The Euro 2016 finally gets underway this weekend, and as Europe’s giants line-up to take on another on, we at MenStuff have taken a closer-look at which countries will pose the greatest threats.
The current world champs bring a very familiar looking squad to Euro 2016, with the core of the World Cup winning squad largely in tact. However, the side has been rocked in the build up to the tournament losing Marco Reus and Man City’s new boy Ilkay Gundogan to injury amongst others. Die Manschaft have also seemed to have lost their usual consistency in the past years, with loses to Ireland, USA and Slovakia all happening within the 12 months. However, the side is still stacked with talent and has been moulded to exact specification under Joachim Low’s long-term tutelage. When one considers the attacking threats that Germany have been blessed with, there will undoubtedly be a few champagne displays on offer at all stages of the tournament. After all, this is the same side that plastered Brazil 7-2 in a World Cup semifinal! If it weren’t for a likely show down against Belgium in the quarter-finals, one could almost guarantee Germany at least a 3rd place finish.
Key Players: Manuel Neuer, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller.
The current titleholders were embarrassed two years ago in Brazil and will definitely be out to rebuild their once fierce reputation. Looking at the squad they have laid out, La Furia Rojas are more than capable of doing so with a very mature side that already been to the top of the footballing world and back. Champion’s League finalists litter the bench let alone the starting XI, and with Vincent Del Bosque’s tiki-taka tactics, it will be hard enough getting the ball off them, let alone scoring. There seems to be no questions over the security at the back for the Spanish who only conceded 3 goals throughout qualifiers, but there do however remain problems upfront, with the side still nowhere near filling the void left by David Villa. Nolito may yet be the last ditch cure. Their games will likely make you want to switch back to the rugby, but expect the Spanish to glide through to at least the semifinals.
Key Players: Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Nolito
The Red Devils are the number 1 ranked side in Europe going into the European showpiece. Many critics still hold reservations over their actual ability to fight with the traditional powers however, with still no titles to show. The small nation has a footballing history of anonymity, but has seen their fortunes dramatically reverse with their golden generation having blossomed out of nowhere. Ranked 66th in the world back in 2009, Belgium now boasts one of the strongest squads in Europe that have very few chinks in the armour. They are a very physical outfit that will likely bully opponents into submission at times, but do not write them off as simply brutish. With the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard in their ranks amongst some other pacey wingers, expect to see defences split with lightning quick counterattacks. However, with the injury to Vincent Kompany, Belgium is now rather light at the back and will count on a couple youngsters to perform beyond their years. If they do, Belgium may emerge from their bout against Germany victorious.
Key Players: Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Toby Alderweireld
Les Bleus have been known to soar when international tournaments happen in their own backyard, having won the 1984 Euro and 1998 World Cup as the host nation. Moreover, the national coach Didier Deschamps lead France to their second Euro title as a player back in 2002. The stage is well set then for France to contend once more for tournament honours. The squad only reconfirms this notion. Despite being one of the younger sides at the tournament with only a handful of veterans in the ranks, many of the newcomers are already playing leading roles in top clubs across Europe. Chief among them is Paul Pogba, who will be instrumental in pulling the strings in the midfield. Anton Griezmann is another man who carries huge expectations for this tournament, with the Athletico striker raining in goals this year at club level. He will be supported well by many other energetic attackers that should see France playing an exciting and expansive game. France will be looking to outscore rather than shut out its opponents with a far weaker defence compared to other contenders, making for some exciting displays to come.
Key Players: Paul Pogba, Anton Griezmann, Hugo Lloris
The golden generation of English football have all but retired from the international scene, passing on a underwhelming benchmark of a quarterfinal penalty misery. However, the youthful squad put forward by Roy Hodgson are looking increasingly likely of bigger and better things. The explosive entrance of Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Dele Alli amongst others onto the Premier League circuit has many English critics drooling over the prospects of what this new era can accomplish. Don’t be surprised if these kids take a few big scalps over in France.
Key Players: Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Wayne Rooney
A similar underwhelming performer in tournaments gone by, the upcoming tournament represents the last shot at glory for many senior figures in the Iberian outfit. While many of the veterans have had illustrious domestic careers, the spark has always been missing on the international stage. Nevertheless, Fernando Santos has gone for a very experienced squad who will have one final shot at redemption. The godlike figure of Ronaldo will once again be expected to carry the nation’s hopes, and if he brings his best form to the tournament, the man can almost singlehandedly cement a semi-final slot.
Key Players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho, Pepe
Which European nation do you think has the best shot at Euro 2016? Let us know in the comments below and tweet us at @MenStuffZA.