Euro 2020: Why England winning their group could spell disaster for Gareth Southgate's men

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The format of the Euros isn't going to win awards for simplicity.

Football fans had become used to the straightforward 16-team model that had been used all the way up to Euro 2012 with the top two in four groups going straight into the quarter-finals.

However, UEFA's decision to broaden the competition to 24 nations means that we have a messy situation where finishing third in your group is more than likely good enough for survival.

Euro 2020 format

Besides, you only have to look at Portugal becoming European champions five years ago despite finishing third in their group with draws against Iceland, Austria and Hungary. Madness.

As such, there are plenty of supporters around the world who are familiarising themselves with the Euro 2020 format before things get messy towards the business end of the group stages.

And such is the madness amongst the Euro 2020 fixture schedule that it could actually be beneficial for England not to finish top of their group with Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic.

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Should England finish second?!?!

Yes, you did read that right because the official UEFA website outlines that the first-place team in Group D, which is where England reside, will face the runners-up from Group F in the round of 16.

Now, those familiar with their Euro 2020 wallchart will be acutely aware of the significance of that because Group F has been known as the 'Group of Death' in the run-up to the tournament.

That's because it holds both the European and world champions in Portugal and France as well as continental giants Germany, while poor old Hungary completes the quartet.

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As a result, England topping their group would likely mean that they would face one of Portugal, France or Germany, which many would suspect would lead to a premature elimination.

By contrast, if England finished second in Group D then they would face the favourable prospect of a clash with the runners-up of Group E, which features Spain, Poland, Sweden and Slovakia.

With Las Rojas tipped by many to top Group E, England would most likely face one of the latter trio, which is a far, far simpler prospect than facing Germany, Portugal or France in the same round.

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So, the moral of the story is that England will face the runner-up from another group if they finish either first or second in their group, but Group E has far less quality than the 'Group of Death'.

And with Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson only going to get fitter at the summer progresses, better equipping England for the biggest teams, it could have a massive bearing on their chances of winning the whole thing.

The Wembley catch

But there is a catch. If England finish top of their group, then they are guaranteed to play their round of 16 clash at Wembley Stadium, whereas second-place would see them fly out to Copenhagen.

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With limited crowds in place, it remains to be seen just how much or little of an advantage playing under the Wembley arch would have, but it's certainly a point that's worth bearing in mind.

And it's also worth bearing in mind that if England want to go all the way this summer then they must be prepared to beat the best teams in the continent whenever their paths might cross.

But you only have to look at the 2018 FIFA World Cup to see that finishing second in your group can often be beneficial in terms of going further in the tournament than you otherwise might have done.

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