One year later
Postponing UEFA EURO 2020 until next summer may be disappointing for fans and players, but it was ultimately the only decision. Now national teams and coaches have the unique opportunity of planning for two major tournaments back to back, with the World Cup taking place the following year in Qatar. So what will the extra year mean for the nations that have already qualified?
Over the past 18 months, England has played the youngest group of players among all 20 qualified nations with an average age of 25.6, followed by Turkey (26.5) and Germany (26.6). When it comes to the youngest players, only Wales had given more minutes to under-21 players than England. Teenagers Greenwood, Saka, Williams and Foden have all played over 1000 minutes for their clubs this season and are likely to benefit from the rescheduling. According to our Player Contribution model, England has 8 of the top 25 teenagers in the world, more than any other country.
Despite missing out on the last two major international tournaments, the Netherlands have been on an upward trajectory and are now rated as the best European side according to our models. Their leader, Virgil van Dijk, will still be at the peak of his powers next summer and those around him, including Frenkie de Jong, van de Beek and de Ligt will only have improved and gained more experience through the course of the year. The Netherlands will benefit from the extra year given their young squad and hopefully be able to show that they’ve learned from previous lessons.
Meanwhile, Sweden and Croatia are most likely to be in a period of transition, with the tournament delay causing more uncertainty about performance. Both countries’ most utilised or best players are generally over the age of 30, though Sweden are beginning to blood youngsters: only four qualifying countries have given under-21s more places in their matchday squads in the last 18 months. Croatia’s Modrić, Perišić and Rakitić will have an average age of 33.3; our models suggest next year may be the time to bring in 22-year-old Omoro and 21-year-old Bistrović from the under-21 squad.
Finally, the postponement to 2021 increases the burden on Belgium’s ageing golden generation, especially at the back. They’ve used the oldest defence over the last 18 months at 30.2-years-old, and their most prominent centre backs Alderweireld and Vertonghen will be 32 & 34 respectively. Under-21 players played a total of 680 mins for Belgium over the last 12 months, of which 78% were made by one player, Youri Tielemans.
The principles applied by nations such as England and Germany over the last 5 years have meant their squad profiles are in a place to cope with the unprecedented rescheduling of the Euros to 2021. Unfortunately, some nations will be in disadvantaged positions and face some challenging decisions as a result. Despite this, the next 15 months should be seen as an opportunity for nations to improve their weaknesses and begin implementing succession plans for the Euros and the 2022 World Cup.