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Euro 2020 Is Finally Here: These Are The Teams To Watch


Europe's soccer championship, Euro 2020, kicks off tomorrow. That's right - even though the current year is 2021, the championship was postponed due to the pandemic and is now being played almost exactly one year late. Here with a preview of the tournament is CBS Sports HQ analyst Luis Miguel Echegaray. Welcome.

LUIS MIGUEL ECHEGARAY: Thank you so much for having me on the show. I am such a big fan.

CHANG: Thank you for saying that. Well, just to start out, can you just lay out for our listeners, what exactly is the Euro 2020 championship?

ECHEGARAY: So basically, the European Championship is your World Cup equivalent of the European competition. So all the major European nations that qualify to the tournament - just like at the World Cup, you have to qualify - they are now a tournament. And because of the pandemic, obviously some of these countries are not able to host anymore. But you still have the likes of London and Wembley, of course, Budapest as well, some areas as well in Italy, Rome, of course. So different nations will be hosting the tournament. So it's this intercontinental, European soccer extravaganza. It's the World Cup of Europe.

CHANG: All right, so let's get into the actual teams here. France, I understand, is coming in as World Cup champions. And if they win the tournament this year, they will be the first country to achieve what's called double-double championships twice. How well-positioned are they to do that this summer?

ECHEGARAY: Ailsa, this is a ridiculous squad. I mean...

CHANG: (Laughter).

ECHEGARAY: You know, if you're not a soccer fan, imagine the greatest Lakers team or the, you know, Patriots and times it by three. Their bench, their substitutes could probably get to the final by themselves. The issue with France is always going to be at the back, defensively. And also their group - they're in Group F. This is a tough group because it has France, Germany, Portugal as well. So getting through that one will be tricky, but France is most definitely, if not one of the favorites, the favorite to win it.

CHANG: And I hear that we're all watching Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal to break the all-time international goal scoring record. How does the rest of the team look?

ECHEGARAY: Portugal is not just about Cristiano Ronaldo. This is a very good team - by the way, the defending champions of the European Championships. They have a tremendous, tremendous squad. And they're kind of that team that just likes to - you know, there's that famous Mike Tyson quote - right? - where it says, everybody has a plan until you punch them in the face.

CHANG: (Laughter).

ECHEGARAY: Portugal is that Mike Tyson quote. They don't care who you are, how many talented players you have. They will punch you in the face and completely mess up your plans.

CHANG: And I'm hearing a lot of hype around an England comeback, especially from the last tournament when Iceland took them down by surprise. How do things look for England this time?

ECHEGARAY: Oh, Ailsa, England - it's coming home, as everybody knows. This is a tremendous squad, a lot of talent. The question is, can they answer that hype? Because, you know, they haven't won anything since the World Cup in 1966, so this is a moment for Gareth Southgate, the manager, and his tremendous, talented squad. The question with England will always be, do they have the guile? Do they have the resiliency to go all the way?

CHANG: How about any teams that could see a possible surprise run this year, like the next Iceland?

ECHEGARAY: Denmark is really intriguing. They are very good, very experienced. They're also tall as well. Like the majority...

CHANG: (Laughter).

ECHEGARAY: ...Of their players are, like, 6-foot-2. They're like giants. But I'm going to give you two more. One of them is Turkey. My God, this is such a fun team. If you watch the Eurovision Song Contest, by the way, you know how musically interesting these nations can be. They've done a promotional song for the European Championships. I recommend everybody to try and Google search it. But Turkey is young. They don't care who you are. And they're just a fun team. And the other one is Bonnie Scotland, laddie. Scotland, to me, is the fun team and really, really good. Scotland just give you this sort of, like, unity, this collective resiliency. They're like your blue-collar type of squad that - you know, they're just going to try and make the most of it. Those are teams that I'm really looking out for as dark horses.

CHANG: Luis Miguel Echegaray, host of CBS Sports's premium soccer podcast, "Que Golazo!," thank you so much for joining us today.

ECHEGARAY: Thank you so much. I had an absolute blast.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.