The most open international tournament in a long time. The ultimate Vardy Party.
Euro 2016 has been called many things, including pointless by Scotland, but the first two are probably true. To help you pick a winner, we took the top five from the outright market and flicked through their chances.
Qualifying record – None. They qualified automatically as hosts so haven’t played competitively since the World Cup.
Manager: Laurent Blanc.
Could they win it? Definitley. Their squad is littered with quality players such as Antoine Griezmann, Dmitri Payet, Gorgeous Giroud and Paul Pogba. In the run up to the Euros they’ve picked up wins over Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands and Russia and with only four of their 23 man squad being over 30, will have one of the youngest sides lining out.
Key man: While France’s midfield has stars such as Yohan Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi and Lassana Diarra, you have to look at N’Golo Kanté. Premier League fans know all about his ability and importance to Leicester City’s title win and that transcended to his French debut in March against Russia, where he opened the scoring in a 4-2 win. A 58% succesful take on percentage was more than the likes of Riyad Mahrez, Mesut Ozil and Yannick Bolassie. You feel if he’s on form, the French could go far.
Who’ve they got? Romania, Albania and Switzerland in Group A.
Qualifying record: Germany topped Group D with 22 points from 10 games, most famously losing to the Republic of Ireland. Never forget that.
Manager: Joachim Loew
Could they win it? Duh. They’re the World Champions. Despite losing to Ireland and Poland they blew the rest of Group D away. After finally delivering a major trophy to Yogi Low in 2014 the pressure came off from the German media. Twenty years on from winning Euro 96 on English soil they’re looking to become the third side to win the Euros after a World Cup triumph.
Key man: World Cup and Champions League winners all over the squad and despite not naming his squad yet, Low will surely rely on Thomas Muller. The midfielder has shone once again at Bayern Munich, scoring 32 goals in 46 games. That happens when he pulls on the white jersey as well. In the qualifying group, Muller started nine games and scored nine times. At 26 years old his resumé is impressive but is missing a European Championship medal – for now.
Who’ve they got? Ukraine, Poland and Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland in Group C.
Qualifying record: Spain won Group C by five points, losing just once to Slovakia and scoring 23 times in 10 matches.
Manager: Vicente Del Bosque.
Could they win it? Ask the papers and they’ll tell you that Spain internationally are on the decline. They seemingly ignore the fact that Spanish clubs have won every European competition for the last three seasons. For all their ‘weaknesses’ Spain have only lost twice since October 2014 and have warmed up with results against Italy, England and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Key man: Like France, Spain have a whole load of household names but one who may not be familiar to the armchair fans is Aritz Aduriz. At 35 years old we wouldn’t blame you, especially when Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and Diego Costa were all left out. But Aduriz’s magical season for Athletic Bilbao saw him net 36 times in all competitions to earn his seat on the plane. A goal in the friendly against Italy and more as the season closed for Bilbao has put defences on notice.
Who’ve they got? Czech Republic, Turkey and Croatia in Group D.
Qualifying record: 10 games, 10 wins. England dominated Group E, conceding just three times.
Manager: Roy Hodgson
Could they win it? Yes. Will they? Of course not. It’s England. They’re destined to go out in a penalty shootout. But there are signs that this could be the year that England finally end what is now 50 years of hurt since their only major triumph. But they don’t like to talk about it and hardly ever mention it. Beating Germany in their own backyard has given the Barmy Army great hope that it might just happen.
Key man: Most people are getting excited because of the youngsters being bled in by Hodgson. One captures the English hope perfectly: Dele Alli. Despite missing the last three games of Spurs’ season after a bit of petulance, Alli’s had a superb year. 10 goals and 9 assists in the Premier League, a PFA Young Player of the Year award and Man of the Match against the Germans. Alli simply must start in Nice.
Who’ve they got? A tricky group of Russia, Slovakia and
Gareth BWales in Group B.
Qualifying record: Belgium stuttered their way through their group but finished top thanks to heavy wins against Cyprus and Andorra.
Manager: Marc Wilmots
Could they win it? Belgium weren’t ready for the World Cup in 2014. Give their squad a little bit longer together and they will become an unstoppable machine they said. And to be fair, they’ve been kind of right so far. Belgium were the number one ranked team in the world in November of 2015 with no less than four world-class players leading the charge. If they can get out of their group, the Red Devils have a serious chance.
Key man: Sieve through the Belgium squad and you see De Bruyne, Hazard, Kompany, Witsel and Mertens. But watch out for Michy Batshuayi of Marseille. ‘Batsman’ has already confirmed that he’s leaving OM this summer after scoring 17 goals in 32 appearances this season and when you see Spurs and Atletico Madrid are after his signature, you understand how good he is. Big, powerful and just 22 years old, Batshuayi could make a major impact in his first international tournament.
Who’ve they got? A Group of Death containing Italy, Sweden and worst of all, the mighty Republic of Ireland.