Euro 2020's group of death features France, Portugal, Germany and Hungary

Euro 2020's group of death features France, Portugal, Germany and Hungary

Wednesday's Euro 2020 fixtures feature three of the competition favourites in action; Hungary vs Portugal in Budapest and France taking on Germany in Paris. They make up the combatants in Group F, this tournament's so-called "group of death". As Australian Broadcasting Corporation writes, the "group of death" has long been a favourite moniker among fans and pundits to describe the group in which pits some big names together and, traditionally at least, where one of those big names would miss out on the competition.

However, in this expanded European Championship, all three of the favourites will be likely to progress in any case, so is there even such a thing as a group of death anymore?

Format eliminates jeopardy from group stage 

This is the second European Championship tournament to feature 24 teams. Prior to 2016, just 16 teams qualified. The 24 teams are split into six groups of four, who each play each other once. The top two in each group then qualifies for the last 16. The mathematicians among you would realise that leaves four spots to fill which, as was the case in 2016, will be made up of the four best third-placed finishers.

Last time around, one of those third-placed finishers was Portugal, which finished behind Hungary and Iceland in its group after earning three draws. Despite failing to win a game in a group that was decidedly not the group of death (the other team was Austria — who at that stage had never won a game at the Euros), Portugal was still able to progress and, ultimately triumph.

France, Germany, Portugal favourites to progress

Portugal became poster boys for how this format rewards mediocrity in 2016, but they'll have to be far better this time around to ensure they qualify. In 2016, Portugal's three points and neutral goal difference, on account of their three draws, was just enough to progress. To be safe though, teams will want at least four points — a win and a draw — to be more certain of qualifying.

France are the overwhelming favourites to take out the entire competition and, although they will be tested by their opponents in this group, coach Didier Deschamps may welcome the tougher opponents to ensure his team does not relax into the competition. It might also help focus his squad's minds and distract them from the murmurs that suggest there is already some discontent in what is one of international sport's historically more volatile dressing rooms.

Germany, may not be the force they have been in recent years but are still capable of emulating the squads that have been perennial challengers for major honours over the past two decades. Since 2002, Germany has reached at least the semi-finals of all but two of its nine major tournaments, an unparalleled level of success. Die Mannschaft have been led by Joachim Löw since 2006, but he will step down from his post after this tournament. Germany will surely want to send him out on a high. Germany and France meet each other at 5:00am AEST on Wednesday, and the ABC will have a live blog to follow this most vital of early matches.

Don't rule out Hungary

So what of the fourth wheel in this group? The script says they should be the whipping boys, the source of the three easy points that will leave the others time to focus on getting a draw against each other. And although the format might mean this group of death is not so fearsome as it might be, but the Hungarians will be hoping to cause some shocks.

This Hungary side is far from being the second coming of the 1950s' Mighty Magyars, but it does have at least one significant advantage. Hungary will play its first two matches against Portugal and France at Budapest's Puskás Aréna, which will be packed to the rafters as one of the only stadiums operating without an attendance cap.

Will that home advantage be the difference?

A 0-0 draw with Ireland and a 1-0 victory over Cyprus before the tournament will hardly leave the likes of Kylian Mbappé or Cristiano Ronaldo shaking in their boots, but those are the latest in a line of 11 matches in which Hungary have gone unbeaten. Additionally, the support of 67,215 parochial fans could be enough to at least momentarily unsettle visitors to Budapest.

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Vestnik Kavkaza

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