Wednesday afternoon marked the conclusion of the group stage at the 2020 European Championships, and the 16-team bracket has been finalized.
Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands were the only nations to take nine points from the opening stage, while pre-tournament odds-on favorite France only managed five in the “group of death.”
Two lucky teams will play four more matches en route to the final, and the rest are guaranteed at least one more outing.
EURO 2020 Golden Boot Current Leaders and Odds
Ronaldo led all players with five goals in the first three matches, scoring in every game and converting three opportunities at the penalty spot. Ronaldo’s Portugal snuck into knockout play as a third-place team, performing well against France and Hungary but dropping a disappointing result to the second-place Germans. His brace Wednesday made him the joint-highest international goal-scorer of all time, and he does not look keen on slowing down.
Ronaldo has been given -140 odds on FanDuel to finish with the most goals in his quest to defend his country’s gold medal at the 2016 Euros. Unfortunately, Portugal will have to face a dangerous team in Belgium in its first game of the knockout— this could spell an early end for his side if they are not careful.
Ronaldo has proven that he can score from open play and on penalties, and is also a capable free-kick taker. Given his lead over the field, he is deserving of the favorable odds.
The burly striker concluded his opening matches with three goals for an impressive Belgian side that looks like they could be round for a while. Although he is the target man on Belgium’s front line, he has been given +500 odds due to his goal deficit behind Ronaldo.
Coming off of a fantastic season at Inter Milan, Lukaku was the oddsmakers’ presumptive Golden Boot winner heading into the tournament; he may currently be sitting in second place, but he has looked extremely sharp thus far. Lukaku is the focal point of Belgium’s “Golden Generation,” and with playmaking midfielder Kevin De Bruyne returning from injury, Lukaku will be provided with all of the service that he could ask for.
A first-round matchup with Portugal is no easy attack, but if they allowed a relatively lifeless German squad to score four goals against them, Belgium’s fierce attack should be able to sneak a few into the net.
Italy has been the surprise of the tournament thus far, having extended their undefeated streak to 31 games and played like the future tournament winners despite low expectations. Roberto Mancini’s side has skipped the “rebuilding” phase they were thought to be in, having brought in a plethora of new players, are 3-0 in Euro 2020, and have not conceded a goal.
A major reason that Italy has been so successful is because of Ciro Immobile, Italy’s out-and-out striker. Immobile has scored two goals and been extremely involved in the Italians build-up play and is capable of scoring in a variety of situations. He has been given +1600 odds to win the Golden Boot because of how far behind Ronaldo he is, but if Italy can reach the final, he will have enough chances to catch up.
Georgino Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay
Both members of the Dutch National Team have been given +1800 odds to win the Golden Boot, with Wijnaldum currently leading Depay in the race 3-2. The Netherlands has scored more goals (eight) than any other team in the competition and look lethal going forward.
Depay plays as a striker and Wijnaldum a box-to-box midfielder, meaning that Depay should get more opportunities to score than his teammate and captain; however, Wijnaldum has scored seven times in his last nine international appearances and has been up to his old ways so far.
The Netherlands has an easy matchup against the Czech Republic to start the bracket and should reach the quarterfinal at the minimum.
Schick opened his account with a brace against Scotland that included a sensational halfway line goal and scored a third against Croatia. Schick’s potential was well-reflected in a $29.15 million move from AS Roma to Bayer Leverkusen last fall, though this type of start was extremely unexpected. At +2900 odds, Schick would provide quite the return if he can top the charts when the tournament concludes.
Unfortunately for Schick, the Czech Republic are not very good, and it is unlikely that he will play enough matches to close the gap on Ronaldo, and outperform the field. He has done a tremendous job already by leading the Czechs out of the group stage, but there should be little-to-no expectations for him for the rest of the tournament.
I believe that Belgium will beat Portugal and advance to at least the semifinal, which would give Lukaku three games to bag two goals unless Ronaldo scores in a swan song against the Belgians.
Belgium will not get as far as I expect them to without more goals from Lukaku, and I trust him to deliver. He has scored 23 goals in his last 20 games in the yellow and red, and he will not disappoint.
Put your money on Lukaku if you want to turn a profit— he will deliver, no questions asked.
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Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.