Germany enter the rescheduled Euro 2020 in a strange position, with coach Joachim Low leading die Mannschaft one last time before being replaced by departing Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick.
Following their 2014 World Cup triumph, the Germans reached the semi-finals of the Euros in 2016 – falling to hosts and eventual runners-up France – before disappointing massively in their world championship defence in Russia three years ago.
Low’s players finished bottom of a group including Sweden, Mexico and South Korea, with the aftermath entailing the enforced exiles of former national team stalwarts Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng. Following another strong season with Bayern Munich after last year’s treble win, Muller has finally been recalled by Low for this summer’s tournament – which takes place across 11 European cities in 11 European countries – as has Borussia Dortmund’s Hummels.
It feels as though the pressure is off Germany to an extent given their poor World Cup in 2018 and the fact that Low is singing his swan song. Also helping to ease expectations is die Mannschaft’s presence in a ‘group of death’ – Group F, which consists of Germany, world champions France, European champions Portugal, and Hungary. Even if they are unable to finish above either France or Portugal, Germany could qualify as one of the four best third-placed finishers, meaning there is a decent chance that they will compete in the knockout stage even if they fail to convince in the first round.
All three of Germany’s group games are set to be held in Munich, which will serve as a boost to Low’s side, especially considering the presence of some fans at the competition. Should they pull off an unlikely tournament win, Germany will add to the European Championship trophies that they won in 1972, 1980 and 1996.
First up for the 2016 semi-finalists will be France in a game that could well set the tone for Germany’s campaign. If they are able to beat the world champions, Low and co will dramatically change perceptions of their abilities and chances at Euro 2020.
Group F fixtures
All times BST
Tuesday 15 June, 8pm: France vs Germany – Munich
Saturday 19 June, 5pm: Portugal vs Germany – Munich
Wednesday 23 June, 8pm: Germany vs Hungary – Munich
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern), Bernd Leno (Arsenal), Kevin Trapp (Frankfurt).
Defenders: Emre Can (Dortmund), Matthias Ginter (Mönchengladbach), Robin Gosens (Atalanta), Christian Günter (Freiburg), Marcel Halstenberg (Leipzig), Mats Hummels (Dortmund), Lukas Klostermann (Leipzig), Robin Koch (Leeds), Antonio Rüdiger (Chelsea), Niklas Süle (Bayern).
Midfielders: Serge Gnabry (Bayern), Leon Goretzka (Bayern), İlkay Gündoğan (Manchester City), Jonas Hofmann (Mönchengladbach), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Jamal Musiala (Bayern), Florian Neuhaus (Mönchengladbach), Leroy Sané (Bayern).
Forwards: Kai Havertz (Chelsea), Thomas Müller (Bayern), Kevin Volland (Monaco), Timo Werner (Chelsea).
Ones to watch
Ilkay Gundogan has enjoyed a career-best season at Manchester City, marking himself out as the Premier League champions’ top goalscorer and playing a key role in their run to the Champions League final. If the midfielder can carry that goalscoring form into this tournament while providing his usual metronomic passing and lending his significant creative vision, he could prove the difference between Germany getting through the group stage – or even finishing in the top two of Group F – or bowing out early.
A potential partner for the 30-year-old in central midfield is Florian Neuhaus. The Borussia Monchengladbach man, 24, scored seven goals and recorded eight assists across the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal this season. While he may not play a starring role, his performances on this kind of stage could be telling as concerns his future stature at club level.
Odds to win tournament
Germany are 7/1 to win Euro 2020.
This prediction could change if Germany defeat world champions France in their group-opener, as such a result would drastically alter perceptions of Low’s team.
Based on their form heading into the Euros, it feels as though the Germans are expected to finish below the French and also Portugal, but there is plenty of promise in Low’s squad and I fancy them to edge Portugal in a decisive middle game in the group.
With the four best third-placed finishers guaranteed a spot in the last 16, Germany have a good chance of sneaking through to the knockout rounds without being at their best, but I think they’ll exceed the admittedly low expectations somewhat, finishing second in the group and reaching the quarter-finals.
Germany to be eliminated in the quarter-finals.