Blame AAU basketball, blame the one-and-done generation, blame whatever you want, but what cannot be argued is that there is an international wave taking over the NBA. Increasingly it seems like the best and most influential players in the NBA are from countries and regions outside of the U.S.
EURO 2021 Predictions
It is finally here, Euro 2020 or 2021, depending on who you ask. And with this tournament comes one of the most entertaining fields in recent years. There are plenty of teams who could win this, plenty of storylines to follow, plenty of young players who could have their break-out tournament, and plenty of players playing for a mega-transfer deal and new wages. This is going to be fun. With that said, three members of the staff offered their predictions on how the tournament will play out, specifically, best young player, best player, top scorer, dark horse, and champions.
Jake's predictions are in BLUE, Haider's predictions are in RED, and Victor's predictions are in GREEN.
Young Player of the Tournament: Alexander Isak, Sweden
After exploding for 17 goals in La Liga this season for Real Sociedad, Isak is ready to make his name even bigger at the EUROs. Sweden is in a reasonably easy group with Spain, Poland, and Slovakia. I think Sweden will top this group, and a lot of it will be because they have a man to get the goals in Isak. This tournament's breakout player to be rumored to big clubs when it's all over will be Alexander Isak.
Young Player of the Tournament: Jadon Sancho, England
It's easy to forget how young Jadon Sancho (21) still is, with how long his name has been around. I think this tournament will cement that hefty price tag Borussia Dortmund has demanded for him. His creativity and flair will be perfect for an English squad with Harry Kane up top. These euros any one of these young English talents could take young player of the tournament. Phil Foden and Mason Mount both have a shout in winning the award. I personally think Jadon Sancho has the best chance of the English trio as he is the most experienced. And having a striking partner in Harry Kane isn't that different from an elite striker in Erling Haaland. I believe Sancho will have an excellent euros and then a move to the premier league after this tournament.
For the runner-up, I believe Dejan Kulusevski (21) will be the young player of the tournament, currently playing for Juventus in the Serie A, playing in a majority of their games. Kulusevski has been compared to the likes of Arjen Robben for the way he dribbles and cuts inside on his left foot, as well as Ibrahimovic's successor with the Swedish national team. I think Sweden will make a real run in this Euros, and Kulusevski will be the main factor in whether or not Sweden make it out of the group stage or not.
Young Player of the Tournament: Phil Foden, England
The best young player award is new to the European Tournament, with 2016 been the first time that UEFA handed it out. Renato Sanches won it, and that was as much about the clout he brought into the tournament as it was his actual performance. No young player carries more clout into the Euros than Phil Foden. So by default, if he has a decent showing at the tournament, then Phil Foden should win this award. My runner-up is Jeremy Doku of Belgium. With De Bruyne coming in with a broken face and Eden Hazard far from his best, the 19-year old Doku is in a position to have his breakout moment.
Player of the tournament: Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium
Well, he did not deserve PFA Player of the Year, in my opinion, but this has set him up perfectly for a Ballon d'Or. Best player in the Prem and EUROs? Yeah, he is winning that award then, too. De Bruyne may miss some of the group stage games, but I trust the team to handle those games. De Bruyne did not have to play every game to be PFA Player of the Year, so maybe he can just ball out in most of the knockout stages and win the award anyway.
Player of the tournament: Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium
Unfortunately, Kevin De Bruyne suffered an injury during his Champions League Final game, but despite that, he has been included in Belgium's 23 man squad. Kevin De Bruyne has been fantastic this year, with a Premier League title and champions league runner-up. It might be his and Belgium's last chance at a title with their golden generation. With a group including teams that are a tier down from Belgium, they should for sure make their way at least to the round of sixteen or quarter-finals. De Bruyne will be linking up with an incredibly in form Romelu Lukaku who, also hoisted up a league title for Inter Milan and was the 2nd top scorer in the Serie A. His service to the likes of Lukaku, Carrasco, Thorgan Hazard, Dries Mertens, and maybe a healthy Eden Hazard, make him a strong candidate for Player of the Tournament.
All the points I made for Kevin De Bruyne could also apply to Bruno Fernandes. He is an excellent playmaker, in top form, and on a stacked squad. This year in the Premier league, Fernandes tied with Kevin De Bruyne as 2nd in assists with 12. Fernandes is great at directing an attack and controlling the rhythm of play. Fernandes will be vital in Portugal's run to be back-to-back Euro champions.
Player of the tournament: Harry Kane, England
Harry Kane had the numbers to win Premier League Player of the Year as he led the league in both goals and assists, but the fact that Tottenham finished so low in the table essentially meant his stats were meaningless. Well, here comes a second chance. If Kane continues his form, as I suspect he will play for a big summer move, then this paired with a championship for England tells me he will be named the player of the tournament. I have N'Golo Kante as my runner-up because the footballing world has fallen back in love with him.
Top Scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal
Taking penalties is crucial in my decision, and hopefully, Bruno Fernandes does not take Portugal's penalties before Ronaldo does. Portugal is going on a run, and if they do, that means this man will be scoring goals because despite having a team full of attacking options, the team will always play through him as long as he is healthy. Considered Lukaku and Immobile, but neither is likely to take pens for their team, and I think that matters.
Top Goalscorer: Harry Kane, England
For top scorer, I am incredibly confident that Harry Kane will at the very least be a top-three goal scorer in this tournament. There are just too many things going right for Harry Kane coming into this tournament. He recently ended the Premier League season as the golden boot winner and with the top assists in the league. Harry Kane is as in form as he could be at the moment coming into the Euros. He is also in one of the easy groups, with an aging Croatia squad, an inexperienced national team of the Czech Republic, and an out-of-form Scotland team.
Romelu Lukaku, like Harry Kane, is in incredible form as of right now, recently winning the Serie A with Inter Milan. With Kevin De Bruyne feeding him, Lukaku has the potential to win the golden boot for the Euros.
Top Scorer: Kylian Mbappe, France
Kylian Mbappe will probably get the most scoring opportunities of any player this tournament, with the France line-up relying on his goal-scoring contributions. That makes me think he'll get goals, and he'll get them often. My runner-up is Harry Kane. If Harry Kane is to win player of the tournament, he'll need a ton of goals to do it.
Dark Horse: Turkey
I wrote an article before about how much I believe in Turkey. The EUROs love an underdog, and Turkey looks to be that team. Turkey has talented goalkeepers, great center-backs, and a forward in Yilmaz playing at the top of his game. Turkey will be extremely tough to break down and have excellent set-pieces with Hakan Calhanoglu serving them in. These guys have a squad with all of their best players looking fit.
Dark Horse: Poland
Poland is my pick as a dark horse contender in the tournament. Led by potential Ballon d'Or winner and top Bundesliga goalscorer Robert Lewandowski, Poland has a real shot of making a run. They are on par with Sweden and Slovakia and could beat a middling Spain team through the excellence of Lewandowski. Outside of Lewandowski being the best striker in the world right now, Poland has an underrated team in players like Szczęsny, Piotr Zielinski, and Grosicki. If Piotr Zielinski can find his form and create any amount of space for Robert Lewandoski, then Poland has a great chance to surprise everybody and make a deep run into the Euros.
Dark Horse: Netherlands
The Netherlands are my dark horses for this tournament. Although a traditional powerhouse, this team has fallen far short of expectations over the last four years, starting with missing out on the 2018 world cup. With no Virgil Van Dijk and no goal-scoring threats, no one believes they will accomplish anything. And that is precisely why I think they will prove to be a surprise. Turkey is my runner-up. They have great young players and a goal scorer in form in Burak Yilmaz.
Most Disappointing Team: France
Anything other than winning is a disappointment for France, but they have the hardest path to get there. France easily has the most talented group of players to choose from but finding success in back-to-back tournaments is hard. France was quite pragmatic at the last tournament. Setting up quite defensive and having Matuidi almost play as a winger. France will look to be bailed out on counters and open play where all of their best players thrive. Although, I have a feeling France under Deschamps will be figured out this time around with the target on their back as big as ever. I do not think France will get past the quarter-finals.
Most Disappointing Team: Netherlands
I am almost too certain that this Netherlands team will disappoint in Euros. Luckily they have been gifted the easiest group in the tournament and, yet, I am almost sure they will buckle when faced with any real challenge. It is no secret that Frank De Boer is not a manager capable of winning the Euros, especially with the injury to Virgil Van Dijk and the exclusion of a great striker in Wout Weghorst. They have strong players, but they have not gelled together as a national team as of yet. And under the leadership of Frank De Boer, they will get knocked out in the round of 16.
Most Disappointing Team: Germany
For some reason, people still believe Germany to be this powerhouse of a footballing nation. In my opinion, they are well past that. They flamed out of the 2018 World Cup and are going to disappoint this time around. They have no clear goal scorers, and their defense is dodgy at best. That adds up to a scenario where we see this team fall well short once again. My runner-ups are Spain for pretty much the same reason.
Champion/Runner-Up - Belgium/Italy
Something about Belgium has me always picking them even when it doesn't look likely. De Bruyne suffered an injury in the Champions League final, and well, Eden Hazard does not look like his best. It almost feels like their last dance to win something with this golden generation they brought through. Even without Hazard, Belgium still has attacking players like De Bruyne, Mertens, Lukaku, and Eden's brother (Thorgan). Their defense may not be as good as before, but it still contains a ton of experience in front of an excellent shot-stopper. France was the last world cup champions, and the semi-finals match was a fantastic game against Belgium that Belgium probably should have won. Belgium may be a bit more pragmatic this tournament looking to counter in open spaces using Lukaku's strengths. Italy could easily win it, too. Despite having no real stars, Italy has a solid team with no real red flags. Like any Italian team, they will be tough to break down, have a phenomenal midfield in Jorginho, Barella, Veratti, and Locatelli, and have attacking options like Immobile, Insigne, Chiesa, and Berardi. It would not surprise me if they won the entire tournament.
This Portugal squad is stacked. I can't think of one weakness in their starting 11, led by four-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo. I do believe that Portugal will top the group of death and make a run into the finals. There are just too many exciting names in this squad to ignore: Cristiano Ronaldo, João Felix, Diogo Jota, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, and Ruben Dias. All top players, playing for top teams, and all on top form. Portugal will be tested early by France and Germany in the group of death. But if Portugal defeats both of them, then who else possibly has a shot at stopping Portugal?
2nd Place: France
Yes, that is right, I am predicting a repeat of the last euros in which Portugal beat France in the finals.
Champion/Runner Up: England/France
Yes, I have England winning this trophy. It seems extreme, but I do believe England to have the most in-form players in all of Europe, as I wrote about here. This is an England team that does not have any glaring holes. There are weaknesses, but in no position could you say England is in a clear liability. That reality, paired with having the likes of; Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Harry Kane, Mason Mount, Luke Shaw, and John Stones playing their best football heading into the tournament, makes me think they will win. France will be runners-up because they are also very talented. But there are potential underlying chemistry issues caused by the return of Karim Benzema that makes me think England will be more cohesive come final time.
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