The second international tournament out of 3 this summer will begin in France, which is EURO 2016. This tournament generally is considered one of the best tournaments around the world, on par with the World Cup in the eyes of many, as it has most of the top teams in the world. UEFA wanted to have more countries develop their football, so they have extended this years competition to 24 teams as compared to 16 historically, which should make for some great viewing.
France are the host nation and will be strong favourites to win the tournament as well as come out as group winners. They have had the fortune of being the first team to be allocated into a qualifying group to ensure they have steady fixtures against top teams in Europe to be prepared for this tournament. The talent on the pitch with France is one that everyone raves about through out Europe this season particularly the likes of Paul Pogba, Antoine Greizmann, Dimitri Payet, Hugo Llloris and Blaise Matuidi. The four of them are instrumental cogs for France’s success this season and will need to be at their best in most games in order to ensure they win this tournament. Finding a striker to net consistently up front will be the difficult decision to be made by manager Didier Deschamps as Giroud, Gignac and Martial have had mixed seasons so far. Defensively France have concerns now that Sakho is out, so Koscielny will partner Mangala or Rami at the heart of the defence. France look extremely strong and talented on paper, and should do enough to probably win this group.
Romania haven’t shown up to a major international competition since Euro 2008 where they were beaten in the group stage in the Group of Death with Netherlands, Italy and France. Since then they have a big shuffle of their pack with a new crop of players emerging through. The likes of Razvan Rat, Vlad Chirches, Mihai Pintilii, Costel Pantillimon and Alexandru Chipciu are among the players who have had experience on the international stage and playing in the top flight in various leagues around Europe. The team were drawn in an easy group and were able to qualify as the 2nd best team behind Northern Ireland. They have played decently well in their warm up games and might look to create some opportunities, but the lack of talent up front to net the goals will be off grave concern to them. I don’t see them being able to qualify out of this group.
Albania are the lowest ranked team in this tournament, ranked 42 in the world as per the latest FIFA Rankings, and that clearly shows you the kind of trouble they are in for in this tournament. Albania had the lowest shots on target in qualifying heading into this tournament with just 28, from where they scored a mere 10 goals. They qualified through the tournament because of they got 3 points awarded to them against Serbia for pitch invasion. They struggled against decent teams like Serbia, drawing Denmark twice while they lost to Austria, and drew with Georgia in their friendly warm ups. They only managed victories against lowly opposition in Luxembourg and Qatar. The experience with Albania is in their defence with Lorik Cana, Elside Hysaj, and Ansi Agolli. Their match against Romania will be an entertaining one but that will come too late, as they should already be knocked out by then from challenge in this tournament.
Switzerland are an improving team year after year and that is seen in their ranking of 15; which is higher than France. They have generally been terrible in the Euros, landing up as the bottom placed team in their last 3 outings in 1996, 2004 and 2008. Since then they have reached the knockout stages of the World Cup and qualified in 2nd in their group to get to this stage. They have progressed this far with some good talent playing in some top clubs around Europe with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka, Valron Behrami, Stephan Liechsteiner, Ricardo Rodriguez, Admir Mehmedi and Johan Djorou. The Swiss know that they have to perform well now as this talented group of individuals cannot stay in the wilderness for soo long. Switzerland have scored 24 goals in their 10 qualifying games, but have struggled in the friendlies leading up to this tournament losing to Belgium, Bosnia, Ireland, Slovakia while only beating Austria in that time. They have lost most games by the solitary goal, so a little matter of concentration will keep up the defence tighter. Their weakness will be on their striker up front with limited options in with Derdiyok, Seferovic and Emboli fighting it out for the starting birth. I expect Switzerland to have many tight games in this group, and qualify by the skin of their teeth with Romania their like threat to stop them.
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