Saturday promises to be an action-packed day at Euro 2020 with Spain, Portugal, Germany and France all in action.
Former world champions Germany are under fierce pressure going into their crucial game against current European champions Portugal.
After their failure to make it beyond the group phase at the 2018 World Cup, Joachim Low’s Germany lost 1-0 to France in their opening game at the Euro and another defeat against the title holders would leave them facing early elimination again.
The Germans have a home advantage in Munich, but on the evidence of recent performances they will struggle to win the latest heavyweight showdown in Group F.
Despite that, Low – who will stand down at the end of the tournament – believes his team can rise to the occasion.
“The pressure is always the same, it doesn’t matter who we are playing against, and we can cope with it,” Low said on Friday.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal arrive on German soil fresh from a convincing 3-0 win over Hungary in Budapest and another victory will secure their place in the last 16 before their final group outing against France.
Ronaldo will again be in the spotlight after becoming the leading scorer in European Championship history with a brace against Hungary leaving him on 11 goals across five tournaments.
With 106 goals in 176 games for Portugal, Ronaldo is just three short of the all-time international record, set by Ali Daei who scored 109 goals for Iran between 1993 and 2006.
France eyeing progress
Meanwhile, France will be expected to build on the win against Germany with another against Hungary in Saturday’s first game.
Hungary are expecting a crowd approaching 60,000 at the Puskas Arena, the only Euro 2020 venue without restrictions on capacity due to COVID-19.
“If one team is worth 900 million euros and us 60 million euros, you will probably see that difference on the pitch,” admitted Hungary coach Marco Rossi as he considered the prospect of facing the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba.The French team will be going for a fourth consecutive clean sheet with the Les Bleus looking sharper with the recalled Karim Benzema, who has slotted in effortlessly since returning to the national team after nearly six years out following a fallout with coach Didier Deschamps amid a sex tape scandal.
Benzema’s technique and reading of the game help him click with Mbappe and Griezmann. The trio are working for and with each other, forming a marauding front unit that stops opposing teams from passing out quickly from the back.
“When you see Kylian losing the ball and winning it back five seconds later, Karim working hard and Antoine dropping very deep, it gives us strength,” France defender Raphael Varane said. “Then, we encourage them from the back, or give them good passes to attack with.”In the Group E game, Poland know they will see less of the ball than Spain on Saturday but still hope to hurt Luis Enrique’s side with their own passing, coach Paulo Sousa said.
The Poles failed to improve their poor record in major tournament opening games on Monday as they lost 2-1 to lower-ranked Slovakia, and now need at least a point against Spain to still have a chance of qualifying for the knockout stage.
“We need to concentrate to hurt Spain not only with counterattacks, with transition, but also creating opportunities with possession,” Sousa told reporters on Friday.
The 2008 and 2012 European champions for their part will be looking to put behind a timid start to the tournament after being held to a goalless draw by Sweden last in their opening game.
Spain’s captain Sergio Busquets will travel with the team after being cleared to rejoin the group on Friday following his positive test for COVID-19.