So it’s finally arrived. Euro 2016 is just around the corner and so it is time for more infallible predictions.
In this new expanded format there are more teams than ever with an opportunity of glory. However, it is hard to look past the top three of hosts France, world champions Germany and reigning European champions Spain. All three have extremely impressive squads proven by those that they have left behind (Benzema, Ben Arfa (France), Reus, Bellarabi (Germany) Mata, Costa, Martinez (Spain)) all of which would easily make the England squad. There is huge strength in depth.
Les Bleus are rightly favourites. The last time an international tournament was on French soil a Zidane-inspired team defeated Brazil to lift the World Cup. I can see similar scenes this time round. After a few disastrous tournaments the French have got rid of their demons (and blackmailers) and look ready for action. They have an array of attacking talent full of pace and power albeit with a shaky defence. A home victory is a strong possibility.
Winners – France
Runners-up – Spain
With the inclusion of 24 teams for the first time there are far more opportunities for surprises. There are a few teams that could cause some upsets. In group A, Romania had a fantastic qualifying campaign and may challenge Switzerland for second spot. Another team who enjoyed a dominant campaign, Austria, remained undefeated for the entirety of qualifying. Only a draw in their opening game to Sweden back in September 2014 prevented them from joining England with a perfect record.
However, one team stands out to me as having a serious possibility of reaching a quarter final and maybe further, against the odds. Poland only suffered one defeat in qualifying, to the World Champions, and even managed to defeat the Germans when they visited Warsaw. They have a clinical striker in Lewandowski supported by a cast of dependable and recognisable names such as Piszczek, Boruc and Krychowiak. Watch out for the Poles.
Prediction – Poland
Player of the Tournament
There are many players to choose from when it comes to player of the tournament. There are the classic names of Iniesta, Muller and Ronaldo. Alongside the English hopefuls of Kane and Alli. However, there is an array of French hopefuls. Pogba is, understandably, the bookies’ favourite and should be a standout performer for Les Bleus.
I would look to the players ahead of him though, especially Payet and Griezmann. The former has had a wonderful first season in England and will make a huge impact at the tournament. It is the Atletico striker that will impress the most however; goals and assists, he can do everything.
Prediction – Antoine Griezmann
There are plenty of marksmen on display this summer. Zlatan has scored 50 goals this season. Kane has been top scorer in a competitive Premier League. And Ronaldo has scored over 30 league goals for the 6th season in a row. There is a plethora of talent with their eyes on the Golden Boot.
There are also some outsiders that should not be overlooked. Nolito and/or Morata will have the backing of Spain’s illustrious midfield while Griezmann and Giroud may chip in with a few as France make it deep into the tournament.
However, in my mind it will come down to two men: Lewandowski and Muller. The former has had a terrific season and was top scorer during qualifying. He will need his team to make it to at least the quarter finals if he is to stand a chance. Muller has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and has performed at every international tournament he has played in. The Bayern Munich men will be fighting it out.
Prediction – Thomas Muller
Only the sixth team to ever have a 100% record in Euro qualifying. The Three Lions have a young squad with plenty of potential, however, potential is the word. This may be one tournament too early. In Kane they have a world-class striker and Alli one of the rising stars of the game.
The first problem is what formation to play. The diamond seemed the way to go, but looked rigid and lethargic against Portugal. If Hodgson actually plays Kane and Vardy up front rather than on the wing, England could make a serious impact in France.
A semi-final spot would be a fantastic result for the Three Lions.
Prediction – Quarter-final
So there we go! Let the football commence.