EUROPEAN FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW FRANCE 2016

The competition starts on the 10th June 2016

GROUPS

GROUP A

France, Switzerland, Romania, Albania

GROUP B

England, Russia , Slovakia, Wales

GROUP C

Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Northern Ireland

GROUP D

Spain, Croatia, Czech Republic, Turkey

GROUP E

Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Republic of Ireland

GROUP F

Portugal, Austria, Hungary, Iceland

 

GROUP A

FRANCE
Being the home nation France are expected to go a long way in the tournament and are the favourites to win the trophy, they will be relying on the skills of Manchester United’s Anthony Martial to lead from the front and Athletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezman. It should be an exciting competition for the French fans. Manager Didier Deschamps has been there and got the t shirt and will want to put on a good display in front of the home fans, France won the competition in 1984 and in 2000 and will have the best opportunity since then to claim their third winners trophy.
France have won eight of their last nine games ahead of Euro 2016, a run which included victories over Portugal, Germany and Netherlands,so are one of the in form teams.

ROMANIA

Romania have not featured much on the European stage since a quarter-final appearance at Euro 2000, with a group-stage exit at Euro 2008 proving to be their best achievement since the turn of the millennium.

There are few big-name players in the Romanian ranks, but the likes of Napoli centre-back Vlad Chiriches, Watford goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon and Stuttgart playmaker Alexandru Maxim are used to playing at a high level, as are Alexandru Chipciu and Mihai Pintilii from their appearances with Steaua Bucuresti in the Champions League.
Romania should be difficult to break down, as they had the best defensive record af all the sides in qualifying, only conceding two goals in their ten matches, finishing unbeaten in second place to Northern Ireland in their qualifying group.
They did not score many goals though in qualifying with the top scorer only getting two goals.

 

SWITZERLAND

The Swiss have never really left their mark on the European championships, and have yet to make it out of the group stages. They made an early exit as hosts in 2008 and failed to qualify in 2012, so they will be hoping to reach the knockout stages for the first time against relatively modest opposition in their group. The Swiss boast a team plucked straight from Europe’s top leagues, with capable performers all over the pitch. Bundesliga goalkeepers Yann Sommer and Roman Bürki will compete for a place between the sticks, in defence Stephan Lichtsteiner of Juventus and Wolfsburg’s Ricardo Rodríguez offer a threat from the full-back positions.

In midfield, the Swiss will be heavily reliant on Stoke City star Xherdan Shaqiri and Arsenal’s new signing Granit Xhaka will pull the strings, and up and coming star Breel Embolo, who has caught everyones attention with his performances for FC Basel could come to the fore at this tournament.

The Swiss finished in second place behind England in qualifying, with Shaqiri their top scorer with four goals, Shaqiri is full of optimism for the tournament, as his following quote portrays.”I want to make history with Switzerland. We want to play a good tournament. We have a tough group but I think we are a good team. We have very talented players, we have experience. When we play a good game, nobody can stop us.” time will tell if his confidence is justified ??

ALBANIA 

Albania are the also rans of this group, making their first appearance at the Euro finals. they did very well to qualify, helped by being awarded three points after a pitch invasion saw their game in Serbia abandoned, they eventually finished second behind Portugal.

Few opponents will be intimidated by Albania’s teamsheet, but those who watch Serie A might recognise the defensive trio of Elseid Hysaj, Berat Djimsiti and Arlind Ajeti, but their most important player is veteran defensive midfielder Lorik Cana, who has had spells with Marseille, Sunderland, Galatasaray and Lazio, and is currently skipper of Ligue 1 side Nantes. Albania’s top goalscorer in qualifying scored one goal, so it is no surprise to hear that Albania scored the fewest goals of any of the teams who qualified for Euro 2016.

 

MY PREDICTIONS FOR THE TEAMS TO GO THROUGH TO THE KNOCK OUT STAGES

FRANCE and SWITZERLAND

 

 

GROUP B

ENGLAND

After a 100% record in qualifying and England’s deserved victory in Germany last month, they have become one of the tournament favourites, the Spurs contingent of Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Danny Rose and Harry Kane were outstanding in the way they led England’s pressing from the front for 90 minutes against the world champions. Having a number of players from the same club is clearly an advantage for the national teams, playing with the same team-mates regularly means players develop a better understanding with one another and the desire to close down Germany was evident throughout the game. These players took their club form and carried it onto the international stage, if they continue with this momentum in the Euro finals, England can only benefit, with Wayne Rooney looking hungry again, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy who were the Premier League’s two top scorers this season, England will cause many headaches for their opposition, however the defensive frailities were evident in the friendlies against Germany and against Spain and could be England’s achiles heel in this tournament. I however have a sneaking feeling that this could be England’s year.

RUSSIA

Russia qualified by coming second in their qualifying group behind Austria, but many of Russia’s shortcomings come from the fact that they have very few players with experience ourtside of Russia and this does not bode well for them in International tournaments, only one player in this years Euro 2016 squad comes from outside of Russia and that is Roman Neustadler of Schalke 04, who was born in Soviet Dnipropetrovsk, but grew up in Germany. They will be heavily reliant upon Atem Dzyuba who scored eight of their qualifying goals and Roman Shirokov from CSKA Moscow. The best that Russia have ever achieved in these finals was a semi final place in 2008, but I do not see them getting as far this time around.

SLOVAKIA

Slovakia have a decent defence well marshalled by Martin Skrtel, in midfield the dangerous Marek Hamsik is always dangerous going forward, but it is up front where they are struggling their two main strikers Nemec and Duris only managed three goals apiece in qualifying and this could well be their downfall. They have a very experienced squad but it would be considered a great achievement if they can get through the group stages.

WALES

Wales appearance at the 2016 Euro finals will be only the second time that the country has qualified for a major tournament, with their last appearance being in 1958. They have players of the highest quality in Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, but the supporting cast does not look to be strong enough for Wales to cause too many surprises, however in a weak group they might sneak into second place behind England. Gareth Bale was instrumental in Wales qualifying second in their group behind Belgium and he will again have to be their talisman in France, if Bale hits form then I will go for them to scrape through.

MY PREDICTIONS FOR THE TEAMS TO GO THROUGH TO THE KNOCK OUT STAGES

ENGLAND, WALES and RUSSIA

 

 

GROUP C

 

GERMANY

Carrying the weight of being World Champions might weigh heavily on the German side, their defeat to England in a recent friendly saw that there are frailties in the German side, the retirement of Phillip Laum, Per Mertesacker and the lack of play time for Bastian Schweinsteiger could all be going against Germany in the Euro 2016 tournament. The mentality of this German side will not be questioned but can they rise to the levels that brought them the World Cup trophy two years ago, it will be a tough campaign for them, but with the best goalkeeper in the world between the sticks, Manuel Nauer and the likes of Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil pulling the strings I would never back against the German side.

 

NORTHERN IRELAND

For the first time since 1986, Northern Ireland will contest a major tournament. Manager Michael O Neill made an awful start to his reign, including a 3-2 defeat to Luxembourg, but he has more than repaid the faith his bosses showed in him.

Northern Ireland won their qualifying group, and although they lack experience at this level, they are disciplined and well organised, however it is going forward where their problems lie, it is hard to see where their gals are going to come from.That said, you wonder where the goals will come from.

The loss of WBA midfielder Chris Brunt to injury robs the team of know-how and set-piece quality. Although striker Kyle Lafferty scored seven goals in qualifying, he now has to step up a gear, and he made very little impact at club level this season.

Northern Ireland have done wonderfully to get this far, but all three opponents are arguably better than anyone they faced in qualifying and they will have a very difficult time trying to get out of the group stages.

 

POLAND

In their last four appearances at major tournaments, Poland have gone out at the group stage, but there is growing optimism that Adam Nawalka’s side may cause a few upsets in France. They scored more goals (33) than any other country in qualifying, and in striker Robert Lewandowski they have one of the world’s best strikers. He has just won the Torjagerkanone (top scorer) trophy in the Bundesliga, and the Bayern Munich hot-shot netted 13 goals in qualifying.

Poland beat Germany in the qualifiers, and only finished a point adrift of the world champions. There are concerns about a defence that leaked ten goals in ten qualifiers, and Poland might have to rely on outscoring their opponents.

Poland’s form in friendlies has been good and with Jakub Blaszczykowski, Kamil Grosicki and  Arkadiusz Milik ably supporting Lewandowski there could be an upset in store.

UKRAINE

The Ukraine just scraped into Euro 2016 via the  play-off against Slovenia, they were poor in qualifying and are lucky to have made it to France, they will be going into the finals with little hope of progressing, but they might just surprise one of the teams along the way. Their first game of the tournament will be a tough test againt Germany and desoite having some qualities in the wide attacking positions through Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko, they do not have the offensive strength to put their opponents to the sword.

MY PREDICTIONS FOR THE TEAMS TO GO THROUGH TO THE KNOCK OUT STAGES

GERMANY, POLAND and UKRAINE

GROUP D

 

CROATIA

Croatia have never gone beyond the last eight of a Euro finals, but they do have the quality within their squad to at least match their previous best, their midfield options are of the highest quality led by the sublime Luka Modric of Real Madrid and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic, they should have qualified in more style, but having points deducted for racist behaviour by their fans, meant that it went to the last game, where they just pipped Norway at the post.

CZECH REPUBLIC

The Czech’s conceded more goals than any other team in the qualifying stages and this could well againbe their undoing, and even with the excellent Petr Cech in goal, their defensive frailties could come back to haunt them.

In 1996 they reached the final of the Euros and in 2004 they got to the semi’s but recreating those glory days is going to be a difficult task for this Czech side.

SPAIN

After an awful World Cup two years ago , where as defending Champions they failed to step up to the mark and were eliminated at the group stages, they do not put the same fear into their opponents, but with a possible starting line up of De Gea; Juanfran, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Alcantara, Busquets, Fabregas; Silva, Iniesta, and Morata, I will not be writing their chances off yet !!!! This is still an exciting Spanish side and they may well turn the tables on their doubters as they strive for a third consecutive European Championship title, they are only the country in history to have won the compoetition twice in a row and a hat trick or wins would be unthinkable (or is it !!).

TURKEY

The 2008 semi finalists are back in the finals after missing out in 2012, but it was only through a last minute goal against Iceland that they forced their way into the finals, they have few players that are going to scare the opposition, but relying on having a decent team instead of an abundance of individul talents may well bring about some surprises. I very much doubt that they will get out of the group stages and if they do it will be seen as a triumph for this Turkish side.
MY PREDICTIONS FOR THE TEAMS TO GO THROUGH TO THE KNOCK OUT STAGES
SPAIN and CROATIA
 

 

GROUP E

BELGIUM

Belgium cannot be called dark horses anymore. Marc Wilmots’ side is among the favourites to win Euro 2016 and anything short of a semi-final place would certainly feel like a disappointment for a country whose talents keep on rolling off the production line. A quarter-final finish at the World Cup in Brazil came despite the sense that Belgium ought to be making more of the resources at their disposal; they have only lost twice since that narrow reverse to Argentina and, if they come out at full tilt in France, they might just be able to deliver the sparkling performance they seem to have been building up to for years. It would be about time; this is only their third European Championship since 1980, when they finished runners-up. The quality of these Belgian players is in my opinion one of the best of any of the other teams in the tournament and if these players can all hit form at the right time, then I believe that Belgium will be one of my favourites to win the competition. the likes of  Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke, Eden Hazard, Courtois in goal, De Bruyne, Vertongen and Alderweireld are all players of the highest standard and all playing in the highest levels of the game. This is Belgium’s time and it is up to these players to make their mark on European football. We also have to take on board that Belgium are the highest European ranked team in the FIFA listings, ahead of Germany and Spain !!

 

ITALY

Italy are always a threat, but the untimely recent injuries to two of their key players Claudio Marchiso and Marco Verratti is a huge blow to their chances of success in France, we always can rely on the Italians making life difficult for their opponents, but when I am looking for match winners, their credentials do not stack up and it could be a frustrating finals for the ‘Azurri’. they won five of their qualifying games by a one goal margin and they will have to be far more creative if they are to progress.

With manager Antonio Conte having one eye on his new job as the Chelsea manager, will he be able to get his team to produce their best, which even if he does, may not be good enough.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

If you look at their history in the European Championship, Ireland don’t have much to lose this summer as they have only qualified for the tournament twice before and have never managed to get past the group stage. Their most recent appearance was in 2012 when they lost all three of their games and conceded nine goals. It was a disappointing return but perhaps not overly surprising as they came up against the might of Spain, Italy and Croatia. However, they did slightly better in their first ever European Championship in 1988, beating England in their opening game, finishing a point behind the eventual winners The Netherlands. Marrtin O’Neil is a very experienced manager and will get a lot of passion out of his players, but their qualities to progress further in the competition are somewhat limited.

SWEDEN

Sweden are not a major contender, but one player can make this team dangerous: Zlatan Ibrahimovic. In what is undeniably the final major tournament of the superstar’s career, Ibrahimovic, he will look to make his mark one last time. He had the goal of the tournament four years ago but has been unable to lead Sweden far in the tournament. Ibrahimovic, despite being 34, is still a top player in the world and when he is at his peak, he can carry his team on his own. He is less of a forward these days, dropping deeper to help build up play. That said, he had his best offensive output for Paris Saint-Germain this year, scoring 50 goals in all competitions for the club. But once again his supporting cast around him are not going to be good enough to progress into the knock out stages.

MY PREDICTIONS FOR THE TEAMS TO GO THROUGH TO THE KNOCK OUT STAGES

BELGIUM, ITALY and SWEDEN

 

 

GROUP F


AUSTRIA

Austria are in my opinion one of the dark horses of this tournament, their qualifying campaign was incredible beating second placed Russia by eight points, their qualities seem to be growing with every performance and they have the look of the Belgium team, in that they are not known as Kings of Europe, but either of these teams could well be crowned as the champions, if things go their way. Players of the quality of Fuchs, Arnautic and Janko will be driving this team forward and if you want an outside bet, then my money would go on Austria.

HUNGARY

Hungary are probably the least fancied of any of the teams in this tournament and it would be a miracle of Leicester proportions if they can get through to the knock out stages, a mixture of youth and experience is what this team is made up of, with very few players who can win the game for you, they will certainly give their all to try and replicate the memeries of the famous Magyar side in the 1950’s when they were led by one of the greatest players in the game Ferenc Puskas

ICELAND

Euro 2016 will be Iceland’s first major tournament in their history, Manager Lars Lagerback has done a fantastic job with Iceland and has got the squad to play a very solid team game where every player helps out in every area of the game. They were ranked as high as 23rd on the FIFA rankings back in October, and currently sit at 35th. Ex Spurs player Glyfi Sigurdsson is Iceland’s star man and will will be the key in their attack, with his ability from free kicks also a serious threat, but their defense will play a big part in any success the Icelandic team will have. They could cause a stir in France and should be good enough to reach the knockout stages.

PORTUGAL

Portugal are the team that always promise a great deal but fail generally at the last hurdle, in the last four Euro Championships they have achieved two semi finals and a runners up place, historically you put them amongst your favourites as  Portugal have made it past the first round in all six European Championships they have featured in and are the only side in the tournament’s history to have made it to a home final and lost (Euro 2004 against Greece). but like in the last World Cup, they are always capable of putting in a poor performance, especialy when Christiano Ronaldo has a below par performance, Ronaldo is up there with the game’s greats and his success this season with Real Madrid has again get a lot of football followers wondering if he can have the same impact on the International stage for Portugal, only time will tell, but you know it is going to be fun watching !!.

MY PREDICTIONS FOR THE TEAMS TO GO THROUGH TO THE KNOCK OUT STAGES

PORTUGAL, AUSTRIA and ICELAND

I hope that you enjoy the EURO 2016 Finals.

Have a good week

Gary

Recent Posts

Leave a Reply