Euro 2020 has reached the end of the group stage and eight nations are on their way home early. All the favourites – minus the odd dark horse – remain involved, but who is best-placed for success three games in?
Our power rankings consider the next opponents and the route to the final for all 16 remaining nations and order them accordingly by how likely they are to be celebrating on 11 July.
Form so far, performance level, any injuries or absences and the in-game choices of the managers are all, naturally, factored into our thinking.
The knock-out phase starts on Saturday, 26 June and every match-day, one or two teams will inch a little closer to rewriting history, dreaming big and giving an entire nation cause to celebrate.
Here are our up-to-date power rankings for the tournament, in reverse order.
Heroic, hard-working and ultimately clinical when they needed to be, Wales have maybe exceeded expectations already by reaching the last 16. Or perhaps those expectations simply need adjusting. Every step further from this point is a huge achievement.
They turn up to tournaments, win a game somewhere along the line, score a belter or two, reach the knock-outs and disappear without a fuss at the last-16 stage. The perfect link between those who make up the numbers, and those who are genuine candidates for glory. France surely pose an insurmountable task, though.
On the basis of the quality available to them, they should be higher – but they were disorganised and dysfunctional for their first two group games and we’re not about to forgive them for that entirely. Individual quality has brought them this far; strength in unity will be required to take them any further past Italy.
13. Czech Republic
Star names have given way to squad reliance for the Czechs over recent years, but it’s working well for them here. A goal threat in the team, a good blend of work rate and physicality and no shortage of willing runners from deep all make them tough to cope with on and off the ball. Underestimating them could see a bigger nation go home early. A lack of stand-out individual talent makes them unlikely to trouble the final four.
A big show on the last night of the group stage put them into the knock-out stage, but they’re on an extremely difficult path.
Every potential opponent is essentially world class from this point onwards and Croatia haven’t shown the consistency or the attacking ability to suggest they’ll be able to stop those nations and repeat their run to the 2018 World Cup final.
They floundered in the final group game and were somewhat fortunate to go through in the end, but this Ukraine side are tough to break down when they get their game-plan right. Their match against Sweden will be tight to call, but they have to show a clinical edge when chances come along.
The story of the summer at Euro 2020, perhaps. Every game is now a gift, every bead of sweat in every single performance is dedicated to the teammate they almost lost. It’s an incredible motivator and – however much we all wish it never occurred in the first place – there may not be a squad as tightly bonded as the Danes in the competition. How far can conviction and moments of class take them?
Relentlessly, tirelessly dogged in defence and utterly sure of their plan that, at some stage, eventually, they’ll get their chance to score. Sweden don’t care if you’re not entertained – they have their plan to win and they’re sticking with it. And why not? It is working. It remains tough to see them as finalists...but the route laid before them would not require too much of a surprise to see Sweden into the semis.
If they play like they did against Slovakia, they’ll quickly be among the favourites again – but few defences will be quite so accommodating. Clearly they still have a bit of a rebuilding job to do and lots of this squad are inexperienced and playing in new partnerships for the national team. Could go a little further, but unless confidence plays a bigger role than quality, this isn’t a side which is likely to reach the last four.
The reigning holders were part of that see-saw final night which saw them alternately sitting top of the group, finishing bottom and everywhere in between – so that inconsistency and the fact they are in the rather tougher half of the draw means we’ve ranked them a little lower than might be expected.
A really tough game next against Belgium, but if they do come through it then they’ll be taken extremely seriously once more.
Where even are the Three Lions? Underperforming, bubbling nicely, ready to explode? It’s still tough to envisage this side beating one of the genuinely top nations – but now they’ll have to in the last 16.
Getting the best players on the pitch isn’t the only issue, it’s getting them to perform for an entire 90 minutes without sitting back and trying to absorb pressure – against top attacks, that could backfire. A lack of real style wouldn’t be an issue if the substance came regardless, but both are too often lacking to suspect it’s really coming home. Still...if they beat Germany, optimism of a run to the semis will become expectation.
Blunt and predictable in game one, electric and unstoppable in game two, ludicrous, fortunate and ultimately just-about-triumphant in game three. There has never been a doubt over the talent in Germany’s squad, but results over the past year hadn’t hinted at success being forthcoming here at Euro 2020.
As the tests get tougher, maybe that will be for the best, given the strength of character and association with silverware that so many of the players have and have proven they can deal with. Just don’t take them to penalties.
Having been largely dismissed as contenders prior to Euro 2020’s start due to erratic form and Frank de Boer’s less-than-stellar record, the Dutch have found harmony and consistency – to an extent – so far.
Lots of pace, lots of goals and an exciting cast with lofty ambitions still seem the more likely traits to carry the nation’s hopes than tactical acumen and control of matches, but they are unquestionably improving and the draw is extremely favourable to them. All of a sudden, we might be looking at a last-four Oranje team once more.
A tactical plan. A world-class performer in attack. Kevin de Bruyne back to full fitness. Belgium’s stock has only gone one way as the group stage progressed and Roberto Martinez’s biggest job from this point onwards might simply be to get his centre-backs and substitutions right.
There’s quality to win every game in the final third, but we’ve seen Belgium troubled in the channels at times. Can their ageing back three stand up against the best national teams’ attacks? Their route to the final is very difficult, but they are an excellent team.
The pre-tournament favourites on account of their status as World Cup winners. France haven’t been infallible though, slack at times against Hungary to ensure they wouldn’t finish with a perfect record and having lost Ousmane Dembele, a key bench option, to injury.
Even after one win in three in the group stage, the feeling remains that they have gears to go up yet and anyone who knocks them out could end up winning the lot. There’s a reasonable run on to the semis for Didier Deschamps’s men.
Surely the favourites in many viewers’ minds after a free-flowing demolition of Group A. As with any team who has the temerity to win games, problems must be sought and found: the Azzurri haven’t yet faced an elite test – that’s usually what the group stage is about – and the ill-founded cries of “peaking too early” can be seen in some places, too.
But a rotated squad, a competitive environment, a brilliant defensive record for the past year and a manager who knows how to win all place Italy in pole position right now – though the quarters and semis match-ups, if they reach those stages, are likely to be against opponents worthy of a final themselves.