may be required to deputise.
Despite the riches of talent available to him, Martinez may also be hoping that Eden Hazard rediscovers his form ahead of Euro 2020. The Real Madrid forward, who has struggled with injuries during the last two seasons, was Belgium’s standout player at the 2018 World Cup, where he was deservedly rewarded with the Silver Ball award for his individual efforts.
Manager: Kasper Hjulmand
Key player: Christian Eriksen
FIFA World Ranking (April 2021): 10th
Recent performances: Euro 2016 - Did not qualify, 2018 World Cup - Round of 16
Odds to win Group B: 3.690*
Odds to win Euro 2020: 26.470*
Denmark are a team who appear to be enjoying gradual yet consistent improvement. After reaching the Round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup, they secured their Euro 2020 spot in unbeaten fashion with four wins and draws apiece to their name, before most recently finishing second ahead of England in their Nations League group.
Denmark have impressively conceded just a solitary goal across their last 10 competitive victories.
This is largely because Kasper Hjulmand has a well-balanced squad scattered with notable talents at his disposal. Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel is assisted by Andreas Christensen and Simon Kjaer in defence, while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Thomas Delaney provide midfield stability to ensure that Christian Eriksen can exercise his creative capabilities. Attacking options include Barcelona’s Martin Braithwaite and RB Leipzig’s Yussuf Poulsen.
As is almost national custom, these are most commonly lined up in an adaptable 4-2-3-1 formation that can enable both precise counter-attacks and intricate possession-based play. Despite finishing second in their qualifying group, Denmark scored just under three goals per game and recorded the seventh-lowest expected goals against (xGA) per match among the 55 teams, at 0.82.
On top of that, they have conceded just one goal in their last 10 competitive victories and have lost only four matches since the start of 2018.
Denmark’s most notable association with the Euros is their famous and uniquely unlikely triumph at Euro 1992. While a repeat of that is certainly unexpected, Hjulmand will be eyeing up progression to the knockout stages as a minimum target and they will be arguably justified to feel confident about putting in a good account of themselves against a large share of other teams at the tournament.
Manager: Markku Kanerva
Key player: Teemu Pukki
FIFA World Ranking (April 2021): 54th
Recent performances: Euro 2016 - Did not qualify, 2018 World Cup - Did not qualify
Odds to win Group B: 17.250*
Odds to win Euro 2020: 270.580*
Finland have qualified for the first major tournament in their history, booking their place at Euro 2020 by finishing second behind Italy in Group J. In the most recent edition of the FIFA World Rankings, they were the second-lowest team among the 24 that qualified ahead of only North Macedonia, with whom they share the joint-longest outright odds.
Finland could easily prove a frustraating opponent for the other three Group B teams.
Markku Kanerva often deploys a pragmatic 5-3-2 formation featuring a reliance on quick counter-attacks and set pieces, which has also been responsible for Finland carving a reputation as a surprisingly difficult team to break down. Indeed, they kept a clean sheet in all but one of their last 10 competitive wins and have conceded more than two goals in only three matches since the start of 2017.
Finland’s squad is rooted down the elder end of the spectrum, with the majority plying their club trade in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. By far their most recognisable name is Norwich striker Teemu Pukki, who netted 10 of their 16 goals during qualifying and has averaged one goal every three matches across his 90 caps for his country.
Other players to look out for include Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara, who was pivotal in helping his club recently win the Scottish Premiership, and Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky, who has helped Leverkusen concede the fewest goals outside of the top four in the Bundesliga this season.
The ‘Huuhkajat’ will likely consider anything beyond a group stage exit a massive achievement, and they are unsurprisingly favoured to finish last in Group B by the betting market. However, they shouldn’t be inherently rated as a team likely to be on the receiving end of heavy defeats, and could easily prove a frustrating opponent for the other three sides.
Manager: Stanislav Cherchesov
Key player: Aleksandr Golovin
FIFA World Ranking (April 2021): 38th
Recent performances: Euro 2016 - Group stage, 2018 World Cup - Quarter-finals
Odds to win Group B: 5.070*
Odds to win Euro 2020: 81.920*
Russia capitalised on their home advantage to reach the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup, but they will enter Euro 2020 aiming to progress beyond the group stage of the tournament for the first time since 2008. The draw reunited them with their qualifying opponents Belgium, against whom they lost both matches but still comfortably finished second behind in Group I.
The linkup between Aleksandr Golovin and Artem Dzyuba provides an automatic attacking threat.
Manager Stanislav Cherchesov can call upon a squad firmly divided between stalwarts such as Yuri Zhirkov, Aleksei Ionov, and Artem Dzyuba, and young, emerging talents including Aleksandr Golovin and Aleksandr Sobolev. As exhibited in their recent World Cup qualifiers, Cherchesov is tactically versatile and often switches between formations including 4-2-3-1, 5-3-2 and 3-4-2-1.
Only three teams netted more goals during qualifying than Russia’s 33 and just four could better their expected goals (xG) per match of 2.66. However, their two aforementioned defeats to Belgium and subsequent lacklustre Nations League performance suggest that Russia are a level behind the continent’s top teams and the awkward age structure of their squad hints that they are more acutely geared towards future success.
On a more positive note, the proven linkup between Golovin and Dzyuba provides an automatic attacking threat, while the fact that the majority of the team are based in the Russian Premier League should ensure that squad chemistry isn’t an issue. Russia may also be able to refer to their two qualifying matches against Belgium in order to deploy a more informed approach for their opening fixture.
The betting market suggests that Russia will finish third in the group behind Denmark, and their chances of progression will likely depend on positive results against them and Finland. The knockout stages are by no means out of reach, but there is little to suggest they will match their semi-finals reaching exploits of 2008.
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