Euro 2016 – Who Will Win This Season?
Euro 2016 – The Pass Masters
Despite crashing out of Brazil 2014 in the group stage and appearing more fallible than at any other point in recent years, Spain go into the Euros with a talented squad more than capable of going all the way. Stalwarts Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos and Sergio Busquets still very much at the centre of manager Vincente Del Bosque’s plans, while there will be several familiar faces from the Premier League included as well. Expect expert ball retention, effortless match domination and the ability to outmanoeuvre opponents. The holders have as good a chance as any.
The Over-Hyped Underdogs
Aside from the last world cup, it’s hard to imagine a time when England went into a tournament with such low expectations. After a dismal showing in Brazil ended with an early group-stage exit and not a single win, Roy Hodgson’s side really can only get better. With Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane in the form of his life with the highest international goals per game ratio in world football after Neymar, putting the ball in the back of the net certainly shouldn’t be a problem at the Euros. Whether they can go all the way will depend very much on the side’s state of mind. Although the squad undoubtedly has the quality required to go far in France, too often England sides have buckled under the pressure and been found wanting with regards to basic technical skills when it matters most.
Hosting a tournament, whatever the sport, tends to have a dramatic effect on team performance. Either France will find themselves weighed down by the expectancy of a nation, or their talented squad will thrive under the pressure and go deep into the tournament. With a number of world-class talents including Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, Juventus’ Paul Pogba and Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, they certainly have the quality. Manager Didier Deschamps will guide a young squad charged with making the dreams of a nation come true.
Perhaps only considered veterans because of their perennial experience and wherewithal, the Italians are guaranteed to be a nation that nobody wants to come up against next summer. Italy are famed for their savvy approach to defending, and will almost certainly be difficult to score against. Finding a capable striker to lead the line due to the potential absence of Mario Balotelli will be their biggest problem. For a number of Italian players this could well be their last major tournament, and the likes of legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, Georgio Chiellini and Daniele De Rossi will be keen to leave the international stage with aplomb.
The Winning Machine
Anyone who watched the world cup in Brazil would have witnessed in awe Germany dismantling on their route to glory. The current world champions have a largely unchanged squad from two summers ago, aside from the loss of former captain Phillip Lahm to international retirement. Two years older and wiser, they look to be favourites heading in to the tournament. Key to their success will be who manager Jogi Lowe chooses to lead the German attack. Without a world class striker in the mould of Miroslav Klose, he may adopt a false-nine system to best bring out the best from his many attacking midfielders. Expect Mezut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze and the man who missed the world cup Marco Reus, to feature heavily.
The Dark Horses
The FIFA world rankings are never really taken seriously, but it is with some justification that Belgium find themselves at the top. It’s hard to argue that they are the best side in world football, but they are certainly more than a match for anyone on their day. With Chelsea pair Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard alongside Everton’s Romelu Lukaku and Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, the Belgians have a spine as good as any on the international stage. Their only weakness is perhaps at full-back, where central defenders including Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld will provide solidity if not creativity.