Hey readers... do not lie.
“About what?” you ask, well you have not been keeping up with the breakdowns and previews of the Euro Cup. Honestly it is not your fault. Between the NHL Finals, NBA finals, MLB season, all the Rio 2016 Olympics controversy, the epic Game of Thrones season and listening to the Fan-I Experience (I hope), you, the sports fan have simply not had time to get ready for the Euro Cup. Maybe you want to be the one smart aleck friend who knows everything about the Euro Cup but you are overwhelmed because the tournament held in France starts on Friday and you know nothing. Do not worry, it is okay.
It is okay to be lost about the teams, the groups, the favourites and the dark horses because Fan-I Sports have you covered with a breakdown of all you need to know about the 2016 Euro Cup or Euro 2016.
Group A: Albania, France, Romania, Switzerland
France are the host of this tournament and sport a pretty good team. They should get out of the group easily. "Should" is the operative word here because since 2006, France has not shown the mental toughness to perform to expectations. However, with a solid goalie in Hugo Lloris, a midfield that sports the likes of Paul Progba and Moussa Sissoko and a forward tandem in Olivier Giroud and Andre-Pierre Gignac. Giroud may have struggled with Arsenal this season but with France he has been a completely different player and is coming to this tournament hot.
The question is not who wins the groups, it is who will be in second. I would pick the Swiss side to take up the mantle of second due to their defensive style; although this is not a foregone conclusion. Do not be surprised if Romania’s reckless offensive pace steals a spot from the Swiss.
Prediction: France and Switzerland go through to the knockout stage
Group B: England, Russia, Slovakia, Wales
I really like the direction that England took in making their team this time around. Aside from being really young, they have a good combination. With established talent like Kane and Hart, veteran leadership like Rooney and ‘hot’ talent like Vardy and Lallana, England should do damage. In terms of the other three teams, I think Russia will come in second. I know Wales has a magician in Gareth Bale but they only have Gareth Bale. That is not to disparage anyone who puts on the red and white for Wales but there is no other exceptional talent on the team.
Russia to me is interesting. They have put in a team of ‘Russian league All Stars’. There are a lot of things wrong with the Russian league morally, however, they are a league that is growing and the talent is a reason why. I think the Russian team could creep up on a couple teams if slept on.
Prediction: England and Russia go through to the Knockout stage
Group C: Germany, Northern Ireland, Poland and Ukraine
This is Germany and Ukraine’s group to lose. It is a shame because Polish and Northern Irish talent is quietly on the rise but it is still about 4 years off from a knockout stage birth. Germany is great and every fan knows that but for the casual fan, let us spend some time on Ukraine. These guys can put the ball in the goal. This team is almost a carbon copy version of Romania in the sense that they play with reckless abandon and go score but Ukraine actual have a midfield that can hold possessions. There are questions about their defense and goalie but it will probably not be exposed in the group stage.
Prediction: Germany goes through while Ukraine squeaks by
Group D: Croatia, Czech Republic, Spain and Turkey
In some peoples’ minds, this is the group of death. Spain are the defending champions and although they have taken a tiny step back, they still play sweet possession ball. Diego Costa has been struggling mightily this year but he is still an attacking presence. However this is a dogfight as all four teams are formidable. The Czech Republic is probably the worst of the group, which is a shame because Petr Cech is a legend and deserve some kind of international championship. I really like Turkey and Spain to go through but they will have to earn it.
Prediction: Spain and Turkey fight their way through to the knockout stage
Group E: Belgium, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Sweden
In my mind, this is the group of death. I cannot stress how good of a team Belgium is but there are players on this team that have shown red flags when it came to how they dealt with adversity. This means that Italy, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland - not so much Republic of Ireland - have a legitimate shot at catching Belgium. While I voiced my displeasure about the forwards of Italy, Italy is a good team everywhere else. While Sweden only have Zlatan Ibrahimović as their source of established star power, it is freaking Zlatan Ibrahimović. Ireland are a defensive wall and have figured out how to stop any shred of creativity but cannot score to save their Euro cup lives. Belgium and Italy should go through but it would probably be good karma if Sweden overtake Italy to win.
Prediction: Belgium and Italy squeak through
Group F: Portugal, Austria, Hungary, Iceland
If Portugal does not make it through to the knockout stage, than Portugal should be banned from all competition for at least 5 years. Austria is obviously a good team but Portugal is better than every team in this group and that includes Austria. Portugal has a really solid team. While the team is not FIFA world cup 2006 Portugal, they should go through along with Austria. Problem is Portugal knows how to underperform and they do that very well.
Prediction: Portugal and Austria make it to the knockout stage
The favourites are obviously Germany, Spain, France, Belgium and England. These five teams look really good coming in but to me I see Germany winning it all. I really do like what England is attempting and they can pull it off with a little luck going their way. Spain is a little too scarce offensively for my liking, while France and Belgium have players who tend to crack under pressure.
In my mind there are two dark horses in this competition, Portugal and Italy. Ronaldo is playing some of the best soccer in his life and could possibly push the Portuguese side through. Italy is barren up front but every other part of their team will do their part.
The long shots
If you are feeling lucky, bet on Ukraine or Turkey. Ukraine have a system that allows for speed and width to be dangerous and fiery. While Turkey defends to a T. the problem is that both styles are fatiguing without the star power to help.
Which player to watch
I personally want to see how Jamie Vardy will fare. The Leicester city star is coming off a huge year and this tournament is a good gauge to see just how real Vardy is.
What’s your ‘heart pick’ to win?
I personally want to see Zlatan Ibrahimović or Petr Cech win one before they go out. Zlatan is in that unlucky period of his career at 34 where he can still play at an elite level now but he is 34 and there is no telling when his body will turn on him. Cech is still great but is clearly on his last legs as a player as he turned 34 as well recently. It would be nice to see either Sweden or Czech Republic make a run so either one of these two can go out with an international championship.