England

England's potential knockout routes to the Euro 2020 final

Jamie Spencer
There are plenty of permutations to be considered for England
There are plenty of permutations to be considered for England / Carl Recine - Pool/Getty Images
facebooktwitterreddit

England have qualified for the knockout stages of Euro 2020 with a game to spare, but it is their final position in Group D that will determine who Gareth Southgate’s team will go on to play in the last 16 and potentially beyond.

England can still finish first, second or third in Group D, but any of those placings will result in progression to the next round because of other results in the competition already meaning that they would be guaranteed to be at least among the four best third-placed teams.

The likelihood of England finishing third is actually quite slim. It will only happen if they lose their final game against Czech Republic and if Scotland beat Croatia and overtake them on goal difference. England cannot be overtaken by Croatia in any scenario because of superior head-to-head goal difference resulting from the 1-0 win at Wembley in the first game.

Far more likely is a first or second place finish. England are guaranteed second place if they draw with Czech Republic. Alternatively, they could still finish second if they lose but Scotland also fail to beat Croatia. However, they will top the group regardless if they win against Czech Republic.

With England into the last 16 one way or another no matter what, debate is already turning to which knockout route they will get and which might be most favourable.


If England win Group D...

Raheem Sterling
England will win the group if they beat Czech Republic / Robin Jones/Getty Images

Top spot in Group D means a last 16 tie against the runner-up in Group F, which has been dubbed the ‘group of death’. Unless Hungary cause an upset in their final game, it will mean facing either France, Portugal or Germany - all of whom can still finish second.

Any of those three would be an extremely challenging opponent as all have genuine prospects of winning the whole tournament. That has even led to a school of thought that England might even be better off finishing second in the group and avoiding that fate.

However, should England win Group D and win that tough last 16 clash with France, Portugal or Germany, the knockout route does suddenly become more favourable afterwards.

It would likely be a quarter-final against a beatable Sweden or a blunt Spain, and perhaps a semi-final against either Netherlands or a spirited but limited Denmark.


If England finish second in Group D...

Gareth Southgate
England will finish second in Group D if they draw against Czech Republic / JUSTIN TALLIS/Getty Images

Second place in Group D is seen as more immediately favourable by many fans because it diverts England away from a Group F opponent in the first knockout game.

In this scenario, the last 16 would instead be against the runner-up in Group E, which could be Sweden, Slovakia, Poland or Spain depending on the final results. None have done anything of particular note so far and all have limitations or weaknesses.

However, after the last 16 this side of the knockout draw is arguably tougher. England wouldn’t avoid the Group F countries for long as the quarter-final would be against that group winner.

Should they come through that, a semi-final would likely be against Italy or Belgium, both of whom have taken maximum points in the group stage and are the most in-form teams in the tournament.

The toss-up is whether fans think having a more favourable round of 16 opponent is preferable before a more likely elimination in the quarter-finals, compared to the other side of the knockout bracket presenting a tougher last 16 that could see England be more likely to be knocked out sooner, but given a potentially easier route to the final after that if they survive.


If England finish third in Group D...

John Stones, Jack Grealish, Tyrone Mings
England could still finish third in Group D / Matt Dunham - Pool/Getty Images

In the unlikely but still possible scenario that England finish third in Group D, there are a couple of knockout routes depending on the final rankings of all the third place teams.

One is a last 16 tie against Netherlands. If England won that, there would be a quarter-final against the winner of Wales and Denmark and a probable semi-final against France, Portugal or Germany.

The other third place knockout route is in the same half of the bracket, but would likely begin against either Sweden or Spain in the last 16 and result in a quarter-final against France, Portugal or Germany.


Summary

If England are to reach the Euro 2020 final at Wembley on 11 July, which is expected to have up to 60,000 fans present, they will almost certainly have to beat one of France, Portugal or Germany to get there.

Different scenarios produce that tie at different stages of the tournament, but it will likely happen regardless at some point and it arguably makes no odds when if they want to lift the trophy.


For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

facebooktwitterreddit