Written by Rhys Paul
It seems like an eternity since the season ended and the Summer can be a dark time for football fans needing their weekly fix. Fortunately, Euro 2016 finally begins today and this will at least provide an altogether different kind of excitement (or not if you’ve put money on England to win) to keep fans occupied over the next month. As we head into the tournament, it is time to analyse the countries who have the most reason to be excited coming into the tournament.
France – 3/1 (SkyBet)
The tournament hosts will naturally be expected to do well on home soil. A lot has been said about home advantage (you only have to look at the 1998 World Cup), but it really cannot be underestimated. Even South Korea benefited from it in 2002. Of course, it helps that France possess one of the finest squads heading into the tournament. World-class players like Griezmann, Pogba and Lloris will be joined by players, like Payet and Kante, who are arguably in the form of their lives. Here on All Out Football, we believe Group A is set up nicely for Didier Deschamps’ men to get off to the perfect start and this should aid the team in handling the pressure of being many people’s favourites. It will get much tougher for France, but it appears that the biggest danger to French hopes at this point is the sheer weight of expectation.
credit Jimmy Baikovicius
Germany – 4/1
Whatever the tournament, it would be unwise to dismiss Germany as potential winners. The current World Champions seem to always perform on the big stage. Remarkably, the Germans have reached the Semi-Finals every time they have progressed from the group stages at the Euros. Despite winning the last of their three European Championships in 1996, they remain the most successful team in the competition having also finished as Runner-Up on three occasions (the most recent in 2008). In Joachim Low they have one of the great managers in the sport today and if Muller can replicate his free-scoring World Cup performances, Germany will be a very difficult team to stop. Notoriously slow starters, the experienced core of players who have been together for the best part of ten years will get them through a potentially tricky Group C. If they continue their habit of growing in strength as the tournament progresses, Germany will be a safe bet to win Euro 2016.
credit Grzegorz Jereczek
Spain – 5/1
Spain will be looking to win an unprecedented third consecutive European Championship. The squad might appear weaker than the sides who won the tournament in 2008 and 2012, but it is still a team blessed with some of the best players in the world. Rumours that this will be Vicente Del Bosque’s swansong will also inspire Spain to give the manager who guided them to success in the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 a fitting farewell. There is no overlooking the fact that they are not quite as dominant as they once were (that friendly defeat to Georgia is just one example) and the lack of firepower in the side is particularly apparent when compared to the likes of France and Germany. Group D will also present them with a challenging start against three teams more than capable of causing an upset. However, they are one of the favourites for a reason and success for Spain in France will not be surprising.
credit Erik Drost
Belgium – 10/1
More so than any other team on this list, Belgium’s opening game against Italy in Group E could be a huge indication of the campaign ahead of them. The closest the country has come to European success was in 1980, yet the players at Marc Wilmots’ disposal suggest they really should be challenging. Much was expected of the so-called ‘golden generation’ at the World Cup, but the reality is that Euro 2016 offers a far more realistic chance of glory. Several players come into France in fine form and, despite Hazard enjoying something of an indifferent season, he has the ability to be as important to Belgium as Griezmann is to France. Few countries can match the strength in depth of Belgium and even fewer can claim to be as strong in defence as attack. Equipped with arguably the finest squad in their history, Euro 2016 is a very winnable competition for Belgium.
credit Piotr Drabik
Italy – 16/1
Perhaps the least likely of all teams on this list, Italy have generally been overlooked when discussing potential winners. Similarly to Belgium, much could be revealed from their opening game against the Belgians. In comparison to the other teams, there are no real stand-out players in the squad and this will require the Italians to operate as a strong team unit if they have any hopes of causing something of an upset. Antonio Conte will be expected to deploy a familiar 3-5-2 formation with the midfield and defence being set up to frustrate the opposition with their stubbornness. It is easy to forget the country finished Runners-Up four years ago and this is largely down to their poor showing at the 2014 World Cup, but they should be buoyed by an unbeaten qualifying campaign. Added to this the fact the Italians seem to thrive as underdogs and everything seems to be in place for a country who know how to win on the big stage to win only their second European Championship.
credit Aleksandr Osipov
Wildcard: Croatia – 25/1
At 25/1, Croatia might not seem a particularly ‘wild’ choice. If Ante Cacic does manage to lead the team to success, it will still be a surprise – one that will probably be talked about in the same light as Denmark (1992) and Greece (2004). The midfield duo of Modric and Rakitic will be crucial to their chances and the goals of Perisic and Mandzukic could be just the ingredient needed to propel the side to the next level over the next month. Croatia will first have to navigate a way out of a competitive group and even then nobody would be shocked if they went crashing out in the Round of 16. It still seems more probable at this stage than it did Leicester winning the Premier League at the start of the season and in a year where such upsets have already happened, Croatia should fancy their chances.
Who are you predicting to win the tournament? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Erik Drost