The path to Euro 2020 success has been laid out for the remaining sixteen teams in the tournament and there is no doubt that the Knock Out S...
Wednesday, 16 June 2021
Euro 2020 Match Day 2 Group Picks 2021 (June 16th-19th)
Teams won't be panicking after one round of fixtures has been played, but there will be a little more urgency and pressure on those that wish to go deep into the Euro 2020 Tournament when Match Day 2 rolls around.
It has already been a tournament filled with drama, but there should be plenty more to come and hopefully it will be solely concentrated on the football and not more scenes like most would have witnessed in the Denmark-Finland game last Saturday.
Games on Match Day 2 will be played from Wednesday through to Saturday evening and the final round of games will start on Sunday. These middle fixtures can be hugely pivotal to the way the Groups and subsequent draw for the Knock Out Rounds may pan out so there are some big fixtures to come.
Wednesday 16th June
Finland vs Russia Pick: Most of the attention in the United Kingdom may be on the upcoming 'derby' game between England and Scotland, but for fans of Finland they have a chance to bloody the noses of their neighbours Russia in the opening fixture of Match Day 2.
A 0-1 win over Denmark was a huge result for Finland, but the match and the result were overshadowed by the Christian Eriksen situation which saw the Danish midfielder fortunate to escape with his life after collapsing on the field just moments before half time.
On the field, Finland took their limited chances and were a little fortunate at the back, but the victory is one that puts them in a strong position to earn a surprising spot in the Last 16.
They rode their luck at times on Saturday though and Finland will have a tough test travelling to St Petersburg with all the emotions out of that win likely to affect the Group. An angry Russia team will be waiting for them having been embarrassed by Belgium in their opening Group game at home, but the manager may point out individual mistakes which effectively saw the hosts punished.
Russia have tended to have better success against teams of this level rather than Belgium too and I am expecting them to be a lot better than they were last time out. While they are not really amongst the elite of Europe, Russia have been very difficult to beat here and they may have just enough to edge past a Finland team that are still not a great traveller despite the win in Copenhagen.
A heavy loss to open the tournament means Russia will likely be searching for goals in this one just in case they have to rely on being one of the best of the third place finishers and I think Finland can also play their part.
My feeling is that Russia will edge past Finland in a relatively high-scoring fixture.
Turkey vs Wales Pick: The last time Turkey and Wales met came in the 1998 World Cup Qualifiers and it ended in a 6-4 win for Turkey in what can only be described as a topsy-turvy game.
It would be a massive surprise if we even get half that number on Match Day 2 of the Group Stage- Turkey are coming off an extremely disappointing performance when losing 3-0 to hosts Italy, while a late goal was enough to earn Wales a 1-1 draw with Switzerland.
The three points look to be vitally important for two teams that did not show the kind of bite they would have liked in the final third in their opening games. Neither defended that well either, but Italy were ruthless where Switzerland were not, while I am not sure either of these teams are capable of creating the same kind of chances against the other.
Turkey are perhaps the better of the two teams having been seen as a 'dark horse' before the tournament began, but they will be the first to admit they need to be a lot better. This team is capable and it will feel like a home game in Baku which could be key, although Turkey have been travelling from Rome while Wales have been waiting here after the draw with the Swiss.
There is a feeling that both teams will feel they have the quality in the final third to show better than they did in the opener, and I do think Turkey definitely have more to offer.
Wales don't create a lot of chances and I do think Turkey can largely contain the threats, although set pieces may be a problem for them. There is more pressure on Turkey to win the game which could leave them vulnerable to a late counter attack if they are chasing the game, but I think they are the better of the two teams and may edge to the valuable points.
Having the fans behind them will be a big help and Turkey are a team that can blow hot and cold- my feeling is we've see the ice cold and that the heat is ready to go on Wednesday in Baku.
Italy vs Switzerland Pick: We have seen all twenty-four teams that are playing at Euro 2020 this summer and there haven't been too many you would say have performed better than Italy in their opening fixture.
A comfortable 3-0 win over Turkey showed a confident and vibrant side that is capable of scoring goals, but one that has an experienced backline that can also make Italy very difficult to beat. Roberto Mancini will be looking for his team to take this game by the scruff of its neck as they did against Turkey and I do think Italy will be very difficult to stop.
Switzerland may feel differently as a well organised team that has shown they are no walkover even for the very top sides in European Football. Some of the players will be disappointed with the 1-1 draw against Wales considering the chances Switzerland created, and it has made it a touch more difficult in the Group knowing they are travelling from Baku to Rome and then back to Baku for the final fixture in the section.
I expect them to try and frustrate Italy, but Turkey tried the same and it was only a matter of time before the hosts broke them down and ultimately won the fixture with room to spare.
Finding the balance going the other way may make Switzerland more dangerous to the hosts than Turkey were, but I do think that could also leave spaces for a talented Italy team to exploit and eventually secure another victory.
Italy have scored more than two goals at a European Championship for the first time, and they certainly played with a freedom and confidence that suggests they will have too much for Switzerland too.
I do think Switzerland are a little more experienced than Turkey though and this should be a tighter victory for Italy compared with the first game of the tournament. The Swiss have lost tight games at Spain and Denmark since the World Cup and I think the main ambition will be to try and keep things as tight as possible for as long as possible.
They should have some success, but Italy look a strong team and a narrow win will likely see them top the Group regardless of the final round of fixture outcomes.
Thursday 17th June
Ukraine vs North Macedonia Pick: Neither of these teams were at their very best in the opening fixtures played at Euro 2020 and both Ukraine and North Macedonia conceded three times in defeats to the Netherlands and Austria respectively.
That means another defeat for either could be costly and should produce a decent game of football on Thursday afternoon to open the days play.
Both Ukraine and North Macedonia will feel they are better going forward and I do think Ukraine are a potential dark horse in the tournament if Andrey Shevchenko can just find the right balance in his team. Defensively they lacked against the Netherlands, but Ukraine showed they can score goals when going forward and I think they will be a little too good for the rank outsiders North Macedonia.
However, you cannot take anything for granted from the minnows who were level with Austria with less than 15 minutes remaining. North Macedonia did struggle defensively which is a concern for them, but they may give Ukraine something to think about the other way too.
The quality should be with Ukraine and losing the opener should mean Shevchenko looks for an attacking performance to make sure they are back in contention to Qualify for the Last 16 before the game against Austria.
Ukraine should have the goals to edge past North Macedonia as they bounce back from the valiant fightback that ultimately came up short against the Netherlands.
Denmark vs Belgium Pick: All thoughts with the nation have to be with talisman Christian Eriksen after the awful scenes in Copenhagen on Saturday.
Losing the game was the least concern for most inside the Stadium, but Denmark have to pick themselves up after being able to talk to Eriksen and hopefully knowing the midfielder is on the mend.
The defeat to Finland has put Denmark under the cosh and the feeling is that they can't really afford another one here if they want to make it through to the Last 16. Merely for the confidence point of view the Danes need to rally together and fight for their team-mate, but it has been an emotional few days and it will be very difficult for the Danes.
It doesn't help that they are facing one of the favourites to win Euro 2020 and Belgium are fresh off a convincing 3-0 win over Russia which has put them in a strong spot in the Group. The fact that victory was produced without Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne shows the kind of strength in depth that Belgium can call upon and they did the double over Denmark last year in the Nations League.
This won't be an easy game for those in the Belgium camp considering many of them have close ties with Eriksen themselves, but their performance in Russia was ominous for the rest of the nations involved in the Tournament.
A draw would actually be a half-decent result for both teams, but Belgium are an aggressive, attacking line up that will want to secure their path through to the next Round as soon as possible. Their two wins over Denmark last year will back up the confidence earned from the win in St Petersburg and I think Belgium can make it two out of two.
Netherlands vs Austria Pick: Frank de Boer is still considered a manager under pressure with the Netherlands as fans expect far more from the national team than they are currently seeing.
The second half performance against Ukraine was very encouraging and the Netherlands were deservedly 2-0 up, but the absence of Virgil Van Dijk and the impact it would have on the team was clear to see as that lead evaporated. A late goal was enough for Holland to beat the Ukraine and another three points on Thursday will put the Netherlands on the brink of winning the Group.
They are likely to be tested by Austria on Thursday, but I am not sure what you could have learned from the win over the North Macedonia. Late goals secured the 3-1 win over the minnows in the Group and means Austria are in a very good spot in the section with two Group games to be played, but the remaining games should be much tougher for them.
The 0-4 home loss to Denmark in March is hard to forget and I do think the Netherlands will likely have too much for Austria too.
Playing games at Amsterdam is another boost for the Netherlands and I think the momentum from the late winner over Ukraine will carry over to this fixture too. They created enough to be vastly encouraged by the performance and I think Holland are likely to win this fixture in which at least two goals are shared out.
Friday 18th June
Sweden vs Slovakia Pick: Some may have been critical of the Sweden style of play in their goalless draw with Spain, but the result would have been one that the visitors would have been happy to accept before the match took place.
A point against the favourites has set Sweden up for a place in the Last 16, but they will have to be more clinical in the final third in this fixture.
They created chances against Spain despite the limited time on the ball, but the expectation has shifted and that also means the style of play has to change. Instead of looking to be overly defensive, Sweden have to get on the front foot and try and earn a three points that would set them well on the way to the Last 16.
Defensively Sweden are going to have to be better, but they will be aided by Slovakia despite the confidence the outsider in this Group of four would have earned from their last result. A win over Poland has given Slovakia a huge opportunity to progress, but they benefited from the breaks on the day and they will know they need to be better against Sweden and Spain to round out the section.
Sweden have won three of the five previous matches against Slovakia and there was enough encouragement from their performance against Spain to give them something to build on. Travelling from Sevilla to St Petersburg is not ideal for Sweden and they did play after Slovakia, but this is a team that is confident in their systems and can earn the victory here.
Slovakia will have to be stronger defensively to keep Sweden at bay, but they are also likely to allow Sweden to dictate the tempo of the match which should give the favourites enough of the play to earn the win.
It would be a surprise if there are a lot of goals in this one considering the way the first matches were played and a narrow Swedish win is the most likely outcome.
Croatia vs Czech Republic Pick: These two teams will begin play in the second round of Group matches in Group D of the Euro 2020 Finals and the feeling is that the pressure has all shifted to Croatia.
While some would have expected them to lose to England, Croatia cannot really afford another setback on Friday and the manager is scrambling around looking for answers.
They were largely ineffective against England and need to find plenty more in the final third if they are going to avoid a surprising exit in the Group Stage. Changes are likely going to be made to make Croatia a more dangerous side going forward, but they will also have to be aware of the confident side they are facing.
The day after England beat Croatia, Czech Republic beat Scotland at Hampden Park and the difference on the day was the quality that Patrick Schick showed in the final third. A strong header was followed by an outrageous lob from the halfway line and in Schick the Czech Republic that can make the difference in the tight games.
However, they were also extremely grateful to Tomas Vaclik and some errant Scottish finishing and on another day the Czech Republic would not have been comfortable winners. Improving defensively will be key if they are going to match their previous runs once getting out of the Euro Finals Group Stage, but I expect the Czech Republic to be tested by a Croatia team that can't be nearly as poor as they were on Sunday.
It won't be an easy game and there is pressure on Croatia, while the Czech Republic would likely be pretty happy with a point. That may see them just allow Croatia to come onto them and I do think they won't be as wasteful as Scotland were in the final third which ultimately should mean Croatia can bounce back from the opening loss.
Backing the favourites here on the Asian Handicap looks the way to go as Croatia will then shift all the pressure to Scotland to respond when facing England later in the day.
England vs Scotland Pick: The rivalry between England and Scotland is one that will have plenty of people around the United Kingdom watching on with interest on Friday evening.
Expect to see plenty of highlights of David Seaman saving Gary McAllister's Penalty followed by Paul Gascoigne's memorable chip and finish to held England beat Scotland twenty-five years ago when they met in the Euro 1996 Group Stage.
They have had some memorable fixtures against each other since then including a Play Off to reach Euro 2000 which was narrowly won by England despite a 0-1 defeat to Scotland at Wembley Stadium in the Second Leg. The last meetings came in the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers and it was England who took four points from Scotland which included a routine win over them at Wembley Stadium.
Games like this can see the form guide thrown out of the window, but there is some pressure on Scotland after losing 0-2 to the Czech Republic.
Most fans would tell you that it would not be a huge surprise if Scotland win this game, but were then beaten by Croatia and Knocked Out of the Euro 2020 Finals. Valiant exits have been part and parcel of Scotland in major international tournaments in the past, but they are going to need to be much better in this one if they are going to improve on the result against the Czech Republic.
Scotland were far from poor on the day, but finishing let them down and they can't afford to do that against this England team.
England were comfortable and deserved winners against Croatia and another home game will give them confidence. They have won plenty on home soil since the World Cup and the likes of Wales and the Republic of Ireland have been dismissed in friendly games too as Gareth Southgate has found a decent balance between defence and attack.
You do have to think Scotland will put in a huge effort to dent the Auld Enemy, but the quality is with England and the squad has enough depth to find another win for the home team. Scotland have not been the best travellers, but Steve Clarke will look for his team to be organised and try to frustrate England.
It may work, but you would worry for Scotland if they fall behind in the first half and I do think England will be a touch too good for them. They met at Euro 1996 and seven matches beginning with that one has seen England win four by two or more goals.
After looking pretty good going forward against Croatia and finding a couple of really nice positions, England can follow up by doing the same against Scotland.
I expect better from the Scots in the final third, but they may still come up short and England can put a good looking win on the board as they move into the Last 16.
Saturday 19th June
Hungary vs France Pick: Both of these teams played on Tuesday, although Hungary may have a slight edge being at home while France have to travel from Munich to Budapest.
That shouldn't really make a big difference to the World Champions who will have seen the kind of chances that Portugal were able to create against Hungary. Late goals were needed, but Portugal were more than deserved winners and The Magyars will know it is a big test for them in this Group considering the strength of the opponents in front of them.
It was wonderful to see a full, passionate crowd in Budapest and I expect another vibrant atmosphere which will give the Hungary players a push. However, Marco Rossi has to find a way for his team to do more than defend deep and the pressure is on for a result after the heavy defeat to Portugal put Hungary on the back foot.
Opening up against the World Champions is a recipe for disaster and only a couple of tight offside calls prevented France from really taking Germany to the cleaners. In general it was a tight fixture with very little between them, but the late goals that were chalked off would have made a big statement for France.
Despite that, most of Europe should have taken notice of France winning in Munich and there is no doubt that topping this Group offers an 'easier' route to the Final. Avoiding England in the Last 16 would be important and so Didier Deschamps will be looking for his team to back up their victory over Germany with another here.
France are solid defensively, but he will want his team to be more dominant in attacking areas against this Hungary team. I think that will be the case for a team that has won 9 away competitive fixtures in succession and even a couple of rotations should not mean a really good looking French team takes to the field.
They can be a team that plays up and down to the level of competition and France have not been one that presses to finish teams off. Breaking down Hungary early is the key for France, but I think they will be very hard to stop if they get their noses in front.
Hungary will be well backed from the stands, but they looked pretty average in their loss to Portugal which could have been decided much earlier than it was. If they do push a little more forward in this one, I think France will be able to pick them off and there is enough quality in the squad to see them win by a couple of goals on the day.
Portugal vs Germany Pick: These two nations will meet in another big Euro 2020 Group Stage fixture on Saturday and there will be differing feelings going into the second round of games.
Portugal were comfortable winners over Hungary and only poor finishing meant they had to wait until the 84th minute to make the breakthrough before late goals completed the win.
On the other side, Germany were a little unfortunate to lose 0-1 to France as poor finishing let them down. The pressure is on the hosts who know they need some kind of positive result to give themselves a chance of progressing to the Last 16 of the Tournament.
3 points were enough for teams to Qualify for the Last 16 at Euro 2020, but Germany will likely be targeting at least four points from their remaining two Group games. Hosting those gives them every chance, but Germany have lost their last 2 competitive games that they have hosted and scoring goals has been something of an issue for this team.
I think Fernando Santos will take a pragmatic approach to the fixture and that means Portugal looking to contain their hosts and try and hit them on the break. There is enough talent and pace to think that is a workable approach for Portugal who beat Sweden and Croatia away from home in the Nations League Group last year, while also earning a tight draw with France.
Portugal did score three goals in Budapest, but in the last two major international tournament Finals, the side have scored six goals in two Group games and a total of three goals in the other four. I think the approach will be one where they won't want to overcommit in this fixture, unless chasing the game of course, and instead will be focused on the defensive shape to prevent Germany taking control.
Germany are a capable attacking unit, but they do look vulnerable at the back.
That may open this fixture up with an early goal, but the feeling is that this will be similar to the game we saw on Tuesday in Munich. Both teams will give it a go, but there may also be a resistance to overcommitting and it could lead to a game with few chances.
While an early goal may really open things up as I have said, I do think Portugal are a team that force opponents to play their style of game and that suggests this will be a tight fixture. They would likely take a point if offered to them now, while Germany might also feel a point is not the worst result with Hungary at home to come next week.
Germany have dominated Portugal in recent meetings with 4 straight wins over them at Tournaments between 2006 and 2014. They are not the team they were and Portugal look stronger, but picking a winner looks difficult.
No matter the result I will be surprised if this is a massively open game and it may be a fixture with two or fewer goals shared out on the day.
Spain vs Poland Pick: Poor finishing proved costly for Spain in their opening Group game against Sweden and the locals were far from impressed by what they had seen. Alvaro Morata was the guiltiest of the attacking players, but others can't be too happy with their own performances and there is some pressure on Spain.
Winning the Group is quite important with the way the draw has panned out and I do expect a better reaction from Spain. The football was largely pleasing, but they have to find an end product to their play.
Defensively there are some questions about Spain, but I expect them to be too strong for Poland who were surprisingly beaten 1-2 by Slovakia in their own opening fixture. A sending off in the second half proved an obstacle too far for Poland and the defeat puts them under immense pressure with a fixture against Sweden to come.
They need a result in all likelihood, but Poland are travelling from St Petersburg and they just look a little short all over the pitch bar Robert Lewandowski. Getting enough possession to feed their top player may be the challenge for Poland and this is a nation that has struggled when facing the top European teams.
You can't really trust Spain after their opening performance, one which has become quite common over the last few years since they were dominating international football.
However, Spain looked good enough for all but the final pass/shot and I think they are too good for the remaining teams in this Group. This is a big step up for Poland who largely disappointed in their first game and I think Spain will have enough to narrowly get the better of them here.
MY PICKS: Russia & Over 1 Total Goal @ 2.25 Bet365 (2 Units)
Turkey - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Italy & Under 3.5 Total Goals @ 2.05 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Ukraine & Over 1.5 Total Goals @ 2.15 Bet365 (2 Units)
Belgium - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.75 Bet365 (2 Units)
Netherlands & Over 1.5 Total Goals @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Sweden & Under 5 Total Goals @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Croatia - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.88 Bet Victor (2 Units)
England - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
France - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.98 Bet365 (2 Units)
Portugal-Germany Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Spain & Under 3.5 Total Goals @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Match Day 1: 7-5, + 3.10 Units (24 Units Staked, + 12.92% Yield)