It only feels like yesterday since Spain had won the 2012 European Championships and that was four years ago!!! Again, one of the biggest national football tournaments (only second to the World Cup) is back on again this June 2016. National teams will battle it out all over France for two weeks to become European Champions. With an expected viewing audience of over 2 billion people around the globe, the European Championships will be the third most watched sporting event in the world, only to be behind the Olympics and the World Cup. As kick off for the opening match will begin in two days, here is a look at some of the big name teams and an analysis of their chances of getting their hands on the Henri Delaunay Trophy.
(final 23-man squad)
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Porto), David de Gea (Manchester United), Sergio Rico (Sevilla)
Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Marc Bartra (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Mikel San Jose (Athletic Bilbao), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid), Hector Bellerin (Arsenal)
Midfielders: Bruno (Villarreal), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Thiago (Bayern Munich), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea).
Strikers: Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Bilbao), Nolito (Celta Vigo), Alvaro Morata (Juventus), Lucas Vasquez (Real Madrid), Pedro (Chelsea),
Manager: Vincente del-Bosque
Why not start off with the current European Champions? It is without a doubt, their days of “possession” based style of football and days of dominance on the football pitch between 2008-2014 are over. The Xavis, the Puyols, the Villas and even Cassilas’ are all gone. A new breed of young Spanish stars have come through the ranks and Del Bosque will want to inject some freshness into the team (although he has left out some notable players such as Torres, Mata, Costa). With their midfield and defence strong as always, their shortage of reliable strikers looks weak and could be their Achilles heel. Unquestionably, Spain have always been a talented team but with a mix of both experienced and inexperienced players, as well as their shock group stage exit from the 2014 World Cup still haunting them, I don’t see them retaining their title.
Star Man: David De Gea
Arguably, the best goalkeeper on the planet and has proven it at Manchester United in the past three seasons. Hopefully he can bring his club form with him onto the national stage.
Lookout for: Alvaro Morata
Although he hasn’t had the season he would’ve hoped for with the Old Lady, Spain is relying on him to produce the goals.
Can Cassilas (above) lift the trophy a third time in a row?
(final 23-man squad)
Goalkeepers: Benoit Costil (Rennes), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille).
Defenders: Lucas Digne (Roma), Patrice Evra (Juventus), Christophe Jallet (Lyon), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City), Jeremy Mathieu (Barcelona), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid).
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace), Lassana Diarra (Marseille), N’Golo Kante (Leicester), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle).
Forwards: Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Tigres), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Dimitri Payet (West Ham).
Manager: Didier Deschamps
France has never really been a massive threat on the world football stage since the 2006 World Cup. But I must say – this is one of the best French teams I have seen in years. It’s a well-oiled team, mixed with experienced players and players who have experienced success. If there’s a time for France to cement themselves back as a powerhouse in world football, it’s now and there’s no better place to do it than on their home soil. While their team consists of a mediocre backline, their midfield and forwards will definitely inflict some pain on the opposition. You also cannot ignore the talents of Pogba and Greizmann as they will try to dissect the opposition with amazing power and blistering pace. If they can keep the ball from entering their own net, then Deschamps’ team will surely have a chance of getting back to their European glory days.
Star Man: Antoine Greizmann
His pace and vision is undeniable and will be a workload for defences. Definitely will be one of the favourite players of the tournament.
Lookout for: Kingsley Coman
A surprise call-up for the 19-year-old who has fast-tracked his career to become one of the most successful players as a teenager. A real talent who will show some flashy footwork and fast runs down the wing.
Pogba (above) is just as good a talent as Greizmann and will be hoping to fire France to glory on home soil
(final 23-man squad)
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Jean-Francois Gillet (Mechelen), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool).
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Jason Denayer (Galatasaray), Bjorn Engels (Club Bruges), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit), Jordan Lukaku (Oostende), Thomas Meunier (Club Bruges), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham).
Midfielders: Moussa Dembele (Tottenham), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Radja Nainggolan (Roma), Axel Witsel (Zenit St Petersburg).
Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Marseille), Christian Benteke (Liverpool), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Divock Origi (Liverpool).
Manager: Marc Wilmots
Some might tend to disagree, but I personally believe Belgium are the dark horses of the tournament. Much like France, they are a team with so much talent and they have improved so much as a national side over the past couple of years. The team, picked by Marc Wilmots, has been somewhat similar to that of the one we saw at the 2014 World Cup, however the Red Devils will be missing a crucial player in their captain, Vincent Kompany, due to injury. Obviously, this team is full of star players but while they are the dark horses of the tournament, they will need to perform as a team rather than individual performances in order to have a chance to get their hands on the trophy – something they were unable to do in Brazil.
Star man: Eden Hazard
Such a disappointing season for Eden Hazard but in this tournament, he must revert to his dribbling skills and jaw-dropping curling goals. It’s time for him to bring back the world-class player of Eden Hazard that we once knew.
Look out for: Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin de Bruyne is one of those players who just keeps getting better and better with every season. A blistering shot with a wonderful eye for a pass, he will want to bring his club form to his national side.
Could this be a second chance for Eden Hazard (above) to save his season?
(final 23-man squad)
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Southampton), Joe Hart (Manchester City), Tom Heaton (Burnley).
Defenders: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), John Stones (Everton), Kyle Walker (Tottenham).
Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
Manager: Roy Hodgson
England….. I apologise to any English fans reading this but again, I don’t see them winning. History tells it. They have failed to meet expectations in the past three World Cups and Euros. It is obvious that this new-look England team has talent but like any tournament they go into, they do not perform, and when they do perform, they get knocked out by penalties. Apart from the inclusion of Jack Wilshere (who has not played a full 90 minutes this whole season) and the omission of Danny Drinkwater, Roy Hodgson has picked a respectable in-form side. However, the Three Lions are the youngest team in France and bringing an inexperienced team could be their downfall. Like I said, I think England will be one of the disappointments of the tournament. I just really do hope that they can prove me wrong.
Star Man: Wayne Rooney
The England skipper can effectively dictate the tempo of the play and will be crucial in turning England’s possession from defence to attack.
Look Out For: Dele Alli
Dele Alli has had the season of his life at White Hart Lane. Such a young talented player with an exquisite touch and an ability to pick out extraordinary passes.
Round of 16
Young gun Delli Alli (below) celebrates after scoring a wonder strike against France
(final 23-man squad)
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Federico Marchetti (Lazio), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint-Germain)
Defenders: Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham), Matteo Darmian (Manchester United), Mattia De Sciglio (Milan)
Midfielders: Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Emanuele Giaccherini (Bologna), Thiago Motta (Paris Saint-Germain), Marco Parolo (Lazio), Stefano Sturaro (Juventus), Antonio Candreva (Lazio)
Forwards: Eder (Inter), Ciro Immobile (Torino), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Graziano Pelle (Southampton), Simone Zaza (Juventus), Federico Bernardeschi (Fiorentina), Stephan El Shaarawy (Roma)
Manager: Antonio Conte
Italy are a team where they either do very well at a tournament or they are totally dismal. With the current team they have and their recent performances, I think this is one of the tournaments where they will be shockingly bad. Compared to the big teams, their team looks weakest in terms of form, and seems disjointed with players who have proven throughout the season that they are unable to perform. This will be Antonio Conte’s last moment as Italian manager as he will want to bring his Euro glory to Stamford Bridge next season. Nevertheless like most tournaments, the Italians are inconsistent and it also doesn’t help when you are placed in the group of death.
Star Man: Giorgio Chiellini
Chiellini is the backbone of Italy’s defence. Strong in the air, dominant in possession and always making vital tackles when needed, he might be the only player in the squad to perform consistently for his side this tournament.
Look out for: Lorenzo Insigne
Insigne is one of the few Italian players that have performed outstandingly for the club and hopefully will continue to knock balls into the back of the net for his national side.
Round of 16
Could this be Buffon’s (above) last chance of winning Euros?
(final 23-man squad)
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona), Bernd Leno (Leverkusen)
Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Jonas Hector (Cologne), Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich), Benedikt Howedes (Schalke), Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia), Emre Can (Liverpool), Antonio Rudiger (Roma)
Midfielders: Sami Khedira (Juventus), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Julian Draxler (Wolfsburg), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund), Leroy Sane (Schalke)
Forwards: Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Mario Gomez (Besiktas), Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich), Andre Schurrle (Wolfsburg)
Manager: Joachim Low
Unlike the Italians, the Germans are undoubtedly the most consistent team in the world, let alone Europe. While their recent friendlies don’t say so, Joachim Low’s selection has proven that Germany have always got quality players needed to perform at the highest level. The talent doesn’t stop – Phillip Lahm, Miroslave Klose and Per Mertesacker have all hung their boots up but already Low has filled up these three big holes with capably gifted players such as Emre Can and Joshua Kimmich. History tells us that they are a team who always prepare well, have a history of winning and have a coach who knows what works (Low has won 82 of his last 122 games in charge). So yes! While it seems very mainstream, I do see them replicating their brilliant 2014 World Cup victory in France and if they don’t, they only have themselves to blame.
Star Man: Thomas Muller
Muller – an unfailing goal scoring machine that has fired Germany through success in the last several years. Unwavering hard work and dedication and it is no hesitation that Low has always put his trust on him to lead the front line.
Look out for: Joshua Kimmich
Pep Guardiola rewarded Kimmich with 15 league starts on his debut season and in turn, the young defensive midfielder payed him back with superb composed performances on the pitch. He’ll want to perform well this tournament with a potential big money transfer this summer.
(Above) Could Germany be World champions and European champions at the same time?
– Written by Peter Hoang