In the Euro 2020 group, France, winner of the 2018 World Cup, will face Germany, champion of 2014, while Portugal, reigning European champion, will also launch on Tuesday.
France, defeated finalist in 2016, favorites to do better this time around, face a German side still looking for direction after a disastrous World Cup, with Joachim Low ending his long tenure as manager at the end of this tournament.
It would take a brave soul to write off the Germans, who, despite their more recent problems, reached the final in 2008 and the semi-finals of both tournaments since, losing to France at Euro 2016. But the opponents Tuesday’s current World Cup holders present a nightmare opener for Low’s side on paper.
The pair have faced each other twice in the inaugural Nations League tournament in 2018/19, with Germany winning a 0-0 draw at home, where they face them at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday.
It will be the first time the two sides meet in the group stage of a grand final, with France clearly favorites for the game – a label German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer does not adhere to.
“It is very important to start with a successful result,” said Neuer. “We know we owe the fans something after the last tournament. We hope to excite them with the way we’re going to play and we need their support.
“We know France have been successful in recent years. But we’re still a very good team, uncomfortable playing against. We respect them but we don’t see ourselves as the underdogs. We want to win the game. here in Munich. “
There is poetry in Portugal’s opener against Hungary after their 3-3 draw in the last tournament’s group stage, as Balazs Dzsudzsak’s brace in that game – added to Zoltan Gera’s opener – seemed briefly ready to knock them out of the competition, only for Cristiano Ronaldo’s strike to win a draw that would ultimately put them on track to win the entire tournament.
Fernando Santos, who led Portugal to the title five years ago, believes his team can keep the trophy, as Spain did in 2012, with a mindset as important as his staff, including the Premier League player of the year Ruben Dias.
He said at his press conference: “Portugal is coming to this competition the same way we did in 2016, with the same confidence and conviction to achieve something big like in 2016, where we managed to do it, and now we are with the same confidence. As in the past, we have what it takes to win again. “
Who is playing today?
Group F: Hungary versus Portugal; Kick-off 5 p.m. (Budapest)
Group F: France versus Germany; Kick-off at 8 p.m. (Munich)
Hungary vs Portugal: Santos is without Joao Cancelo after the Manchester City defender tested positive for coronavirus in preparation for the tournament, but has Diogo Dalot, fresh out of Portugal’s U21 race in their own European Championship final, in replacement. Midfielder Zsolt Kalmar will be absent for the hosts.
France vs Germany: Leon Goretzka could still play for Germany, having trained several times with his teammates after recovering from an injury before their Group F opener. Midfielder Jonas Hofmann is expected to miss out, however, while France are expected to have Karim Benzema available after the 33-year-old fought off a blow in his warm-up clash with Bulgaria last week.
Players to watch …
Jamal Musiala: After choosing Germany over England earlier this year, Bayern Munich’s youngest Bundesliga scorer could still claim the tournament his own. He has now recorded three caps for his country and with six goals in 26 league appearances for his club this season, he could still transfer that to the international stage.
Cristiano Ronaldo: Five times Ballon d’Or. You could stop there, really. But Ronaldo certainly won’t stop. Even in his 19th year as a professional footballer, he still scored 36 times for Juventus last season.
Ronaldo has also scored 11 goals in the Euro 2020 qualifiers and after scoring three times on Portugal’s road to glory in 2016, including twice against Hungary, remains one of the world’s most dangerous shooters.
Kylian Mbappé: PSG have said Mbappe will never be sold after a 40-goal debut season for his club, but his international form is yet to live up to his Ligue 1 returns, and he has only scored one. times in five French matches this year.
But three years after winning the award for best young player at the 2018 World Cup, there is no doubt that the time has come for Mbappe to shine for the tournament favorites. And alongside Benzema, who has a lot of experience as Cristiano Ronaldo’s second violin at Real Madrid for several years, he can shine most in a central position as opposed to the inside right role he played during of this tournament.
Willi Orban: Hungary are light on the big names, but the defensive mainstay of RB Leipzig has 16 Champions League appearances to his name and missed just five games on his way to a second place in the Bundesliga in 2020/21.
Hungary have kept six clean goals in their last 10 games, and while it seems like a tall order against Ronaldo and Co on Tuesday, Orban will be the key to creating a second upset in five years against Portugal if they can pull it off.
Key statistics …
It will be the sixth meeting between France and Germany in a major tournament, but their first in the group stage. So far, their head-to-head record is perfectly balanced with two wins apiece and one draw.
The only previous meeting between France and Germany at the UEFA European Championships was in the 2016 semi-finals – France won 2-0 thanks to a brace from Antoine Griezmann.
France are undefeated in their last five matches against Germany on German soil (3 v., N. 2). Their only previous meeting in Munich ended in a goalless score (Allianz Arena, September 2018).
France are taking part in their 10th UEFA European Championship, also their eighth in a row – they did not reach the final in 1988. Only Germany and Spain (3 each) have won more Championships in Europe than France (2, in 1984 and 2000)
This is the third meeting between Hungary and Portugal in a major tournament after the 1966 World Cup and Euro 2016, all in the group stage. The previous two matches produced a total of 10 goals (3-1 in Portugal in 1966, 3-3 in 2016).
Portugal have never lost against Hungary in 13 previous matches (V9, D4). In fact, Hungary are the team that Portugal have faced the most times without ever losing.
Portugal are taking part in their eighth UEFA European Championship – these are the last winners of the Henri Delaunay Trophy (2016). Portugal will look to become the second team to win two consecutive European Championships after Spain (2008, 2012).
Also at Euro 2020 …
Questions of a break in the France team continue to rumble after Olivier Giroud’s comments last week, with captain Hugo Lloris being forced to deny any problems in the national camp during their press conference before -match.
Chelsea man Giroud has criticized his team-mates’ service after scoring twice as a substitute in last week’s 3-0 warm-up win over Bulgaria, with Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe unhappy that the matter was not kept secret.
Goalkeeper Lloris has brushed aside the disagreement and believes France have a healthy team spirit ahead of the tournament’s opening game in Munich.
“Mbappe and Giroud may have had a short chat but that’s to be expected – it’s not unusual,” the 34-year-old said at a press conference.
“There are different opinions in the locker room, it can happen. It hasn’t hurt the team at all. We have great team spirit. I think we handled it very well.
“Kylian had to say something, but it’s something he’s said in the past. We’re now focused on our first game in this competition.”
What are the other original nations doing?
Sky Sports News will be live from England as they step up their preparations to face Scotland on Friday, after the 11 who started against Croatia in their first Group D game did not take part in a recovery session until Monday .
Scotland will also host an open training session following their 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic, as Steve Clarke weighs his options ahead of a crucial clash with England at Wembley. Charles Paterson will be live from Hampden Park with the reaction to this game throughout the day.
Wales boss Robert Page will hold his pre-match press conference as they step up their preparations to face Turkey in Baku on Thursday.