Look to Belgium for your Euro 2020 Player of the Tournament pick

Lukaku the focal point for a side blessed with creative talent, but it may pay to look to his suppliers.

The Euros kick off a year late on Friday with Turkey taking on Italy in Rome.

The extra 12 months has given some young players the chance to emerge, while for others, the autumn of their careers are now taking on a much wintrier feel.

A COVID-shortened pre-season and a hectic end to the current campaign will make squad rotation key when it comes to navigating the 24-team tournament.

Planet Sport casts an eye over the Player of the Tournament betting and highlights one or two players who might be worth some interest.

Previous tournaments

In five of the last six European Championships the Player of the Tournament has come from the winning side.

In 1996, it was Matthias Sammer after Germany had broken English hearts on the way to defeating the Czech Republic in the final.

Zinedine Zidane took the award in 2000 after France's triumph, while Greece captain Theodoros Zagarakis lifted it in 2004 after his side's unlikely underdog success.

Spain's back-to-back wins saw Xavi (2004) and Andres Iniesta (2008) crowned, with Antoine Griezmann's 2016 Player of the Tournament coming despite France losing out to Portugal in the final.

Griezmann's success is even more of an outlier when you consider UEFA's unofficial players of the tournament at the 1984, 1988 and 1992 finals, Michel Platini (France), Marco van Basten (Netherlands) and Peter Schmeichel (Denmark) all represented the champions.

Tournament betting

It therefore makes sense to look to a side who can win the tournament before selecting the Player of the Tournament.

The tournament is not averse to shocks, as 80/1 shots Greece proved in 2004. Denmark also went from failing to qualify to winning the Championships in 1992, while Portugal were as big as 20/1 for 2016.

However, Germany in 1996 (5/1), France in 2000 (6/1) and Spain in 2008 (7/1) and 2012 (5/2) were all among the leading contenders.

England are disputing favouritism with World champions France and have a clear Wembley-based path marked out to the final should they win their group - the quarter-final is the only game they wouldn't have to play on home soil.

Belgium, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Italy and Netherlands follow in the betting before a leap to the next best, Denmark, who can be backed at 28/1.

So, it would make sense to concentrate on the first eight sides in the betting when looking for potential selections.

England

Qualifying group wins continue to come easily but they struggle to translate that success into major tournaments as they buckle under the weight of expectation.

Home advantage has added to the air of optimism which accompanies their entry into a major tournament - England have lost just twice at home since spring 2016.

Harry Kane (16/1 BetVictor)

Thirty-four goals in 54 games for the Three Lions and the 2018 World Cup Golden Boot winner underline his pedigree. The Tottenham striker is a definite starter for Gareth Southgate's side and despite the goals at international level having dried up somewhat, he is still at the heart of everything England do going forward.

Phil Foden (33/1 Bet365)

The Manchester City midfielder has been handled beautifully by Pep Guardiola and comes into the tournament on the back of a memorable treble - even if City did miss out in the Champions League final to Chelsea. Still only 20, however, it would be some achievement for the youngster to carry England all the way to a first trophy in 55 years.

Mason Mount (33/1 general)

Was in inspirational form as Chelsea shrugged off the departure of Frank Lampard and embraced the Thomas Tuchel way to win the Champions League. Scored the vital second in their second-leg win over Real Madrid in the semi-final and looks set to play a key role for England.

Jack Grealish (40/1 general)

The sort of player who could certainly win a tournament for you. The sort of player who could break down in training before the tournament kicks off. There are no doubting the Aston Villa midfielder's mercurial talents but does Southgate trust him enough to give him the freedom to do his stuff? The fact that Kalvin Phillips is a shorter price to start for England against Croatia than Grealish probably answers that question.

Raheem Sterling (80/1 Unibet)

Has struggled for game-time with Man City and is now no longer considered a guaranteed starter for England. Jack Grealish has pressed his claims in the warm-ups and Southgate has an embarrassment of riches in the forward positions. There is no doubt an on-fire Sterling could light up a tournament. But can he regain his confidence when it matters?

Jadon Sancho (80/1 Unibet)

Emerged in a blaze of glory and was the subject of a failed chase by Manchester United last summer. Injuries have hampered his current campaign and have led to Borussia Dortmund reportedly lowering their asking price for him. He has got form, though, having been named Player of the Tournament at the UEFA Under-17 European Championship.

Marcus Rashford (80/1 Unibet)

His emergence as an unlikely humanitarian is threatening to overshadow his soccer ability. Despite 11 goals and nine assists for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side in 2020/21, doubts about his fitness also persist. A tepid display in the Europa League final didn't inspire confidence, while a penalty in the win over Romania could not disguise the fact that he looks to have gone off the boil.

Portugal

Arguably a better side than the one that won the tournament in 2016, they are also the reigning Nations League champions.

No longer solely reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo, they have talent across the side. However, the mercurial Juve striker remains the focal point of their attack. At 36, this could be his last chance to shine on the international stage.

However, only Spain, in 2012, have successfully defended the Euros.

Cristiano Ronaldo (20/1 Sky Bet)

Portugal's most-capped player and all-time top scorer has, incredibly, never scored in the knockout stages of a World Cup. He has fared little better in the knockout stages of the Euros, netting just three times.

Comes into the tournament on the back of a disappointing campaign at club level, with Juventus only just scraping a top-four spot in Serie A.

Nevertheless, he still netted 29 goals, five clear of nearest rival Romelu Lukaku.

At 36, it would be some swansong if he was to lead Portugal to a second Euros.

Bruno Fernandes (40/1 Unibet)

Fernandes may be the man who makes Manchester United tick but at international level he is not an automatic choice in a stacked midfield and has as many yellow cards as assists to his name - four.

With a certain Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of him in the dead-ball pecking order, his 28 games for Portugal have only yielded two goals.

Definitely priced on club form.

Ruben Dias (33/1 general)

There were some eyebrows raised when Manchester City splashed out £65million on the centre-back last summer. However, Dias has proved a snip, with the 24-year-old transforming City's backline and his fellow defenders beyond recognition.

Surprisingly, Dias also tops the Premier League for most passes this season.

Diogo Jota (80/1 bet365)

Despite being out for almost three months with a knee injury, Jota has enjoyed a fine debut season at Liverpool, scoring nine goals in 18 Premier League appearances.

Returned to the Portugal side in March, scoring both goals in a 2-2 draw with Serbia and followed up with another goal in the win over Luxembourg.

France

Have a strong spine in Raphael Varane, N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, allied to the attacking instincts of Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud and reigning Player of the Tournament Antoine Griezmann.

Defensively sound, with creativity to burn, the only worry is the strength of their group, with Germany and Portugal also in Group F.

However, they come into the tournament as world champions and will be desperate to make amends for 2016's final defeat to Portugal.

Kylian Mbappe (7/1 via Paddy Power)

It would surely signal a changing of the guard at the top of world soccer should the Paris Saint-Germain attacker justify his favouritism and take the Player of the Tournament crown.

Mbappe shone at the World Cup receiving the Best Young Player Award. However, he only scored three goals in qualifying and went missing in the Champions League semi-final first leg against Manchester City before sitting out the second leg with a calf injury.

Antoine Griezmann (14/1)

Griezmann picked up a Player of the Tournament/Golden Boot double in 2016 despite France missing out on the top prize. Six goals including two in the semi-final against Germany earned him the accolades and he remains an integral part of France's attack, scoring three and setting up seven in qualifying.

Paul Pogba (25/1)

France manager Didier Deschamps is reportedly considering utilising Pogba in the wide left role which has been behind his renaissance at Manchester United.

The first ever United player to score in a World Cup final, many felt it should have been Pogba and not Griezmann who picked up the man-of-the-match award. Has to be considered a lively choice.

Belgium

Belgium were favourites for the tournament in 2020 but there is a sense that age might be catching up with them, especially defensively.

Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld are not the imposing figures of old, while Eden Hazard is struggling to recapture his Chelsea form at Real Madrid.

Roberto Martinez' side have trailed in five of their last 11 games, with a 1-1 draw with Czech Republic in March further dampening expectations.

But what they have got in them is goals - 16 in their last four outings - and a striker in form.

Romelu Lukaku has netted 36 in his last 31 internationals and 21 in 33 Serie A games for Inter.

Kevin De Bruyne (9/1 via Paddy Power)

The Manchester City schemer has been nursed through the season but still remains a class act. Five goals and 11 assists in 24 games show his influence remains undiminished for the Premier League champions.

Given a licence to roam by Belgium, the 29-year-old is at the peak of his powers and has a hand in an incredible 59 goals (21 goals, 38 assists) in his 80 international appearances.

Romelu Lukaku (25/1)

Lukaku showed Zlatan Ibrahimovic who was the King of Milan by firing Inter to the Serie A title with 21 goals and an often ignored 10 assists.

The cream of Europe are now circling for the striker who, despite seemingly having been around for years, is still only 28.

A prolific Euros would have them having to dig deeper into their pockets to land the powerful forward.

Eden Hazard (25/1)

Comes into the Euros on the back of an injury ravaged campaign for Real Madrid which has seen his market value tumble and talk of the La Liga side wanting to get rid.

However, a goal and an assist in his last two league outings are reasons for optimism, if not for Madrid fans then for supporters of Belgium.

A fit and firing Hazard has all the attributes to carry a country to tournament success.

Spain

Loaded with talent and with a fluid front three all capable of goals, Spain are the tournament's great enigma.

Will we get the side who thrashed Germany 6-0 in November and breezed through their qualifying group, scoring 31 goals in the process?

Or will it be the Spain who bowed out to the hosts in the round-of-16 in Russia and lost to Ukraine in October?

Alvaro Morata (40/1 via Paddy Power)

Has 19 goals in 39 caps appearances for his country and netted three times in four appearances at Euro 2016

He is enjoying a profitable campaign at Juventus with 18 goals in 41 matches and will have a point to prove after missing out on Spain's World Cup squad in 2018.

Netherlands

Have been handed an enticing group - they face Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia - and possess a good blend of youth and experience.

The fitness of Virgil van Dijk has overshadowed their build-up, however.

The Liverpool midfielder has been out since October and though noises from the Netherlands camp were positive, Van Dijk has ruled himself out, saying he needs to continue his rehabilitation through the summer.

Announcement of his withdrawal quickly saw Netherlands' odds drift from 10/1 to 12/1.

Gio Wijnaldum (40/1 via Paddy Power)

Does the hard yards for Netherlands but still has an impressive 22 goals in 73 appearances for the Oranje.

With his contract at Liverpool set to end in the summer, speculation has been rife about the future of the 30-year-old, with Bayern Munich the latest club linked.

Would be a dagger in the heart of Liverpool fans should he shine at the Euros before bidding farewell to Anfield.

Germany

Coach Joachim Low will be bowing out after the Euros following 15 years at the helm. Led Germany to World Cup glory in 2014 but a group stage exit at Russia in 2018 hardly inspires confidence, especially as they line up against France and Portugal.

They say you can never write off Germany but after a 6-0 defeat to Spain in November and a 2-1 defeat to North Macedonia last time out, the pens are at the ready.

Kai Havertz (40/1 via Paddy Power)

The false nine has flattered to deceive for Chelsea this season. The 21-year-old has four goals to his name, including two in the recent win over Fulham.

However, a glaring miss against Arsenal showed that for all the neat touches, he lacks a killer instinct in front of goal.

Nevertheless, two assists for Germany in their draw with Turkey in October show he is capable of influencing games at international level.

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Toni Kroos (40/1)

The 31-year-old is one of the few survivors from the 2014 World Cup-winning squad.

Dictates the pace of Germany's transitions and boasts 17 goals and 19 assists from 101 internationals.

Will go into the tournament relatively fresh having been afforded a COVID-enforced break. Kroos looks set to miss Real Madrid's final three games of the season due to being in isolation, despite having tested negative for the virus.

Ilkay Gundogan (66/1)

Missed Germany's World Cup win in 2014 and their Euro semi-final run in 2016 due to injuries and will be keen to make the most of his opportunity this summer.

Has plundered 12 goals in 26 appearances for Manchester City to help lead them to the Premier League title, with Pep Guardiola's side having won 20 of the fixtures he has been involved in.

Italy

Have won all ten of their group games and haven't lost since September 2018. Strong defensive foundations are at the root of their impressive form. Indeed, they have only conceded one goal in their last nine matches.

However, a failure to qualify for Russia in 2018 has seen their status as one of world soccer's big-hitters diminish. Nations League draws against Netherlands, Poland and Bosnia also suggest they may not quite be the finished article.

Ciro Immobile (50/1 via Paddy Power)

Lazio's all-time leading goalscorer, Immobile would perhaps have been a much shorter price had this tournament taken place as scheduled in 2020. Then he would have been coming into it on the back of a stellar season which saw him notch a record 36 Serie A goals.

Now 31, Immobile still has a very creditable 20 to his name for the 2020/21 campaign.

He is less prolific at international level, however, with 12 goals in 45 appearances and has yet to score at a major tournament.

Verdict

England just aren't going to win it, are they? They had their chance at the World Cup in 2018 and blew it. In 50 years, England fans will still be talking about where they were when Kieran Trippier scored that free-kick against Croatia (I was in the kitchen).

Roberto Mancini's Italy have a relatively easy group but remain untested against quality opposition - despite their impressive run, they still lie seventh in the FIFA rankings.

Similarly, Netherlands have been dealt a great hand, with Austria (90/1), Ukraine (100/1) and North Macedonia (400/1) completing their group.

But it is not even a given that they will come through that with Frank De Boer in charge.

"The worst manager in the history of the Premier League," according to Jose Mourinho. And, following a 4-2 defeat to Turkey he is going some way to add 'and Netherlands' to that claim.

Spain could win it and have to be considered a dark horse (if you can have dark horses at the relatively stingy odds of 13/2).

However, memories of their tame World Cup exit to Russia in 2018 loom large.

There will be no easing into the tournament for Germany, France and Portugal. With the four best third-place teams qualifying for the knockout stages, all three should survive a loaded group. However, they will need to top the standings to avoid a group winner in the second round.

Otherwise, Belgium could lie in wait.

Roberto Martinez's side should breeze their group and will be motivated by the fact that this is the last chance of a major honour for their golden generation.

With Lukaku high on confidence following Inter's Serie A title and Kevin De Bruyne providing the ammunition from midfield, their ageing defence may be allowed one final hurrah.

Betting tip

While a glut of goals may be enough to give Belgium the trophy, they might not be enough to earn Lukaku the Player of the Tournament.

With creators rather than finishers preferred in four of the last five editions of the tournament, Kevin De Bruyne, at 9/1, looks a great proposition to be named best player.

* All odds correct at time of publication