Champions: France – It is difficult to pick an outright winner or Euro 2016 as no team stands clearly above the rest. France however do have a strong team and will have the advantage of playing at home. The last time the French hosted a major tournament they went all the way to the title, and that could quite easily happen again.
Dark Horses: Portugal – Any side with Cristiano Ronaldo is a dangerous one, but Portugal are more than a ‘one man team’. Paulo Bento has a good mix of youth and experience to pick from, and if Ronaldo is firing then a run to the latter stages is on the cards.
Shocker: Belgium – There is a weight of expectation on Belgium’s shoulders now, and after their disappointing performances at the World Cup, we could see a repeat of 2014 where they failed to light up the world. Italy could be a tough prospect in their group and a second place finish could lead to a tough round of 16 draw.
Golden Boot: Thomas Muller – The Bayern Munich man always seems to be in contention for the Golden Boot in tournament’s, and this one will be no different. Muller is one of the most intelligent players on the planet and will be Germany’s main source of goals. The side will likely go deep, and that will be thanks to the ability of Muller.
England – This is the most exciting English side in a long time and there is optimism that they could go deep. Tournament football is a lot different to friendlies though, and they will likely come undone against the first decent side they play in the quarter-finals.
Wales – A good group means that Wales will likely make the last 16. Unless they finish top though, their Euro 2016 campaign will likely end at that stage.
Republic of Ireland – Dealt with a tough group, the Irish will not be so lucky this time around and exit at the first hurdle.
Northern Ireland – Germany, Poland and Ukraine are better sides, so it will be unlikely that Northern Ireland make it out of their group.
Champions: Germany – I think Germany will prevail as the Euro 2016 winners. Regardless of the personnel they select for every international tournament they always seem to develop natural winners and leaders that guide the team to triumph. Now this particular German side have experienced a great number of years together, which makes them undeniably dangerous to the rest of the field in the upcoming tournament.
Dark Horses: Belgium – Featuring in Group E, Belgium are one of the teams to look out for. They will miss Vincent Kompany, because of his leadership qualities, but the likes of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen should provide enough stability to the team throughout the tournament. Also, I will be intrigued to see how well Yannick Ferreira Carrasco fairs after such a wonderful performance in this year’s Champions League Final for Atletico Madrid.
Shocker: Italy – The 2006 World Cup winners are my pick to exit the tournament early for a number of a reasons. Firstly, when analysing the players they have at their disposal, there does not seem to be many match winners like they developed in the past like Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi in his prime and Paolo Maldini. They feature in a tough group with Sweden, Belgium and Republic of Ireland, so there is no guarantee they will get out of that group unscathed.
England – I can picture England going very far in this tournament. The elite heavyweight countries like Italy, Spain and France are all beatable in my opinion. A semi-final finish at this tournament is a realistic proposition for the young, fearless England side.
Wales – Wales qualifying for their first international tournament in 58 years was a massive achievement in itself – anything else is a bonus. The Welsh will be extremely reliant on their star man Gareth Bale, but they have already shown in qualifying how much of a great defensive unit they can be. I can see Wales getting positive results against Slovakia and Russia, but realistically they will not hang around for the latter stages of the competition – Out in the Last 16.
Republic of Ireland – Unfortunately for Martin O’Neill’s men, they’ve found themselves in one of the toughest groups possible. Perhaps they have a chance of sneaking through as a 3rd place qualifier, but their group features much stronger tournament savvy players – Out at the group stage.
Northern Ireland – They profited from the collapse of Greece in the qualifying stages which opened the door for a surprise group winner. It will be extremely tough to see past Germany and Poland as the qualifiers in Group C, even with Poland’s abysmal record in European international finals – Out at the group stage.
Champions: France – It is not exactly pushing the boat out to envisage the Cup in the hands of the hosts. Home advantage can sometimes be more hindrance than help, but I do not see the French having an emotional meltdown à la Brazil two years ago. Despite the ghosts of recent troubles, Les Bleus will thrive and ultimately triumph at home.
Dark Horses: Switzerland – Despite an unimpressive record in previous European Championships group stages (one victory in nine matches), Switzerland are my dark horse. Solid in defence with a strong midfield led by Granit Xhaka, newly of Arsenal, the Swiss could go further than they have ever gone before… at least as far as the last 16.
Shocker: Belgium – At first glance Belgium look favourites to top their group. Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Christian Benteke head up an array of talent that, on paper, should see them through tough fixtures against Sweden and Italy. The less-than-prolific efforts on the part of their strikers during qualification have to be a concern, however, and Ireland could weigh in to rock the boat in Group E. I see a third-place group finish for FIFA’s world number two.
Golden Boot: Olivier Giroud – The Frenchman must deliver for the hosts if they are to lift the trophy this year, and history suggests that he will. With 17 goals for his country in 49 caps, the Arsenal forward has the experience and the reliability to keep on netting throughout the tournament.
England – Usually the only predictable factors about England on international duty are penalty collapses, defeat to Germany and that dull ache of disappointment. This year, however, has seen the rise of tantalising new blood in the likes of Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane. The question is whether that talent is enough to overcome the pressure of English expectation. Assuming the Three Lions can qualify from Group B first or second, they look likely to avoid the favourites until later in the tournament. Prediction: Quarter-finals
Northern Ireland – They must be brimming with confidence following an excellent run-up to the finals. Even after being thrown into a group with Germany and goal-happy Poland, Michael O’Neill’s men have a decent chance of finishing third but lack the experience to squeeze into the last 16 via the new format. Prediction: Group stages.
Republic of Ireland – Ireland have qualified for just the third time in tournament history and, despite having veterans Robbie Keane, John O’Shea and Shay Given in their midst, the absence of experience at this level could be their undoing. Prediction: Group stages.
Wales – Gareth Bale may insist that he alone is not the Welsh team, but it is difficult to see where the winning formula will come from. Group B, however, does not look too menacing on the face of it. Wales have a fair chance against the underwhelming Russians and Slovakians to qualify along with England. Prediction: Last 16.
Euro 2016 starts on 10 June
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