Euro 2020: Group FMonday, June 7 2021
The Group of Death
FIFA Ranking: 2nd
Qualification Position: 1st / Expected Position: 1st
Wins: 8 / Draws: 1 / Losses: 1
Last 5 Game Form: WWLWW
Goals Scored: 25
xGoals Scored: 27.8 xG (2.11 xG per 90)
Goals Conceded: 6 / xGC: 6.4 xGA ( 0.53 xGA per 90)
Top Scorer: Giroud (6) / Top Assister: Greizmann (7)
France are the current World Champions, and the side has a scary level of strength in depth. The country seems to have perfected youth development as the names of those he has left behind could make a team that would be a hot favourite to win the tournament as well. They have stability with the same manager that saw them win the World Cup and the team are consistent in their play.
They qualified in good form but did have a loss against Turkey. Also, one can argue that in the context of the opponents of which France played, the 2.5 goals per game average is not amazing. But they won their group with the best defence in terms of xGA 90 data of all teams in qualification.
The team has been in good form since qualification too. They topped a hard group in the UEFA Nations League, which contained Sweden, Croatia and Portugal. Most importantly, for their "group of death" appearance, the French side managed two 1-0 wins against Portugal in the Nations League. This may bode well for their Group F match against them. In their most recent six competitive matches, the side have five wins out of 6; a draw win the Ukraine is the only slight blemish. Eleven goals and 4 conceded shows that the team has strength at both ends of the pitch going into the tournament.
One other brilliant point about France is that the team pretty much selects itself, and so heartache from a big asset missing out is unlikely.
The question is who to go for. Arguably in the first draft, no one. Germany is their first opponent, and it will be an incredibly tough game, so maybe hold out on the Mbappe's, Greizmann's and Pogba's for now. However, Germany are not the side they once were, and Hungary are up next; thus, their most challenging match is saved for Matchday 3. This may make you feel comfortable owning Les Bleus players from the start.
The side is most likely to line up as a 4-3-3 with Lloris in goal, Pavard, Varane, Kimpembe and Hernandez in defence. In the midfield, it will be Rabiot, Kante plus Pogba and upfront Griezmann and Mbappe will flank the striker, either Giroud or Benzema. Of these players, Rabiot, Hernandez and Benzema or Giroud are the only players likely to face rotation. Lucas Digne may be deployed on the left, and Kingsley Coman may be used as a more attacking outlet in games France feel confident in dominating. Karim Benzema's notable absence from the France squad has finally been rescinded. But Olivier Giroud does an amazing job for his National Team. He is gunning to be their all-time top scorer, and his assist play is integral to Les Bleus’ style. Giroud makes those around him play better, and in qualification, he was the top goalscorer showing his importance to the squad.
Looking through the assets, I have to start with a bit of an interesting revelation. I love N'Golo Kante as much as the next person, but the fact that he is the second most selected midfielder on Euro Fantasy is beyond baffling. He is not a bargain player and has no real Fantasy appeal as goals or assists are unlikely. He is the defensive shield for the side, allowing the other players to work in attack.
Going forward, I feel the Matchday Two, against Hungary, is great and enticing, but again their final group encounter is going to be a hard as they play Portugal.
This initially makes me wary of loading up on their defensive assets. Lloris could get clean sheets, but at his price, I feel there are more assured keepers with his output, plus the defenders of France are not particularly attacking, and thus I am reluctant to start with one in my team.
The main attraction will be the devastating front line that France possess. Griezmann manages to turn up big for tournaments with a Golden Boot in Euro 2016 and the 2nd most goals at the World Cup in Russia in 2018. He will be on free kicks. What is interesting to me is that there does not seem to be a set penalty taker as Giroud, Mbappe, Benzema, and Greizmann have all taken one recently. What could be the settler for many is price. In Euro Fantasy Mbappe is £12m and Griezmann is £11m. FanTeam differ with Mbappe at £13m and Griezmann at £10.5m - I think they are both great picks.
The France team play a quick build-up approach, not necessarily focused on possession. Instead, with the idea of getting the ball up to their striker, to force mistakes and pounce on weakness. They are pragmatic as they will play whatever type of football needed to win, and the lack of dependency on one out and out style is because they play so many types well. Some of their creativity will come through the wings, but Paul Pogba is deployed in his strongest position and played to his strengths. He finds the important through balls that go between the lines causing the most organised of defences chaos. Overall they can cross, they can play the ball long, or France can find the all-important pass to get shots in the box off.
Defensively the side are incredibly good. They counter-press well and cause their opponents to make mistakes winning the ball high up. But if this is not successful, then they are able to quickly regroup and recover the ball in their own half as well. They don't allow many shots against them, and those that get through have to beat the formidable Hugo Lloris. Though he is not the goalkeeper he once was, he is still a safe pair of hands and a great shot-stopper. There is hardly a weakness in the defence or in the attack of the side. The only problem, for me, is the set of fixtures and the fact that other teams and assets have higher ceilings
FIFA Ranking: 5th
Qualification Position: 2nd / Expected Position: 1st
Wins: 5 Draws: 2 Losses: 1
Last 5 Game Form: DWWWW
Goals Scored: 22
xGoals Scored: 21.6 xG (2.79 xG per 90)
Goals Conceded: 6
xGoals Conceded: 6.4 xGA ( 0.53 xGA per 90)
Top Scorer: Ronaldo (11)
Top Assister: B. Silva (6)
The current holders go into this tournament with some positives and some negatives surrounding them. Their most recent competitive match form is mixed. They won the inaugural UEFA Nations League beating the Netherlands 1-0 at home. But then the qualifiers were a humbling experience, and I believe that the side will be disappointed at finishing second to Ukraine. What will add to annoyance is the fact that they had the 2nd best xG per 90 and the 4th best xG conceded per 90 of teams in the qualifiers.
They finished second in the most recent Nations League group to France, so this will add worries for them in this group stage; in addition, their World Cup qualifying has not been great. They made hard work of Azerbaijan, drew with Serbia, and comfortably won against Luxembourg. Thus in their last six competitive matches, the side has one loss, one draw and four wins.
The team go into this tournament with one of the strongest squads it has had in recent years, certainly a lot stronger than the team that lifted the trophy in 2016. But it will be hard to get out of the group they find themselves in, and their way to the Final will be much more difficult this time around.
For Fantasy prospects; you have to be tactical with your choices as the team have a great opening fixture. However, after that, the games are difficult: versus Germany and France. Thus, I think that Portugal will want to get a big win against Hungary on the board, but fixating on that one match may come at a cost.
I think the goalkeeper is a big weakness. Patricio has a lot of mistakes in him, and since he arrived in the Premier League, he has not managed a positive xG prevented of goals showing that his shot-stopping abilities are weak.
Joao Cancelo (£6.5m Fan Team/ £6m Euro Fantasy) is a fantastic player and goes into the tournament after becoming the archetypal Guardiola wing-back with amazing ball-playing abilities. He will be nailed alongside Ruben Dias, who has gained so many plaudits for his first season in the Premier League. Pepe or Fonte will partner him centrally. The erraticism of Pepe adds worries, and Fonte is a great performer, but his age is a concern as well. Guerreiro will probably start on the other side of the pitch, but he may have his position under threat from breakthrough starlet Nuno Mendes.
If you are going to invest in the Portuguese defence, then I think that Cancelo is the go-to man. Looking at his data for the season, the man has had some monstrous performances for City and has three goals and four assists to his name. His xG per 90 is in the top 20% for full-backs, and his xA per 90 is in the top 12%. Although he is an amazing dribbler, being in the top 2% on the continent, as stated, his ball-playing abilities are as good as any midfielder, and his distribution quality is so good. He has 1.44 key passes per game, 6.49 progressive passes per match, and this means he is in the top 8% of defenders for shot-creating actions per 90 and in the top 13% for goal creating actions. He has huge potential to get a goal or an assist.
In the midfield, I feel that it is hard to call who will make it up. Even Diogo Jota's position may come under threat from Joao Felix; thus, the best three assets to look at in this side are Fernandes, Bernardo Silva and Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, it may come as a shock that I would pick Silva (£8m FanTeam/ £8.5m Euro Fantasy) over Bruno Fernandes (£9m FanTeam / £10.5m Fantasy Euro) in this Portugal side. Although Fernandes has had a fantastic season with United, his output and role for Portugal is different and means that he is less likely to have goal involvements compared to Bernardo. Silva was second behind Ronaldo in qualifying for goals and also racked up six assists, whereas Fernandes had just one goal and one assist. Indeed in his last 14 competitive appearances for Portugal, Bruno has one goal and one assist, whereas Bernardo has four goals and eight assists in his last 15 competitive matches.
One of the biggest sealers is that Fernandes will only be on some of the set pieces and will not be on penalties due to Cristiano Ronaldo wanting them. I believe that Bernardo Silva is a great asset and very well priced in both FanTeam and Euro Fantasy.
Cristiano Ronaldo is much like the other elite strikers at this tournament. He does not need much selling as he will be leading the line for one of the fancied teams, and his qualities are well known.
FIFA Ranking: 12th
Qualification Position: 1st / Expected Position: 2nd
Wins: 7 Draws: 0 Losses: 1
Last 5 Game Form: WWWWW
Goals Scored: 30
xGoals Scored: 22.0 xG (2.71 xG per 90)
Goals Conceded: 7
xGoals Conceded: 10.8 xGA ( 0.92 xGA per 90)
Top Scorer: Gnabry (8)
Assister: Reus, Kimmich, Ginter, Hector, Havertz (2)
In qualifying, the German side looked good in attack with the 3rd best xG per 90 and also the 3rd most goals per game record. But the defence was not as sturdy, with the team having a 0.92 xGA per 90. Overall they did well, though, to overperform defensively.
Since qualification, the side has been on the end of some humiliating defeats and performances that should worry potential owners of their assets. The team failed to keep a clean sheet in their Nations League appearances and suffered a humiliating 6-0 loss to Spain, their worst defeat since 1931. The 13 goals conceded means Germany have real concerns. The worries continued, though, after they lost their first World Cup qualifier in 20 years to North Macedonia.
At the end of Euro 2020, there will be a huge departure as Joachim Low will leave after managing the team for 15 years. Poor recent form left the German coach feeling that he had taken the side as far as he could, and someone else will be able to direct the path of the new younger generation.
One could assume that the players will want to send him off with a final hurrah, which I am sure they will. But he is departing for a reason, and it has been clear for a while. Their group stage exit (Russia, 2018) was the worst performance of a German side in the nation's history, and nothing really since has shown he has got a grip on the downfall.
He experimented without the old guard figures like Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels but recalled them after the Spanish exposed his team's weaknesses.
Despite poor form, it is clear that Germany has a great squad going into this tournament.
Due to their patchy record in defence and the difficult group they find themselves in, I am reluctant to bring in any defensive assets. The fact that Joshua Kimmich is classed as a midfielder in both FanTeam and Euro Fantasy means I won’t consider buying him. The other defensive assets are just not attacking enough.
Tony Kroos ( £7.5m Fan Team / £7m Fantasy Euro) is an interesting option as he is on set pieces and penalties. He could be a cheaper way into the XI, but I feel that my attention should be focused purely on their attacking players. Leroy Sane, Havertz and Werner are tough picks to justify. They are not guaranteed and will probably be in and out of the side. The nailed starters up top for Germany seem to be Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry.
Serge Gnabry - £9m FanTeam / £9.5m Euro Fantasy - looks like a fantastic prospect. He has grown into one of the most important players for Bayern Munich and Germany over the last few seasons. At club level, his data is fantastic for a attack-minded winger. His 0.46 goals per 90 is in the top 8%, he is incredibly clinical with a 49.5% shot accuracy, and all this culminates into an amazing top 6% non-penalty xG per 90. This form has continued for the National Team too. During qualification, he was Germany's top goalscorer, and his output improves when playing for his country as he averages a goal every 109 mins compared to every 176 for Bayern. He also has 15 goals in 20 caps, as many as Timo Werner from 18 fewer games. At his price point, he is certainly one to watch and a fantastic asset to get in for the Hungary game.
Moving onto Thomas Muller - (FanTeam £8.5m / £9m Euro Fantasy) - he too has had a fine season. In 2020/21, he contributed 34 goal involvements (13G and 21A) from 41 Bundesliga and Champions League appearances for Bayern Munich. He has become an integral provider for his teammates as his top 1% Assists and xA per 90 data indicates. His passing is amongst the best and most attacking in world football combined win Top 1% (0.94) goal creating actions per 90.
The decision between these two amazing players is tough. On the one hand, on both FanTeam and Euro Fantasy, Muller is cheaper, and so you can spend your money elsewhere. But the fact that Gnabry has been in such good form for his country and is classed as a midfielder, meaning his goals count for more points, just tips the balance for me. If you want to invest in Germany, he seems the best option.
Germany usually set up in a 4-3-3 or 4-1-4-1 structure. The side like to defend with a light press, winning the ball in their opponent's half. But I would argue that, so far, the recent results have shown this system to be unsuccessful. The side have allowed too many shots, and we have seen that they have struggled to keep clean sheets.
In attack, the side are slightly more successful. The quality of their midfield means Germany like to keep possession and work their way up the pitch in a controlled manner. They try to create overloads, but this can cost them. They take lots of shots per match and are fairly accurate too!
FIFA Ranking: 37th
Qualification Position:- 4th / Expected Position: 3rd
Wins: 4 Draws: 0 Losses: 4
Last 5 Game Form:- LWWWL
Goals Scored: 8
xGoals Scored: 8.5 xG (1.06 xG per 90)
Goals Conceded: 11
xGoals Conceded: 11.4 xGA ( 1.8 xGA per 90)
Top Scorer: Orban and Patkai (2)
Top Assister: -
In their situation, it is reasonable to say that Hungarian assets are a total avoid. Unfortunately, the side will most likely finish bottom as Portugal, Germany, and France will try to score as many as possible against them to make sure they finish top of Group F.
In attack, the side will play in a 3-5-2 formation. The team are predicated on the long ball style. They play lots of long passes and cross the ball into the areas with little focus on keeping possession. This style works for them, though, as they manage to make a commendable xG per shot.
Interestingly, they switch to a 5-3-2 mid-block when defending, but they will press even with more bodies at the back. The PPDA (Passes Allowed per Defensive Action) of the side is low, but the success rate of their press is poor as they do not often win the ball back in their opponents half. Instead, they have to recover the ball in their own half.
Ben Dinnery and Jason McKenna take a deep dive into Group F here.
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