Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Euro 2016 - Part One: A Short and Concise Preview

Group A

My Predicted Group finish:

1. France 2. Switzerland 3. Romania 4. Albania


Albania are set to make their debut appearance at a major tournament, controversially qualifying after being awarded three points from an abandoned match in Serbia following the infamous ‘drone incident.’ They are drawing on patriotic pride for inspiration.

Opening fixture: 11-06-2016 v Switzerland - Lens, 2pm kick-off (UK time)

Key players: Lorik Cana (Nantes) and Elseid Hysaj (Napoli)

World ranking: 42

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 200/1 (Skybet)


This is their time. Not only do France have history on their side as the host nation, having won two of the three post-war major tournaments to be held in their own back yard (Euro 84 and World Cup 98), but they have had an uncommonly calm run-up to the event.

The results have really come together in the last year, too. After a poor 2015 summer, France have won seven of their eight matches since September, with the one defeat – against England at Wembley – entirely understandable as the nation came to terms with the Paris terrorist attacks four days previously.

Opening Fixture: 10-06-16 v Romania - Saint-Denis, 8pm kick-off

Key players - Paul Pogba (Juventus), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Dimitri Payet (West Ham) and Anthony Martial (Manchester Utd)

World ranking: 17

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 3/1 favourites (Skybet)


Switzerland finished a distant second to England in qualifying, but after taking Argentina to extra time at the last World Cup, they look primed for their best ever European Championship showing. Euro 2008's co-hosts benefit from a youth development program that has produced a steady stream of promising players, many of them from immigrant backgrounds, such as Xherdan Shaqiri, and new Arsenal midfield signing Granit Xhaka.

Opening fixture: 11-06-16 v Albania - Lens, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke) Josip Drmić, Nico Elvedi, (both Borussia Mönchengladbach) and Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)

World ranking: 15

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 40/1 (Skybet)


Romania finished unbeaten in second place in qualifying behind Northern Ireland in Group F, but no qualifying team in Europe scored fewer goals in their 10 games than the 11 they mustered in total. With no big names in the team, the Tricolorii hope to cause an upset or two with an approach that’s rather at odds with Romanian football traditions.

Opening fixture: 10-06-16, v Romania - Saint-Denis, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Vlad Chiriches (Napoli) and Nicolae Stanciu (Steaua Bucharest)

World ranking: 22

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 100/1 (Skybet)

Group B

My Predicted Group finish:

1. England, 2. Slovakia, 3. Wales, 4. Russia


England scored 31 goals in their 10 qualifying matches (the second-most in Europe) and let in just three (the fewest in Europe).

Roy Hodgson has selected a squad that basically says: "Out with the old, in with the new."
Gone are the players of England’s so-called ‘golden generation’ and into the squad come players picked largely on merit rather than reputation, such as Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Eric Dier - all of whom are all likely to play a substantial role during the tournament.

The flipside to that aforementioned youthful exuberance is a lack of top-level experience. Of Hodgson’s regular picks over the past two years, only Wayne Rooney, Joe Hart, Gary Cahill and James Milner have passed 40 international appearances. But that may not be a bad thing. The emerging talents have fewer scars from previous failures, while a greater number of players are being picked on the basis of a great season, rather than an impressive CV.

The draw has been relatively kind, particularly in comparison to England’s testing ties in Euro 2012 (France, Sweden and hosts Ukraine) and World Cup 2014 (Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica).

Opening fixture: 11-06-16 v Russia - Saint-Denis, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier (All Tottenham) and Chris Smalling (Manchester Utd)

World ranking: 11

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 8/1 (Skybet)


The Russian qualifying campaign veered toward disaster, and it required the removal of coach Fabio Capello to pull them through, with CSKA Moscow coach Leonid Slutsky called in last June to rescue the campaign. However a proliferation of foreign players in the Russian Premier League means there is a shallow pool of talent to call upon, and an ageing squad to work with for the World Cup 2018 hosts.

Opening fixture: 11-06-16 v England - Saint-Denis, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Roman Shirokov (CSKA Moscow) and Artem Dzyuba (Zenit St Petersburg)

World ranking: 29

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 40/1 (Skybet)


Slovakia has become the home of one of Europe’s most unpredictable national teams.
Jan Kozak's side went off like a firework in their qualifying campaign by beating Ukraine away from home, stunning Spain and, in all, claiming wins in their first six games. Of more recent concern was the way Slovakia then went three games without even scoring and only confirmed qualification with a nervy win over Luxembourg.

Confidence is high throughout a squad which has now been together for a long time, so don't write them off. They're tactically versatile, can adapt their shape to suit any situation, and they boast one Marek Hamsik in their ranks. They won't win it, but they should comfortably progress to the knockout stages.

Opening fixture: 11-06-16 v Wales - Bordeaux, 5pm kick-off

Key players: Marek Hamšík (Napoli) and Martin Skrtel (Liverpool)

World ranking: 24

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 150/1 (Skybet)


Having made their first finals tournament since 1958, Chris Coleman's Welsh team are determined to prove that reaching Euro 2016 is not the end of the journey. Wales have a young squad, and even Bale, Ramsey and Allen are still in their mid-20s, so the future’s bright. That isn’t enough, though. Even if post-qualification friendlies brought disheartening results, if not performances.

Wales go into Euro 2016 feeling quietly confident. Nobody’s expecting much, and they thrive as underdogs. Making the second round would be a considerable but wholly possible achievement.

Opening fixture: 11-06-16 v Slovakia - Bordeaux, 5pm kick-off

Key players: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Ashley Williams (Swansea) and Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)

World ranking: 26

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 80/1 (Skybet)

Group C

My Predicted Group finish:

1.Germany, 2.Poland, 3. Ukraine, 4. Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland have played in three World Cups, but this is their first appearance in the final stages of the European Championship. None of Northern Ireland’s players have taken part in a major tournament before. Given the level at which many of them perform with their club sides, a good proportion have never come up against opponents of this calibre, either.
However undefeated for more than a year, spirits are high and the dream is to emulate the 1958 and 1982 World Cup sides that got through their groups.

Opening fixture: 12-06-16 v Poland - Bordeaux, 5pm kick-off

Key players: Steven Davis (Southampton) and Kyle Lafferty (Norwich City)

World ranking: 25

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 250/1 (Skybet)


In Robert Lewandowski Poland have arguably the best centre-forward in the competition. Top scorer throughout all of qualifying Lewandowski scored 13 goals - equalling the record set by Northern Ireland’s David Healy. Lewandowski also found the net 42 times for Bayern this season in all competitions, while his partner at international level, Arkadiusz Milik, hit 21 in the Eredivisie for Ajax.

The Poles are vulnerable at the back. Cagliari’s Bartosz Salamon is their most in-form defender, but he’s inexperienced. Apart from that 2-0 win over Germany, their only qualifying shutouts came against Georgia and Gibraltar.

Opening fixture: 12-06-16 v Northern Ireland - Bordeaux, 5pm kick-off

Key players: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) Arkadiusz Milik (Ajax) and Karol Linetty (Lech Poznań)

World ranking: 27

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 50/1 (Skybet)


Ukraine’s qualification success came down to a play-off against Slovenia. A 3-1 aggregate win ensured Ukraine came through a Euro qualifying campaign for the first time, having co-hosted the tournament in 2012. Their goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov is error prone and the defence is unremarkable, so in the powerful Andriy Yarmolenko they have a versatile forward who must deliver if Ukraine are to make progress. Height, speed, skill and a thunderous shot make him fit for almost any team in world football.

Opening fixture: 12-06-16 v Germany - Lille, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kiev), Yevhen Konoplyanka (Sevilla) and Denys Garmash (Dynamo Kiev)

World ranking: 27

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 66/1 (Skybet)


German boss Joachim Low has an abundance of talent available to him, despite the recent loss of Marco Reus to injury. Most of the men who lifted the World Cup in Brazil two summers ago are still there, either as regulars or on the fringes.
Germany topped their group in qualifying but were beaten twice, by Poland for the first time ever and then by the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.

However, they have struggled in recent friendlies, exemplified by England’s 3-2 friendly win in late March. However everybody knows Germany have the extra gears to go through that other teams don't, and they have reached at least the semi-finals at each of the last five tournaments.

Opening fixture: 12-06-16 v Poland - Lille, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Mario Gomez (Besiktas), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Leroy Sane (Schalke), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller (both Bayern Munich)

World ranking: 4

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 7/2 (Skybet)

# All tournament betting odds correct at time of writing.
## All kick-offs indicated are in United Kingdom time.

1 comment:

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