Euro 2016 preview

Breaking down this summer’s tournament

Graphic by Jen Goertzen.

We are four months away from the Euro 2016 tournament, set to take place in France. The tournament kicks off on June 10 with hosts France playing against Romania. Some sides have named their preliminary squads for the summer tournament, but the Manitoban decided to give an early look at how things may shake out in four months time.

Group A
France, Switzerland, Romania, Albania
Since the French are hosting, they didn’t have to go through any qualifying rounds so they haven’t played any competitive soccer since the World Cup in 2014. However, they have plenty of world-class players at every position that will see Les Bleus likely top Group A.

The Swiss finished second in their qualifying group, only losing three times. Speedy winger Xherdan Shaqiri will lead them offensively. Look for youngster Breel Embolo to make an impact.

Albania managed to surprise everyone when they finished second in their qualifying group, ahead of the likes of Denmark. This will be the first Euros the Albanians have ever qualified for. A positive is that they do have a combined 18 wins against their Group A opponents.

Romania played in a very odd qualifying group, which saw them finish ahead of 2004 Euro winners Greece. The best Romania has ever done at the Euros was make it to the quarterfinals in 2000. They will face tough opposition in this group and will likely struggle to get any points.

Group B
England, Wales, Slovakia, Russia
England had a fantastic qualifying campaign, being the first team to qualify for the tournament. They won all 10 of their games and had an impressive +31 goal difference . The English have traditionally not been a tournament team and we might see a bit of a lapse in form, but with this manageable group, they should have no problems.

Led by superstar Gareth Bale , the Welsh have raised the eyebrows of many with their superb qualifying campaign. This will be their first Euro since 1976 and they will be a dark horse heading into the tournament.

This will be the first time Slovakia has qualified since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia – which last qualified in 1980, where they finished third. Marek Hamšík scored five goals for the Slovaks in 10 appearances during the qualifying campaign in the 2015-2016 season.

Russia finished second in their qualifying group, eight points behind leaders Austria. A stout defense only saw them concede five goals in their ten qualifying games . Artem Dzyuba will be relied on heavily for the Russians, as he put away eight goals during qualifying.

Group C
Germany, Poland, Northern Ireland, Ukraine
The reigning World Cup champions are heavily favored to win this tournament. They stumbled through qualifying, registering losses to both Poland and Ireland. That has been quintessential German form in the past, though, as they have never impressed in the games leading up to major tournaments but have shown the class to consistently finish well.

Poland had a very good qualifying campaign, led by all-star striker and captain Robert Lewandowski. They will cause teams trouble with their ability to counter attack effectively. They have a very potent offence, scoring 33 goals in 10 games.

The biggest surprise of the Euro qualifying campaign was seeing lowly Northern Ireland qualify. They won their group with 21 points, a group most people thought would be won by Greece. The Northern Irish have provided a feel-good story for many fans; unfortunately, that feel good story likely ends in June.

Ukraine qualified by winning their third place playoff against Slovakia. They are not an international powerhouse by any means and will struggle mightily against the likes of Germany and Poland. Ukraine has never made it out of the group stage , and that trend should continue this summer.

Group D
Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, Croatia
The Spaniards have won the last two Euros and will be hoping for a three-peat. After a difficult World Cup two years ago, the Spanish will want to rebound in France. Despite their recent struggles, they do have the quality to top this group.

Czech Republic won a very challenging group – one that included the likes of the Netherlands , who will not be at this year’s tournament. The 1976 winners should have the quality to finish second in this group, but might struggle to make the knockout stages.

Turkey has the chance to qualify as the best third place team and they are a force to be reckoned with. Barcelona midfielder Arda Turan shone for the Turks in qualifying, something they will hope will continue in June.

This was a tough call, but the Croatians just do not have the quality to advance to the knockout stages. They finished second in their very easy qualifying group behind Italy . Ivan Perišić will likely be the sole provider of goals if Mario Mandžukić cannot remain healthy.

Group E
Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Ireland
Italy won their qualifying group, and they will win their group to get into knockout stages. The 2012 finalists will be looking to win this year’s tournament and with Stefan El Shaarawy having resurgence at Roma, the Azzuri may have found the solution to their problems up front.

Belgium won their qualifying group, only conceding five goals in 10 games . The Belgians have a star-studded lineup, with world-class players at almost every position. The Red Devils will be a team to watch this summer.
The Swedes are led by 33 year-old super striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic . The polarizing player will be the catalyst in attack for Sweden. The Swedish will struggle in this group because Ibrahimovic does not have much of a supporting cast.

The luck of the Irish will likely not be with the team in June. Despite registering a shocking 1-0 win against Germany in qualifying , the Irish will most likely not repeat that against the opponents in this group. They do have the potential to surprise, however.

Group F
Austria, Iceland, Portugal, Hungary
The Austrians are a team to fear in this year’s tournament. They did not lose during their qualifying campaign and easily topped their group with 28 points. Bayern Munich left back David Alaba will be pulling the strings in midfield and will make a big difference.

Perhaps the boldest prediction made will be Iceland finishing ahead of Portugal in their group. Iceland had a very good qualifying campaign, which included beating the Netherlands 2-0 at the Amsterdam ArenA. Don’t count out this plucky Icelandic team.

The Portuguese will obviously be centered on Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid forward will be the big contributor offensively. Portugal will most likely finish as the third best team to qualify, and therefore make the knockout stages.

Hungary qualified by winning their third place playoff against Norway , which was quite surprising. The Hungarians have a difficult task ahead of them, as their opponents are far superior in every regard. They only scored nine goals in their qualifying campaign.