Friday, June 24, 2016

All the very latest football news and gossip across Europe!

The 2016 European Championships may be in full swing, but there is still plenty of football news to report. Here is a round up of all the latest football news/gossip across Europe today, which includes the likes of: PSG, Manchester City, Paul Pogba, Sadio Mane, Borussia Dortmund, Southampton, Claude Puel, John Stones, Inter Mlan, Juventus, Crystal Palace, Axel Witsel, Aaron Ramsey, Liverpool, West Ham, Victor Wanyama, Piotr Zielinskiand and Alexis Sanchez to name but a few!

Paris St-Germain have sacked manager Laurent Blanc, with the former France defender receiving a £16.85m pay-off - L'Equipe (French nationwide daily newspaper devoted to sports)

Former Juventus striker Alvaro Morata has re-joined Real Madrid, despite rumours Chelsea had launched a €50m bid to sign the Spanin international striker - AS (Spanish daily sports newspaper) and

New Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho will make a 'statement signing' during the summer transfer window, with Juventus France midfielder Paul Pogba, 23, a priority. Mourinho is also targeting a shock summer move for Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey. The Wales international, 25, is contracted to the Gunners until the end of June 2018 - Manchester Evening News and The Sun.

Tottenham have confirmed the signing of Victor Wanyama from Southampton for an undisclosed fee. The former Celtic midfielder has agreed a five-year contract with the club until 2021 -

Leicester striker Jamie Vardy decided to snub a move to Arsenal as he was not convinced Arsenal play the right style of football to suit his game.
Arsenal triggered a release clause in Vardy's contract earlier this month, but Leicester announced on Thursday that the England forward has agreed a new four-year deal at the club, which he will sign once he is back from Euro 2016 -

Juventus have drawn up a shortlist of strikers to sign this summer, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The Serie A Champions recently saw forward Alvaro Morata re-join Real Madrid. As a result, boss Max Allegri is understood to be weighing up a summer move for either Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez, Everton's Romelu Lukaku or Marseille's Michy Batshuayi -

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is keen to snap up Arsenal ace Alexis Sanchez, according to reports - Daily Star

Liverpool will step up their efforts to sign Southampton's Senegal forward Sadio Mane, 24, in a £30m deal next week - Daily Telegraph

Liverpool have rejected an £8m bid from Swansea for midfielder Joe Allen, 26, who left the Liberty Stadium for Anfield four years ago - Daily Mirror

Southampton and Leicester are interested in signing Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen - The Times

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew wants to bolster his forward options with the signing of Liverpool striker Christian Benteke - The Sun

Borussia Dortmund say Manchester United target Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 27, is available for £30.6m. The Armenia forward has one year remaining on his contract - Kicker (Germany's leading sports magazine)

Manchester United have had an offer worth £28m rejected by Roma for established defender Kostas Manolas -

Wolfsburg have made a £20m offer to Juventus for striker Simone Zaza. The German side have made their move as their own Andre Schurrle is a target for Borussia Dortmund, who in turn want a replacement for Manchester United target Henrikh Mkhitaryan - Daily Mail

Manchester City have made another signing already this summer. They have beaten Barcelona and Manchester United to the signing of 15 year-old Argentina youngster Benjamin Garre The attacking midfielder has been starring in the youth ranks of Velez Sarsfield - La Pelota al 10 (Argentinian radio station) and Daily Mail

West Ham have lodged a €52m bid with Lyon for forward Alexandre Lacazette. The 25-year-old is contracted to the Ligue 1 club until the summer of 2019 - L'Equipe (French nationwide daily newspaper devoted to sports)

Inter Milan are in talks with Russian club Zenit Saint Petersbourg about signing the former Standard Liège and Benfica box-to-box midfielder Axel Witsel. The 27 year-old Belgian international is also being tracked by Juventus, AS Roma, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea and Stoke City -

Former Monaco, Lille, Lyon and Nice boss Claude Puel has emerged as the front-runner for the Southampton manager's job - Daily Telegraph

Poland star Piotr Zielinski will not sign for Liverpool until his nation are out of Euro 2016. Reports in Italy claimed that Anfield chiefs had wrapped up a £12m deal for the central midfielder from Serie A club Udinese - Daily Mirror

Manchester City are the frontrunners to sign Dinamo Zagreb's 19-year-old midfielder Ante Coric, who is part of Croatia's Euro 2016 squad, for £6m - Daily Mail

France midfielder Samir Nasri, 28, will have talks with new Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola next week as he wants to stay at the club - The Sun

Meanwhile, Guardiola has made Everton defender John Stones, 22, his number one transfer target - Marca (Spanish national daily sport newspaper) and Daily Express

Barcelona have joined Manchester United in the race to sign Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta. The Spanish giants are on the look-out for a new right-back as Dani Alves prepares to join Juventus.

Chelsea have snubbed an £18m bid for defender Andreas Christensen from Borussia Monchengladbach. The 20-year-old is on a two-season loan at the German club but Chelsea see him as an heir to John Terry at centre-half - Daily Mail

Chelsea target Radja Nainggolan is set to snub a big-money Blues switch to stay at Roma - Daily Mirror

Stoke City have offered nearly £20m for Napoli forward Manolo Gabbiadini - Daily Mirror

Roma have turned down a £28m offer from Manchester United for Greek defender Kostas Manolas, who is also a reported target for Arsenal - The Sun

Michy Batshuayi's future could be resolved this week, with West Ham and Juventus keen to sign the Belgium striker from Marseille. Tottenham are also considering whether to make an offer for the 22-year-old - Guardian

West Ham have made a €35m bid for Marseille's Michy Batshuayi -

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern is wanted by Southampton after his Euro 2016 heroics - The Sun

Premier League newcomers Burnley are interested in signing Crystal Palace and Wales midfielder Joe Ledley - Croydon Advertiser

Tottenham have had a bid for Vincent Janssen turned down, according to his Dutch club AZ Alkmaar. Wolfsburg are also understood to be keen on the 22-year-old Dutch international striker, who was Eridivisie's top scorer last season.

Lazio want to take Southampton striker Graziano Pelle back to Serie A - The Sun

West Brom are interested in signing 24-year-old winger Andros Townsend from Newcastle and are prepared to sell winger 25 year-old Callum McManaman - Daily Express and Daily Star

Wales defender Chris Gunter is wanted by Premier League duo Swansea and Middlesbrough following his heroics at Euro 2016. The 26-year-old full-back is understood to have a release clause in his contract with Reading - Daily Mirror

Premier League champions Leicester City remain interested in Burnley defender Michael Keane, 23, after having an initial £10m bid rejected - Daily Mail and Leicester Mercury

Burnley are weighing up a double swoop for Aston Villa duo Ashley Westwood and Rudy Gestede -The Sun

Aston Villa have rejected Celtic's opening bid of £2m for winger Scott Sinclair. Brendan Rodgers wants to make the former Manchester City man his first signing as Parkhead boss - Daily Mail and Daily Record

Hull City goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic has signed a fresh two-year contract with the newly promoted Premier League club -

Fiorentina chief executive Pantaleo Corvino, had started talks with Hull City over a deal for Uruguayan international Abel Hernandez (25) - La Gazzetta dello Sport (Italian sports newspaper)

Sunderland are in negotiations with Russian side Rubin Kazan for the permanent signing of midfielder Yann M'Vila, 25, who spent last season on loan at the Black Cats - Sunderland Echo

Watford have offered a new contract to Troy Deeney, 27, after Leicester had a £25m bid rejected for the striker - Watford Observer

Sevilla have signed Hiroshi Kiyotake after the Japanese midfielder passed a medical on Friday morning. Kiyotake joins from Bundesliga club Hannover 96 on a four-year contract -

Chelsea and England Under-21 midfielder Lewis Baker is to spend a second season out on loan at Eredivisie side Vitesse Arnhem -

Birmingham City have completed the signing of former Nottingham Forest midfielder Robert Tesche. The 29 year-old German has penned a three-year deal with the Blues -

Portsmouth have completed the signing of striker Michael Smith from Swindon on a permanent basis -

German defensive midfielder Marc Pfitzner, (31) has been signed by Werder Bremen, from Eintracht Braunschweigon on a deal lasting until June 2018 -

St Etienne have signed 24 year-old midfielder Bryan Dabo from Montpellier, on a four-year contract -

Marseille have completed the signing of Japanese defender Hiroki Sakai, the Ligue 1 club announced on their website. The 26-year-old was a free agent after his contract expired at Hannover 96 -

Plymouth have signed defender Karleigh Osborne following his recent release by Bristol City. Teenage striker Louis Rooney has also signed a new deal with the Pilgrims -

Walsall have completed the signing of former Yeovil captain Joe Edwards on a two-year contract.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Euro 2016 - Part Two: A Short and Concise Preview

Group D

My Predicted Group finish:

1. Spain 2. Croatia 3. Turkey 4. Czech Republic


There was a time when it looked as if Spain would dominate international football forever more!
Yet the defending European champions are currently in a state of uncertainty. David Villa, Xavi and Xabi Alonso have retired from international football. There are doubts over who will start in goal – Del Bosque remains loyal to captain Casillas in spite of David de Gea’s consistent excellence for Manchester United – and there’s no obvious candidate to be the third midfielder alongside Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta.

For all this, however, Spain were dominant in qualifying, and despite losing friendlies to the French, Germans and Dutch since the summer of 2014, they have arguably Euro 2016’s most talented squad. If it clicks, they’re a difficult side to stop.

Group D isn’t the worst, but Turkey, Croatia and the Czech Republic are no mugs. Spain must avoid finishing second, which would mean a last 16 tie with the Group E winners – likely to be Italy or Belgium. Still, they’re good enough to reach the final.

Opening fixture: 13-06-2016 v Czech Rep - Toulouse, 2pm kick-off (UK time)

Key players: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City) and Nolito (Celta Vigo)

World ranking: 6

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 11/2 (Skybet)


A lot of the attention falls on the midfield and understandably so! The depth and variety in those positions is impressive with Modric and Rakitic. In defence, Croatia have excellent full-backs. Darijo Srna is a great leader. Sime Vrsaljko is one of the best crossers in Serie A. Up front, Mario Mandzukic has had a fine season at Juventus and Ivan Perisic offers width and goals.

But the question marks come at centre-back! Dejan Lovren has been left out amid differences with coach Ante Cacic. Confidence in Cacic is not the greatest, however if Cacic gets the balance right, this team has what it takes to do very well.

Opening fixture: 12-06-2016 v Turkey - Paris, 2pm kick-off

Key players: Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Luka Modric (Real Madrid) and Mario Mandzukic (Juventus)

World ranking: 27

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 25/1 (Skybet)

Czech Republic

Gone are the days when the Czechs were part of football’s elite.
The Czechs won their group but conceded 14 goals in qualifying, more than any other side to qualify for Euro 2016.

Still, coach Pavel Vrba has created a side that aren’t easy on the eye but aren’t easy to beat, either. They won’t fear anyone, even in a tough group, but the Czechs could be heading straight home or get as far as the last 16. A leaky defence makes the former a more likely outcome.

Opening fixture: 13-06-2016 v Spain - Toulouse, 2pm kick-off

Key players: Petr Cech (Arsenal), Vladimir Darida (Hertha Berlin) and Tomáš Rosický (Arsenal)

World ranking: 30

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


Returning to the Euros for the first time since 2008, Turkey didn't need a play-off to book their place in France - they qualified as the best third-placed team behind the Czech Rep and Iceland and ahead of the Netherlands. They were undefeated in 13 games until their recent defeat to England in a friendly in Manchester in May.

Opening fixture: 12-06-2016 v Croatia - Paris, 2pm kick-off

Key players: Arda Turan (Barcelona), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Selçuk İnan (Galatasaray)

World ranking: 18

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

Group E

My Predicted Group finish:

1. Belgium 2. Italy 3. Republic of Ireland 4. Sweden

Republic of Ireland

Ireland made the Championships by defeating Bosnia in a play-off after finishing third in their tough qualifying group behind Germany and Poland. They only lost two of their 10 qualifying games, conceding just seven goals, and they took four points from world champions Germany, drawing 1-1 in Gelsenkirchen and winning 1-0 in Dublin.

The Irish didn't get any luck when the draw was made! In probably the strongest group in the competition, Ireland's biggest game is likely to be their opener against Sweden. The loser of that game will surely be going home early. Any improvement on their performance at Euro 2012, along with a little luck could potentially see them sneak into the second round as one of the best third-placed teams. Much will depend on the fitness of captain Robbie Keane.

Opening fixture: 13-06-2016 v Sweden - Paris, 5pm kick-off

Key players: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Shane Long (Southampton) and Jon Walters (Stoke)

World ranking: 33

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


Outgoing manager Antonio Conte would dearly like to sign off with success before he leaves for Chelsea, but that's easier said than done for Italy. After a disastrous World Cup campaign that saw the Azzurri eliminated at the group stage – just as they were in South Africa four years previously – Italy needed to shake things up and Conte was brought in.

Italy comfortably won their qualifying campaign in what was ultimately a weak group, which included the likes of Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Malta. They finished unbeaten but were far from convincing, scoring only 16 times in 10 games and only managing to grind out 1-0 victories both home and away to Malta, currently ranked 165th in the world.

Group E is one of Euro 2016’s toughest, and while Italy’s defence can keep the very best teams quiet, their lack of attacking threat will likely see them fail to make it much further than the last eight.

Opening fixture: 13-06-2016 v Belgium - Lyon, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Graziano Pelle (Southampton), Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) and Daniele De Rossi (Roma)

World ranking: 12

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 16/1 (Skybet)


Will Zlatan Ibrahimovic alone be enough to savevic alone be enough to save Sweden! The Swedes only qualified via a play-off win against neighbouring Denmark, after finishing behind Russia and Austria in a weak group that included Montenegro, Liechtenstein and Moldova. Ibrahimovic is in the form of his life right now and he will have to hit the ground running, because without him the Swedes look very ordinary. They have recorded just one win in their last six games, so the omens aren't good for coach Erik Hamren's side.

if Sweden manage to get through the group they are likely to play France, Spain or Austria in the round of 16 and that can only mean a ticket back home.

Opening fixture: 13-06-2016 v Rep of Ireland - Paris, 5pm kick-off

Key players: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris Saint-Germain)

World ranking: 35

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


Belgium lived up to their status as group favourites, finishing top despite dropping five points to Wales. But their build up to these Championships has seen them lose several players to injury. However they have enough quality among their ranks to overcome their injury woes to at least reach the final of this year's tournament. Although to do so they will have to dispose of World Champions Germany in the quarter-finals, if results goes to plan.

Opening fixture: 13-06-2016 v Italy - Lyon, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), Yannick Ferreira Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham) and Romelu Lukaku (Everton)

World ranking: 2

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 11/1 (Skybet)

Group F

My Predicted Group finish:

1. Austria 2. Iceland 3. Portugal 4. Hungary


This is the first time Iceland have qualified for a major tournament, and they are the smallest nation ever to qualify for the European Championship, but they're by no means the weakest. They only lost twice in their qualifying group, a group which included the Czech Republic, Turkey as well as the Netherlands, who they beat both home and away. They also kept six clean sheets in their 10 games.

I think they will qualify as runners-up, then see how they fare against Slovakia or Wales – both beatable – in the last 16.

Opening fixture: 14-06-2016 v Portugal - Saint-Étienne, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea), Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (Nantes), Arnor Ingvi Traustason (Rapid Vienna) and Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff City)

World ranking: 34

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


Austria will be competing in their first European Championship finals after they won their qualifying group comfortably - following an unbeaten campaign, winning nine of their ten games and conceding just 5 goals.

They could be the dark horses of the tournament. They're a hard-working, quick-countering side and can be absolutely ruthless on the break. Expect Austria to win their group and to face either Italy or Republic of Ireland in the last 16. If they finish 2nd in their group they will be paired with the winners of Group B, possibly England.

Opening fixture: 14-06-2016 v Hungary - Bordeaux, 5pm kick-off

Key players: Marko Arnautovic (Stoke), Marc Janko (Basel), David Alaba (Bayern Munich) and Aleksandar Dragovic (Dynamo Kiev)

World ranking: 10

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


Portugal topped their qualifying group, with seven wins out of eight, but scored just 11 goals in those 8 games.

So much depends on the condition of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid star looked well short of fitness in the Champions League final and manager Fernando Santos will be praying that he recovers in time. Without him, Portugal are worryingly light on goals.

With arguably the tournament’s best player in their ranks, plus a healthy mix of experienced campaigners and bright new talent, hopes are high within the Portuguese camp that they can continue their impressive Euros record. In six appearances, they have reached the semi-finals on four occasions, going on to contest the final on home turf in 2004, and they have never failed to successfully negotiate the group phase.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Portugal’s recurrent problem of having no high-quality striker is again evident. Eder may lead the line, but one goal in 23 Portugal appearances is not a record that will have opposition defenders quaking in their boots.

I expect Portugal to struggle in this group, and victory in their opening fixture against Iceland in Saint-Étienne is crucial, if they are to progress. Even if they do reach the knockout phase I can't see them progressing beyond the last 16.

Opening fixture: 14-06-2016 v Iceland - Saint-Étienne, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Renato Sanches (Benfica) and Ricardo Carvalho (AS Monaco)

World ranking: 8

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 20/1 (Skybet)


Hungary's qualification wasn't exactly straight-forward and sadly there's little to suggest that their stay in France will be a long one. They made it through to the finals via a play-off win versus Norway, after finishing as the third best placed team in their group, behind Northern Ireland and Romania, scoring only eleven goals in their ten qualifying games. They will need to bring their very best to this tournament if they're to avoid finishing last in Group F.

Opening fixture: 14-06-2016 v Austria - Bordeaux, 5pm kick-off

Key players: Tamas Priskin (Slovan Bratislava), Zoltan Gera and Ádám Nagy (both Ferencváros)

World ranking: 20

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

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

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.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Babe of the Month - Camille Leblanc-Bazinet

Camille Leblanc-Bazinet was born on 10th October 1988 in Richelieu, Quebec, Canada and is a Canadian professional CrossFit athlete. She is also an accomplished weightlifter, having qualified for the national championship for weightlifting in Canada.

Throughout her early years, Camille did gymnastics to a high level. At the age of 16, her career as a gymnast came to an abrupt halt due to injury when she tore her hip. After recovering, she played senior AA soccer and volleyball. She later was the captain of her flag football team in college. Leblanc-Bazinet also spent time running half marathons, skiing, and playing rugby. In an interview, she said she was introduced to CrossFit at a rugby party where I met a guy who was a owner of a CrossFit gym and he challenged me to try a session.....that same day I payed for a year's subscription.

CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program designed to perform at the highest standards of many athletes by targeting peak exertion in the three main metabolic pathways. The program is designed to be applicable at all levels do the scalability of the workouts.

CrossFit is a fast growing fitness sport/lifestyle/movement. It combines gymnastics with weightlifting, with combat sports, with running, swimming, cycling, rowing, normally in the same workout. The goal is to achieve elite total body fitness including strength, endurance, balance, agility, flexibility, and accuracy.

The rise of Camille Leblanc-Bazinet from teenage gymnast to “Fittest Woman on Earth” would only have surprised those who weren’t paying attention!

Since her competitive CrossFit debut back in 2010, Leblanc-Bazinet made a habit of dominating the Canada East Regionals and making waves at the Games, where she picked up three Top 10 finishes in her first four years. It was in 2014, however, that everything came together - as the 5’2” Leblanc-Bazinet showed off her much improved weightlifting prowess en route to her first Reebok CrossFit Games title.

Even while simultaneously working towards a degree in Chemical Engineering, the former balance beamer dedicated herself so much to the art of the barbell that she will be representing her native Canada in Women’s Weightlifting at the forthcoming 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

Leblanc-Bazinet is part of a spirited, athletic family. She has three siblings with competitive CrossFit experience, as well as her partner - CrossFit coach and trainer Dave Lipson. After moving to Boulder, Colorado in 2015, Camille made her debut in the South Regional with familiar results: a first place finish.

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