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David Meyler: Unbeaten in 27 matches, Mancini's Italy can go all the way at Euro 2020

The ex-Ireland midfielder takes you through his predictions for the European Championship along with six picks for William Hill’s ‘Free or 4′ game.

EX-IRELAND INTERNATIONAL David Meyler is The42′s football columnist for this season.

Every Friday, the former Hull City and Sunderland midfielder will give expert insight and his predictions ahead of the weekend’s action, alongside the latest William Hill prices.

In his latest column, Meyler gives us his thoughts and predictions for Euro 2020, which kicks off this evening.

Meyler WH banner

I thought Ireland did well against Hungary in midweek. Stephen Kenny’s side put in a good performance and looked a lot more assured as a team. 

It was encouraging to see Shane Duffy back playing and the displays of our two young goalkeepers — Gavin Bazunu and Caoimhin Kelleher — suggested that we should be well set in that position for many years to come. 

Ultimately, however, the lads are off on holidays now while Hungary get ready for the Euros. Not qualifying will hurt them, especially when you consider the manner in which Ireland lost their play-off to Slovakia, but hopefully this young team are on the start of a journey that eventually takes them to a major tournament. 

As a football fan, I’m looking forward to sitting down to watch the European Championship over this next month and my columns will be focusing on that. 

Here are some predictions before a ball is kicked:

Euro 2020 winners

italy-v-czech-republic-international-friendly I'm backing Italy. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

I have a funny feeling that this could be Italy’s year. 

Few people are looking past current world champions France, and that’s understandable, but you need a lot of things to go your way to win a competition like this. 

England, along with Portugal, have one of the most stacked squads around but they will need Harry Kane to stay fit, while there are still questions marks over the defence — particularly with Harry Maguire initially missing. Then you also wonder if Gareth Southgate can get the best out of his array of attacking talent. 

The Azzurri are on a 27-game unbeaten run stretching back to September 2018, when they lost to 1-0 to European champions Portugal in the Nations League. They haven’t conceded a single goal in their last eight matches. 

Old heads Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, with 209 international caps between them, are likely to be at the heart of their defence and let’s not forget Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal. Still only 22 years of age, he has already made 251 appearances for AC Milan and is set to join Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer. 

They have a strong midfield made up of Chelsea conductor Jorginho, Inter Milan’s Nicolo Barella, who was named Serie A midfielder of the year, and the brilliant Marco Verratti of PSG — although he may miss the early group games through injury. 

In attack, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne are are likely to start alongside either Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi or exciting Juventus winger Federico Chiesa.  

Roberto Mancini is arguably one of the top managers in the tournament, having had success at Inter Milan and Manchester City.

They may not have any superstars of past generations but his team looks like a tight-knit unit and I wouldn’t be shocked if they surprised a few by adding to their one European Championship victory in 1968.

Dark horses 

denmark-bosnia-and-herzegovina Denmark star Christian Eriksen. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

It pains me to say it given my previous experiences facing the Danes, but they could make a significant impact. 

Denmark have a really well-balanced squad that has been together for a number of years and there is loads of experience in there. 

Christian Eriksen is still their main man, but you’ve got Kasper Schmeichel in goal, Simon Kjaer and Andreas Christensen at centre-half, hard-working midfielders in Thomas Delaney and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and decent options up front such as Yussuf Poulsen and Martin Braithwaite.

Player to watch  

imago-20210608 Benzema back in the French shirt. Source: Imago/PA Images

He’s far from an unknown rising star that I’m tipping to have a breakout tournament, but from a personal point of view, I am very excited to see what Karim Benzema can bring to the French team now his international exile has ended. 

Didier Deschamps has decided to call up the Real Madrid forward, still one of the top finishers in world football, five years on from dropping him due to the sex tape blackmail allegations involving team-mate Mathieu Valbuena. 

The French won the 2018 World Cup with Olivier Giroud leading the line, despite the fact that he didn’t score one goal in Russia. Benzema is undoubtedly an upgrade so it will be interesting to the progress of the pre-tournament favourites. 

Top scorer

italy-v-czech-republic-international-friendly Italy striker Ciro Immobile. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Having put my support behind Italy, I’m going to follow through by picking one of their players to finish as the tournament’s top goalscorer. 

Ciro Immobile has 150 goals in 219 appearances for Lazio and the 31-year-old is coming into the Euros on the back of a season that saw him score 20 times in Serie A and five more in the Champions League. 

13 goals in 46 international caps is not a remarkable return, but stranger things have happened.

Free or 4

With William Hill, you can win £200 of free bets by picking six games from the Euro 2020 group stages that exactly three or four goals are scored in. It’s free to play and you can read all the details here

David’s six picks: 

  • Wales v Switzerland
  • Denmark v Finland
  • Belgium v Russia 
  • Netherlands v Ukraine
  • France v Germany
  • Spain v Sweden 

William Hill odds above correct at the time of writing. New online customers get €50 in free bets when they bet €10 with William Hill. Just use the promo code EUR50. For full details and all the latest prices, visit williamhill.com. 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more information, see gamblingtherapy.org       

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