Steven Caldwell Breakdown: Robert Lewandowski
From a plot perspective, the Euro schedule is nicely drawn. You begin with a couple of days of new-tournament honeymoon vibes and excitement, then you get to the good stuff. Here are the 10 group-stage matches that pack either the most intrigue or the most importance.
- June 13: Croatia at England. Per Caesars, England is the No. 2 favorite to win behind France. Their first match is a doozy, however, against a Croatia squad that is advancing in age but still features a lot of the talent that brought them to the World Cup finals -- and past England in the semifinals -- three years ago.
- June 13: Ukraine at Netherlands. We'll find out a lot of what we need to know about the Dutch against a Ukraine squad made up primarily of Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk players, plus a couple of Premier Leaguers (Man City defender Oleksandr Zinchenko, West Ham forward Andriy Yarmolenko) for good measure.
- June 15: France at Germany. Group F is the Group of Chaos, featuring both the past two World Cup champions (France and Germany) and the defending Euros champ (Portugal). Germany has been the shakiest of the three, but they get to play all their matches in Munich's Allianz Arena.
- June 16: Switzerland at Italy. Switzerland is loaded with talent from Europe's elite leagues. If this turns out to be a bumpy road for the Italians, favorites in Group A, this is about when things might go awry.
- June 17: Belgium at Denmark. Belgium might be the best team in Group B, but the home team here could be the second best. Might home-field advantage and a sturdy midfield give the Danes an unexpected edge?
- June 17: Austria at Netherlands. Austria's squad is loaded with talent from Europe's best clubs. If Ukraine can't get to the Dutch, it's possible that Alaba, Sabitzer, Baumgartner & Co. still could.
- June 18: Scotland at England. English fans know exactly how talented their team is, but the sense of "waiting for the other shoe to drop" paranoia could be at a high approaching this rivalry match against Robertson, Tierney and the neighbors up north.
- June 19: Portugal at Germany. If we assume that France advances from Group F -- not a given, but they are the overall favorites -- then this becomes maybe the biggest match of the group stage, an eliminator between two of the most talented teams in the entire world.
- June 23: Sweden vs. Poland. Spain got what appears to be an easy draw in Group E, but this match could be another eliminator for second place, not to mention a showcase game for Poland's Robert Lewandowski and Sweden's burgeoning stars (Dejan Kulusevski, Alexander Isak) in attack.
- June 23: France vs. Portugal. Few international matches are capable of fielding more pure talent among its 22 competitors than this one. We don't yet know the stakes -- Group F might be all sewn up, and it very much might not -- but this one will please the eye regardless.