EURO 2020 begins tonight, and every Republic of Ireland fan will look on with envy at other nations at the tournament and think, ‘we should be there’.
At a time, when the nation could do with a pick me up, Ireland not at Euro 2020, being played in 2021, is just another reminder of how poor our national team really is at this time when you consider some of the countries at the tournament.
It’s particularly difficult for an Irish fan when you see our close neighbours Scotland, Wales and England in the competition.
Irish supporters might think that Stephen Kenny’s team are at a similar level to Wales and Scotland, but we have a lot of catching up to do to be as good as our Celtic neighbours.
Wales and Scotland can boast players like Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Andrew Robertson and Scott McTominay, players that are playing with the best teams in Europe.
Ireland’s big-name players are Matt Doherty and Seamus Coleman and the former struggled to establish himself in a very poor Tottenham team this season.
Although I believe Kenny should have done a much better job since taking over as Ireland manager, it’s not an easy task for the Irish manager when his squad consists mainly of players that play in the Championship in England.
The Boys in Green might not be at Euro 2020 but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be plenty of interest from the Irish fans.
Apart from the work buster, Irish fans will have interest in the countries I have already mentioned – Scotland, England and Wales. Scotland expectations will be low heading into the tournament and getting out of Group D will be an achievement for the Scotts.
Although Wales surprised everyone by reaching the semi-final of Euro 2016, Robert Page will have a difficult task on his hands to qualify from a group that contains Italy, Switzerland and Turkey.
England head into the tournament as joint-favourites with France and with the potential the majority of their games at Wembley, apart from the quarter-final, this could be the tournament that sees a nation that has underachieved since 1966 finally deliver a major trophy.
The Three Lions are in Group D alongside Scotland, Czech Republic and Croatia.
This is a country that continues to fail when it really matters. It doesn’t matter if you have the best squad, if the mindset of the team is that that cannot get over the line then the team won’t succeed.
England remind me of Manchester City, in terms that when the pressure is really on, they find a way to lose.
Everyone knows that for City, the Champions League is what matters, yet they have shown over the past several seasons that they fail to turn up in the big games.
The same can be said of England. Yes, they reached the semi-final of the World Cup 2018 but eventually lost to Croatia, a team that had inferior players to England.
To win a tournament, teams need to be good defensively, and can rely on their star player to produce that moment of magic when it matters. I don’t believe strikers will fear coming up against England. Jordon Pickford is an average goalkeeper.
If Harry Maguire is fit, he struggles against someone with pace, and John Stones' form has dipped heading into the tournament.
It’s a big tournament for Harry Kane. The Spurs striker has done little to suggest he is happy to remain with his club and potential buyers will be watching carefully to see if he can deliver in the big games. Something he is yet to do.
In his career to date, when it matters for club and country, Kane has failed. He was poor in the 2019 Champions League final, he barely touched the Carabao Cup final this year and although he was the top scorer in the last World Cup, three of his goals were against Panama and he missed a golden opportunity in the semi-final against Croatia.
France are favourites for me.
The return of Karim Benzema only strengthens the team that won the World Cup in 2018 and in N’Golo Kante, they have the best player in football at this time.