LYON, FRANCE - JULY 06: Gareth Bale of Wales and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal embrace after the UEFA EURO 2016 semi final match between Portugal and Wales at Stade des Lumieres on July 6, 2016 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

The European Championships are here after a year's delay, and the excitement is palpable worldwide.

Every four years, like the World Cup, patriotism and hope are stirred up across Europe as each nation dreams of the ultimate glory and bragging rights across the continent.

Using one of the many tournament predictors across the inter-webs, we here at Zero Striker have put in our two cents on who we believe will lift the trophy come the competition's end.

In case you have forgotten, here are the groups for the tournament:

Group A

Italy

Switzerland

Turkey

Wales

Group B

Belgium

Denmark

Finland

Russia

Group C

Austria

Netherlands

North Macedonia

Ukraine

Group D 

Croatia

Czech Republic

England

Scotland

Group E

Poland

Slovakia

Spain

Sweden

Group F

France

Germany

Hungary

Portugal

 

With this, here is how the tournament will pan out....

 

Group stages

 

Group A

First place: Italy

Despite being well below standard for much of recent memory, Italy have got an excellent crop of youngsters coming through. Players such as Nicolo Barella, Giacomo Raspadori, Alessandro Bastoni, Federico Chiesa and Manuel Locatelli are all 24 or under and, alongside the more established of Italians such as Marco Verratti, Giorgio Chiellini and Jorginho, will be a huge threat. Everything is pointing in the direction of a return to the top for Italy, and expect for them to make a splash at this tournament, starting by topping their group.

Second place: Turkey

After dropping out at the group stages in 2016, Turkey will be aiming for a better tournament this time and it's looking like they will. With a steadfast defence lead by Leicester City's Caglar Soyuncu and Merih Demiral of Juventus, paired with the top scorer for Ligue 1 champions Lille Burak Yilmaz, Turkey have all the necessary tools to overcome the sides below them and should give the Italians a good run for their money. Barring a spirited performance from their opposition, Turkey should be progressing in this group.

Third place: Wales

Following their incredible maiden Euros where they topped their group and reached the semis only to be defeated by Portugal, Wales have all the ingredients to be the surprise package again. Lead by Gareth Bale in attack, this Welsh side is one of the most solid in recent memory.

A midfield containing Juventus star Aaron Ramsey and ex-Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen in tandem with a backline consisting of Bale's Spurs teammate Ben Davies and Chelsea youngster Ethan Ampadu will be enough to see the Dragons progress should they do well enough in relation to other third-placed teams.

Fourth place: Switzerland

Switzerland were knocked out in the round of 16 in 2016, and at the World Cup in 2018 met the same fate as they were defeated by the Swedes 1-0 in St. Petersburg.

The fact of the matter is that the squad isn't exactly bursting with young exciting stars, and besides Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri - who didn't have many minutes last season under Klopp - the Swiss don't have a plethora of attacking talent and seldom create chances.

It could prove fruitful that they have a solid backline with Manuel Akanji, Kevin Mbabu and Ricardo Rodriguez, especially in a tournament where many are predicted to sit back and be defensive, but their attack could mean that they cannot strike the killer blow and gather the necessary points to progress.

 

Group B

First place: Belgium

FIFA's number one ranked side in the Red Devils are a scary prospect at this year's tournament, and are, as their ranking suggests, one of the best teams there is.

Their front-line of Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens, midfield of Youri Tielemans and Kevin De Bruyne and their defence with ageing stars in Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are all areas brimming with class.

Whilst they almost certainly will top their group, their age could start to show should they come up against teams that are around equal to them. Time will tell whether their slow defence will haunt them, but for now we have no choice but to have them down as winning their group.

Second place: Denmark

The Danes are a resolute side, and contain some great talent all over the pitch. Leiceister's Kasper Schmeichel in goal, Christian Eriksen in midfield and a pacey front-line of Martin Braithwaite and Youssef Poulsen should be enough for Kasper Hjulmand's side to progress to the knockouts.

At a tournament where defence is key, captain Simon Kjaer alongside Chelsea's Andreas Christiansen will have to be on point to make sure they stay watertight against their opponents.

All in all, Denmark should be able to outlast Russia and Finland, but will likely stumble against Belgium, meaning a second-placed finish is the most probable outcome.

Third place: Russia

2018 World Cup hosts Russia have had a bit of a hit and miss time since that tournament, with some of their dear stars only growing older and not a whole lot of great youth prospects coming through.

Midfielder Aleksandr Golovin is the team's best player and the side will rely on him for a bit of spark, however the rest of the starting 11 lacks creativity, with more of a hard-running, pressuring style seeming to be the route coach Stanislav Cherchesov is wanting to take.

Striker Artem Dzyuba will hopefully step up for the Russians, but it's hard to see them besting anyone apart from Finland. They could perhaps sneak through as one of the best finishing third-placed sides, but don't expect for them to do anything beyond that.

Fourth place: Finland

The Fins are tipped to be the whipping boys of this group, and for good measure. Besides goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky and prolific Norwich striker Teemu Pukki, Finland are starved of notable talent.

Their last few matches in the leadup to the tournament have left a lot to be desired, with losses to Estonia, Sweden and Switzerland leaving them down on confidence going into their first major tournament ever.

One thing you can't doubt with Finland is that they will just be happy to be taking part in the tournament. If they can't make a dent, then the experience of representing their country at the Euros will provide some solitude.

 

Group C

First place: Netherlands

Topping Group C should be Oranje, with their resurgence in recent times putting them back to the top of world football. After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and the 2016 Euros, the Dutch should be confident, even without captain Virgil van Dijk, that they can rock the boat at Euro 2020.

Their side is peppered with stars such as youngster Matthijs de Ligt, uncontracted midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, Barca prodigy Frenkie De Jong and the mercurial Memphis Depay, and should have no problem taking out this group cleanly. The knockout rounds are a different kettle of fish, but the Dutch faithful will just be happy to finally be back at a tournament.

Second place: Austria

The Austrians have the necessary tools to clear their group, however the knockouts could prove fruitless for Franco Foda's team. The ever useful David Alaba, Marcel Sabitzer and Marko Arnautovic are Austria's main stars and will be relied upon for leadership by the rest of their side.

Austria will hope to at least progress following their bitterly disappointing Euro 2016 campaign, which saw them crash out from a very, very winnable group of Hungary, Iceland and Portugal. Expect for them to beat the bottom two sides but hit a roadblock against the Dutch.

Third place: Ukraine

The Ukrainian side will be happy to be back at the Euros and will hope to make an impact this time following their disappointing 2016 tournament. West Ham's Andriy Yarmolenko and young gun Oleksandr Zinchenko are the side's two big stars, however expectations are low for the destiny of the side.

The team will be thrilled if they advance, however a third-placed finish won't be enough considering their counterparts in other groups will most likely be picking up more points in their matches.

Fourth place: Northern Macedonia

Northern Macedonia sent shockwaves through the footballing world as they toppled Germany in their World Cup qualifying match 2-1, however it's hard to see them replicating this throughout the tournament.

There will be massive scenes again if they manage to progress, and who knows what could happen in the knockout stages, as seen in the past with Iceland and Wales. Despite this optimism, odds are that they will finish bottom of the group and crash out, however we would love to be proved wrong.

 

Group D

First place: England

You'd be hard-pressed to go an hour on the internet without seeing an 'It's Coming Home' meme of some sort and English fans, no matter how cringe-worthy then can sometimes be, have every reason to be excited.

Their side is now star-studded, with the likes of Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Mason Mount elevating the Three Lions to new levels. However, there is still an inkling amongst opposition fans that England are still the same - prone to throwing it away and crashing out in emphatic style.

This year with the side they have, the Three Lions should top the group, and with an almost full Wembley behind them for a large chunk of the tournament, you'd be bold to count them out at any stage.

Second place: Croatia

The Croats have come along in leaps and bounds in recent times, notably going all the way to the World Cup final in 2018, losing to France 5-3 in the decider. There is no doubt that they do have the means to still cause a havoc, but their stars aren't getting any younger as the years wear on.

With superstar Luka Modric in midfield alongside Mateo Kovacic, as well as Ivan Perisic and Andrej Kramaric in attack, Croatia are still no slouch and will take some beating. Truth be told, they could top the group, but with the talent that England has in their ranks it's hard to see them snatching first place.

Third place: Scotland

Scotland have managed to make it to their first European Championships in over two decades, but do not expect for them to mess around now they're here. There is an aura around the Scots, similar to that of Iceland in 2016, meaning that anything could happen with the Tartan Army behind them.

Captain Andy Robertson, midfielders Scott McTominay and Billy Gilmour as well as Southampton striker Che Adams are the standouts for the Scots, but they do have a sound supporting cast that, with fans behind them, are capable of doing big things.

With this, Scotland will have a tough time against the sides around them, but should make it out of the group if they gather enough points.

Fourth place: Czech Republic

The Czechs are a nice side, and similar to many smaller teams at the Euros have the capacity to crash someone's party on their day. Their main man in Tomas Soucek as well as forward Patrik Schick can do damage, especially the former if we're going off his season with the Hammers.

However, with the hand they've been dealt, it's hard to see them going through in this group. It would take an almighty upset for them to progress, but stranger things have happened in recent times - rule them out at your own peril.

 

Group E

First place: Spain

The side who have won two of the last three tournaments are back, and will hope to improve on their 2016 knockout stage exit at the hands of Italy. The big talking point will be about how they will travel once they enter the round of 16 rather than how they will go in their group.

With a stacked midfield consisting of Thiago, Koke and Saul Niguez amongst others in tandem with the likes of Adama Traore and Ferran Torres in attack, the Spanish are a scary prospect at this year's tournament. Expect for them to crack on into the heart of the competition.

Second place: Poland

Poland will be happy to be back at the Euros again after their quarter-final exit in 2016 to eventual champions Portugal. All eyes will be on Robert Lewandowski who has had an incredible past couple of seasons with Bayern Munich, including a 41 goal campaign in 2020/21 which has consequently thrust him into Ballon D'or contention.

Relying on Lewandowski's brilliance could be a dangerous game for the Polish, but with the likes of Piotr Zielinksi and Mateusz Klich in midfield, things might not have to just be down to the striker's form. Poland should be fine to progress here, barring any major slip-ups to the teams below them of course.

Third place: Sweden

Sweden will be without national legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic for this tournament off the back of injury, and will instead have to rely on their younger players to take on attacking duties.

Alexander Isak will have a lot of responsibility on his shoulders as he is tipped to partner Marcus Berg in attack.  Further back, Leipzig's Emil Forsberg and Manchester United's Victor Lindelof will fulfil their necessary leadership duties in the hope they can guide their squad to the knockouts.

It'll be interesting to see whether they do enough to get to the knockouts, but if they pick up a point against Poland and beat Slovakia then it'll put them in good stead to progress.

Fourth place: Slovakia

Slovakia have had a mixed bag of performances over the past couple of years, and will be looking to make a surprise at this year's tournament.

The likes of Milan Skriniar and captain Marek Hamsik will be key for the Slovakians, however their lack of real depth will likely catch them out, especially against Spain and Poland.

Should they somehow pick up a win against Sweden and draw against Poland or Spain, then there is a chance they could progress. However, it is a big 'if', and all signs point towards Slovakia making a swift exit off the back of a tough group.

 

Group F 

First place: France

The French need no introduction, with their utterly stacked side and World Cup win in 2018 notorious around the globe. The likes of Mbappe, Griezmann, Benzema and Pogba are only a few of the plethora of stars this squad contains.

Lucky for fans, their group is full of incredible teams, which will make for extreme entertainment no matter what the match. However, France are definite favourites to win back-to-back major tournaments, and chances are they will start this campaign by topping their group

Second place: Portugal

Portugal, like France, are a star-studded side, with all facets of their lineup featuring one of the top three in the world in their respective positions - Ruben Dias at the back, Bruno Fernandes in midfield and Cristiano Ronaldo in attack.

Their depth too is scary, and have the power to win the whole thing like they did in 2016. This time, they aren't the underdogs so don't be surprised if they are lifting the trophy at the end.

Third place: Hungary

This is the boldest prediction here - little Hungary making it into third place and possibly progressing. For this to happen, they would have to at least draw a couple of their matches or claim a single victory, but they have a certain vibe about them that can't be explained.

Their main man, Dominik Szoboszlai, won't be present, but they do have a nice spine with Peter Gulacsi, Willi Orban and Adam Szalai to lean on. With Germany looking a bit suspect in recent times, do not be surprised if Hungary somehow snag third spot in this group.

Fourth place: Germany

The Germans haven't looked the part as of recent, with their famous 2018 World Cup exit at the hands of South Korea living large in their memories still.

The callup of Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels back to the team by Joachim Low bodes well for Die Mannschaft, but there is still a fair bit to be desired based off of their form over the past few years.

Putting them down the bottom is perhaps a bit harsh, and the Hungary prediction is rough, but it remains to be seen whether they can stick it to France or Portugal. If they're not last, they'll probably be third, with their performances against the aforementioned top sides determining their progression.

 

With the groups predicted, here are the four third-placed teams we believe will make it into the round of 16:

Wales (Group A)

Russia (Group B)

Scotland (Group D)

Hungary (Group F)

Now for the knockout rounds:

 

Round of 16

 

Belgium v Scotland

This would be an intriguing match for so many reasons, with the class and finesse of Belgium up against the hard-running Scotland. For football romantics, many would love nothing more than to see the spirited Scots come out on top, however if we're going on odds then the Belgians would have to take the cookies. Their quality in all areas of the pitch will be too much for Scotland and they should be able to snatch victory here, with Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku running riot.

Prediction: Belgium 3-1 Scotland

Italy v Austria

Italy back near their peak is so scary for so many reasons, and they will use this match to show the rest of the tournament that they're not to be meddled with. Expect for the likes of Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne to have the say in this one, with the steadfast defence of Austria finding the Italian attack too hot to handle as Gli Azzuri go through to the quarters.

Prediction: Italy 2-0 Austria

France v Russia 

This game should be an easy one for Les Bleus as they start to really hit their stride in the competition. Despite Russia making it out of the group, the likes of Mbappe, Benzema and co. will likely overwhelm their defence, piling on the misery with a 3-0 defeat. The likes of N'Golo Kante will snuff out any attacks and do a sound job at screening France's back four, making Russia's life miserable.

Prediction: France 3-0 Russia

Croatia v Poland

It'll be hard to separate these two, with both sides containing some superb players in their own rights. Robert Lewandowski will definitely be having a say in the outcome of this match, but the midfield quality of the Croatians might be all too much for the Polish, with the likes of Modric, Brozovic and Kovacic likely running the show in the middle of the park. However, stranger things have happened, and this game could very easily go the other way.

Prediction: Croatia 2-1 Poland

Spain v Wales

This Spanish side look dangerous, and should emerge victorious in this one. Despite Wales' attack in the form of Dan James, Gareth Bale and Kieffer Moore being very capable, the Spanish defence with the likes of Jordi Alba, Cesar Azpilicueta and the recently capped Frenchman-turned-Spaniard Aymeric Laporte will likely be able to deal with the Welsh threat easily. Expect Alvaro Morata and Ferran Torres to come up big in this one.

Prediction: Spain 2-0 Wales

England v Portugal

In a tournament that promised so much, the Three Lions have been cursed with the tough side of the draw, and with this will face their downfall early should our prediction come to fruition. The fact is, even with all their talent, Portugal are a team that simply are too good for the vast majority of teams. Their attack and defence are almost unparalleled in the quality they possess, and this will show as Cristiano Ronaldo rolls back the years to score a brace and get his team through.

Prediction: England 1-2 Portugal

Netherlands v Hungary

The Hungarian dream will ultimately come up short against the Netherlands, with the resurgent and resolute Dutch side keen to make up for time spent sitting at home watching the 2016 tournament. Memphis Depay is due for a huge competition ahead of his imminent move to Barcelona, whilst ex-Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum should embrace his increased attacking mandate the Netherlands side gives him, getting on the scoresheet in this encounter.

Prediction: Netherlands 3-1 Hungary

Turkey v Denmark

This one is a very tight one, but the Turkish defence will be the talking point of this one, as they should successfully stave off the attacking threat of the Danish to snatch a dogged win to send them through. Burak Yilmaz could be the key here for Turkey with his presence in front of goal being the difference, whilst Kasper Schmeichel should be a tough figure to score past.

Prediction: Turkey 1-0 Denmark

 

Quarter-finals

 

Belgium v Italy

This will be an arm-wrestle of an encounter considering the incredible talent both teams contain, but it'll be the Red Devils that prevail in this one. It's hard to see how Italy can gain possession and hurt Belgium when the likes of De Bruyne and Tielemans are spraying passes all over the field and keeping the ball firmly at their feet of the men in red. The age of the Belgium defence will show however, with the Italian front-line causing some headaches.

Prediction: Belgium 2-1 Italy

France v Croatia 

In a rematch of the 2018 World Cup final, these two countries will be pitted against each other once again, and just like last time Didier Deschamps' side should win this one easily. It's hard to see how the likes of Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida and co. can keep out the French attack with the insane amounts of pace and skill each player possess across their front-line. France to progress with relative ease.

Prediction: France 3-1 Croatia

Portugal v Spain 

The battle of the Iberian Peninsula will be an eye-catching one should it happen, but unlike the 2012 semi-finals, this one will swing the way of the Portuguese. Despite the resolute defence of Spain, Portugal's attack is extremely tricky to tie down. No matter who is starting up top, whether it be Ronaldo, Felix, Jota or Silva, Portugal have one of the most devastating attacks in world football and will flex their muscle in this match.

Prediction: Portugal 2-0 Spain 

Netherlands v Turkey

This is the match where the dam will break for Turkey and they will concede goals that will ultimately prove fatal. The Netherlands simply possess too much quality in areas of the pitch where Turkey do not, and it will show in this match. The Dutch midfield of Wijnaldum and De Jong should easily run the show, whilst Wout Weghorst up top, who had a stunner of a year with Wolfsburg, could make an impact should Depay fail.

Prediction: Netherlands 3-1 Turkey

Semi-finals

 

Belgium v France

The 2018 World Cup semi-final rematch between these two sides was an arm-wrestle, with Les Bleus getting the victory narrowly over the Belgians, and it seems like history will repeat itself in this encounter. Despite Belgium's best efforts, France's attack again will come up trumps, whilst their defence with the likes of Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe, Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard will prove themselves again to be able to successfully combat De Bruyne and co.

Prediction: Belgium 1-2 France

Portugal v Netherlands

Another sizzler of a matchup here, with both of these sides coming so far in the last few years. The Netherlands will be determined to complete their revival with some silverware, but it's simply too difficult to back anyone against this Portuguese side. As has been said time and time again, they just have way too much quality and are arguably the best team in the world. It'll be a narrow loss for the Netherlands, but it will do little to distract fans from the real progress they would have made.

Prediction Portugal 2-1 Netherlands 

 

Final 

 

France v Portugal

After meeting in the group and in the previous iteration's decider, it is suffice to say both Didier Deschamps and Fernando Santos will have all the information they need as they go into this one. Both are similar in many ways in the sheer quality they have in their ranks, and each possess players who can win the match off their own boot.

For Portugal, Ronaldo is the main man and will be looking to put his mark on this final as he has on so many other occasions. His supporting cast in Diogo Jota, Joao Felix and both the Silva's will be key to his performance, however they also have to be careful not to get in each other's ways if they're to come out on top.

In the French camp, the squad will have nothing but confidence from their 2018 World Cup win, and know that when they play to their full potential that they are unbeatable. Mbappe will be wanting to make a statement again by winning both the World Cup and Euros for his country at just 22 years of age, whilst his attacking partner Karim Benzema will want to put his exclusion from the squad in recent years at the back of his mind as he looks to deliver glory for France.

As said, the memory of the 2016 final between these two will be firmly at the front of their minds, especially for France. It's this memory that could be the deciding factor in this match with the French determined to avenge that loss and bring home the trophy.

It'll be one of the most hyped finals in recent memory, but we here at Striker believe it is France's turn to lift the trophy after the heartbreak of five years ago, but only by a narrow margin.

Prediction: France 3-2 Portugal (after extra time)

 

Player of the Tournament prediction: Kevin De Bruyne

Top scorer prediction: Karim Benzema