EURO 2020 Preview: Group E

Welcome to part 5 of our Euro 2020 preview series, where we dissect the 24 participants one group at a time, trying to predict who will succeed or flop at this summer’s tournament.

In this preview we will be looking at Group E, another group with an interesting range of teams and talent levels, and where recent developments may be about to turn this group on its head – but more on that later, let’s take a look at the four teams who make up this fifth group.

Group E Breakdown

Spain

spain euro 2020

How did they get here?

We begin Group E by looking at top seeded Spain, the biggest name in the group. After the penalty heartbreak of Russia 2018, Spain certainly wasted no time in moving on from that disappointment, finishing top of EURO 2020 Qualifying Group F with an unbeaten record of 8-2-0. In addition, La Roja conceded only five goals in the campaign.

History in the tournament

Everybody remembers the legendary Spain side of 2008-2012, and how this team, perhaps the greatest ever in international football, won back to back Euros in the years mentioned, but they also had another victory in this tournament from way back in 1964. However, Spain were far from glory the last time around, being knocked out of Euro 2016 via a 2-0 defeat to a physical and defensively robust Italy side in the last 16 in France.

The Star Player

Spain have plenty of talented players in midfield, many of whom have been around for a long while now. However, if you’re looking for a player who may bring a breath of fresh air for La Roja in this tournament, look no further than Manchester City winger Ferran Torres. Having enjoyed a strong ending to the season with his club, Torres will be hoping to light up these Euros following some already excellent performances for his country, scoring six times in his first eleven caps including a hat-trick against Germany. Certainly, one to watch.

How will they fare?

This is where things start to get difficult for this Spain team. On the eve of the tournament, the team have been rocked by a positive Covid test for captain Sergio Busquets and Marcos Llorente, although the latter then tested negative afterwards. Additional players have been called up and isolation bubbles have been formed. If they manage to overcome these problems and top the group, which is still somewhat likely, they’ll be up against one of the third placed teams. However, a Group F side will probably be waiting for them in the last eight, which may be a step too far for the Spanish.

Sweden

Sweden-national-football-team-euro-2020

How did they get here?

Facing Spain first in Group E will be Sweden, two teams who became very acquainted with each other during the qualifying campaign. Sweden finished runners-up to Spain in Group F, making it to the Euros with a record of 6-3-1. The Swedes finished a relatively comfortable 4 points clear of neighbouring Norway.

History in the tournament

Sweden have certainly had their moments in other major tournaments over the years, but perhaps less so in the Euros. This will be their 7th appearance, their finest hour coming as hosts in 1992 when the team made it to the semi-finals. The Euros of 2016 were a miserable affair for the Scandinavian side though, being dumped out of the Group Stage with just one point to their name.

The Star player

Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be on his way out for the Swedes, but young striker Alexander Isak looks like he could be Zlatan’s heir as the focal point of this Sweden team. The 21-year-old forward has just come off the back of an excellent year in Spain, netting 17 goals for Real Sociedad, and also scoring three times in the qualifying campaign for this tournament. A player of real promise for Sweden’s present and indeed future.

How will they fare?

Sweden will likely be a tough nut to crack, but on paper, with Spain and Poland likely to occupy the top two spots, it will be interesting to see if Sweden can progress from what is certainly a tough group for them. Qualify as a third placed team and their prize will be a clash against the Netherlands or Belgium, sides that will likely be too strong for them. In spite of that, getting to the knockouts would represent a good tournament for Sweden.

Poland

poland euro 2020

How did they get here?

Up next in Group E we have Poland, a tricky side who can challenge pretty much anybody on their day. Poland made it to EURO 2020 with little fuss, making light work of Qualifying Group G with a record of 8-1-1. They finished a resounding six points clear of second placed Austria.

History in the tournament

Despite their storied history in the World Cup, it has never quite been the same for Poland in the Euros, with this tournament set to be just their fourth appearance in this competition, all of which have come since 2008. Of the previous three campaigns at the Euros, the best finish came last time around in France, where Poland progressed to the Quarterfinals before being eliminated on penalties by eventual champions Portugal.

The Star Player

This is perhaps the easiest star player pick in the entire tournament. Capturing the headlines for Poland is of course, of course, Robert Lewandowski. Poland’s all-time top goalscorer bagged six goals in qualifying, and comes into this tournament off the back of two astonishingly successful record-breaking seasons with Bayern Munich. Whilst he’s been accused of underperforming at tournaments in the past, surely with the form he’s been in he’ll come good this time?

How will they fare?

With the players they have, it’s hard to imagine that Poland won’t claim the runner-up spot to likely group winners Spain. Should they achieve this target, they’ll be up against either England or Croatia in the Last 16. If Poland manage to progress beyond this, they’ll have to face a Group F giant in the last eight, possibly even a rematch against Portugal. If this turns out to be the case, you’d struggle to envision Poland advancing any further.

Slovakia

slovakia euro 2020

How did they get here?

Completing Group E we have Slovakia, one of the four teams who made use of the Nations League path to qualify for this tournament. Placed in playoff Path B, Slovakia squeezed past the Republic of Ireland in the semi-finals via a penalty shootout after a goalless draw, before beating Northern Ireland 2-1 in extra time in the final to reach the European Championship. Not two of the most convincing performances you’ll ever see, but enough to get the job done.

History in the tournament

If you look to the days when Slovakia formed one half of the former Czechoslovakia team, then the journey to glory in EURO 1976 via Antonin Panenka’s penalty constitutes the high point of the team’s history in this tournament. Since becoming independent, Slovakia have only made one previous appearance in the Euros – in 2016, where the team made it to the Last 16 in their first attempt before being comfortably beaten 3-0 by Germany.

The Star Player

Although the talismanic Marek Hamsik is still playing for and indeed captaining Slovakia, the mantle of Star Player has by now passed on to centre-back Milan Skriniar. One of the finest defenders in the Italian Serie A, Skriniar played a huge role as Inter Milan reclaimed the title this season after an eleven-year wait. He also recently netted his first two goals for the Slovakia national team, and opposition players will certainly find him tough to deal with at set pieces.

How will they fare?

Having fought valiantly to reach EURO 2020, Slovakia certainly could’ve found harsher groups to be placed in. That being said, this team is likely to struggle to progress from Group E, with Spain, Sweden and Poland all favourites to finish above them. However, with Spain’s COVID situation and Poland’s unpredictability at tournaments, Slovakia may feel they have an opportunity to cause an upset here, although it is still only an outside chance at best.

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