ON THE EUROS 2016

By Obinna Ezenwa Stephen

 The 2016 UEFA European Championship, commonly referred to as UEFA Euro 2016 or Euro 2016 will be the 15th edition, the quadrennial championship will be held in france from 10th june to 10th july by 24 teams from Europe.

Having expanded to 24 teams in 1996, and under this new format, the finalists will compete in a group stage consisting of six groups of four teams, followed by the knockout stage including three rounds and the final 19 teams (top from each of the nine qualifying group and the best third place team) join France who qualified automatically as hosts, a series of two legged play off ties between the remaining third placed teams in November 2015 decided the last four spots at the final tournament.
The grouping is as follows.

GROUP A

FRANCE: The hosts are strong favourites to win this years euros, one major set back for the French national team would be the banishment of Benzema for an undeterminable time. France would lose their attack firepower as Giroud isn’t as good as a striker and Martial is too young, the team would likely be relying on Paul Pogba.
The French are favourites to win the competition though a lot of questions have been asked concerning if their mental state would cause a problem on the pitch. France is arguably the most talented side in the competition.
Players to watch out for: Paul Pogba and Antonio Martial.

ROMANIA: coming through with the best defensive record in the qualifiers, the Romanian defence line have definitely proven that they would be a force to reckon with, not so much could be said about their attack as the team endured a lot of goal less draws. Their present squad no where resembles the talented team of the 90’s, but they hope to prove bookmakers wrong at the euros.
The teams opening match is against host team France and they might fancy their chances if they are able to pick up atleast a draw against the talented French side.
Players to watch out for: Gabriel Torje and Lucian Sanmartean.

ALBANIA: This Albanian team looks to be one of the worst if not the worst team in the competition, but a lot has been said about the young side who eliminated Denmark, beat Portugal and also defeated France. Their strength seem to be in their fancy defence and fast counter attacking style.
Their first match against Switzerland will probably make or mar the team.
Players to watch out for: Ardi lila and Lorile Cana

SWITZERLAND: The swiss team is one of the favourites to qualify from Group A, they might try to upset the hosts and finish top of the group which will earn them a spot in the second round. We should cast our mind back to Brazil, where France trashed Switzerland 5-2, they might want to see the tape of the match and devise means on how to readily curb this speedy French team.
Players to watch out for: Xherden Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka

MY VERDICT: With an average world ranking of 22.75, this group is the second easiest group in the competition and I see FRANCE topping the group, closely followed by SWITZERLAND.

GROUP A

FRANCE: The hosts are strong favourites to win this years euros, one major set back for the French national team would be the banishment of Benzema for an undeterminable time. France would lose their attack firepower as Giroud isn’t as good as a striker and Martial is too young, the team would likely be relying on Paul Pogba.
The French are favourites to win the competition though a lot of questions have been asked concerning if their mental state would cause a problem on the pitch. France is arguably the most talented side in the competition.
Players to watch out for: Paul Pogba and Antonio Martial.

ROMANIA: coming through with the best defensive record in the qualifiers, the Romanian defence line have definitely proven that they would be a force to reckon with, not so much could be said about their attack as the team endured a lot of goal less draws. Their present squad no where resembles the talented team of the 90’s, but they hope to prove bookmakers wrong at the euros.
The teams opening match is against host team France and they might fancy their chances if they are able to pick up atleast a draw against the talented French side.
Players to watch out for: Gabriel Torje and Lucian Sanmartean.

ALBANIA: This Albanian team looks to be one of the worst if not the worst team in the competition, but a lot has been said about the young side who eliminated Denmark, beat Portugal and also defeated France. Their strength seem to be in their fancy defence and fast counter attacking style.
Their first match against Switzerland will probably make or mar the team.
Players to watch out for: Ardi lila and Lorile Cana

SWITZERLAND: The swiss team is one of the favourites to qualify from Group A, they might try to upset the hosts and finish top of the group which will earn them a spot in the second round. We should cast our mind back to Brazil, where France trashed Switzerland 5-2, they might want to see the tape of the match and devise means on how to readily curb this speedy French team.
Players to watch out for: Xherden Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka

MY VERDICT: With an average world ranking of 22.75, this group is the second easiest group in the competition and I see FRANCE topping the group, closely followed by SWITZERLAND.

GROUP C

GERMANY: The reigning world champion are without doubt the best team in the world at the moment, the team is young and still has the core of the players that won the world cup.
The Germans are still without a proper striker but Thomas Muller still continues to lead their attack. Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil would also be influential in the team.
Players to watch out for: Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil.

UKRAINE: The Ukrainians reached the tournament with a very good offensive team, their diamond midfield has proven to be a very hard nut to crack, but this team has been criticized for lacking consistency, they can beat a big team today and tomorrow lose to a small team.
Players to watch out for: Andriy Yamolenko and Denys Germash.

POLAND: After beating the world champions at the qualifiers, the eagles are the team that can surprise everyone.
They have a fantastic midfield with Krychowiak leading the pack, but the star attraction for this team is arguably the best center forward in the world; Robert Lewandowski.
Poland can get to the quarter finals, and if they are lucky might scale through to the semi.
Players to watch out for: Robert Lewandowski and Grzegorz Krychowiak.

NORTHERN IRELAND: After a 30 year absence, Northern Ireland finds themselves at the 2016 Euros. But the Euros won’t be all fun and games for the new comers and they have been grouped with two of the best teams in the competition.
If they hope to come out of the group “alive” they would have to utilize their very imposing physical strength and fast counter attacking style.
They might be able to make it out of the group, but their chances are very slim.
Players to watch out for: Kyle Laffety, Steven Davis and Jonny Evans.

MY VERDICT: With an average world ranking of 24.25, this is the easiest group in the competition and I see Germany and Poland qualifying, with the world champions on top of the group.

GROUP D

SPAIN: The current holders come into the competition with much hopes, the spanish side is yet to properly find a style of play, this is as a result of the retirement of two very important midfielders Xabi Alonso and Xavi, leaving only iniesta to coordinate the midfield. Although, players like Fabregas, Koke and Busquets would be helping out, but the midfield is still thought to be lacking a lot.
A big plus to this team would be the fact that they now have a proper striker in Diego Costa, Morata and Alcacer.
The recent form of goal keeper Iker Casillas has been a big worry to coach Del Busque, despite the old captains leadership, Manchester United, De Gea has clearly been the better goalie.
Players to watch out for: Andres Iniesta, Koke and Cesc Fabregas.

CZECH REPUBLIC: The Czechs reached this years Euros after topping their group and beating the Netherlands twice. The strength of the team is in their flair and counter attacking style.
They would be relying on the current form of Arsenals Petr Cech and Rosicky.
They might qualify for the second position in the group, but with Turkey and Croatia in the group, this would really prove to be a big mountain to climb.
Players to watch out for: Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky.

TURKEY: They are pretty much the luckiest team to be in the euros after their miraculous comeback to overcome a situation that almost saw them eliminated. With crucial wins over Netherlands and Iceland to grab the third best position.
This Turkish team has 3 specialist in dead ball; Selcuk Inan, Hakan Cathanoglu and Mechmet Ekici.
They are good enough to finish in second place behind Czech and Croatia.
Players to watch out for: Arda Turan and sinam Gumus.

CROATIA: The Croats has one of the best midfield in Europe, with Real Madrids Luka Mordric and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic in the midfield, they have all it takes to even beat Spain and top the group.
They got to the semi finals of this competition in 1998 a feat they can as well repeat this year.
Players to watch out for: Ivan Rakitic, Luka Mordric and Mario Mandzukic.

MY VERDICT: With an average world ranking of 17, this is by far the hardest goup in the competition. I see Spain topping the group followed by Croatia, and maybe Turkey would also qualify as the best third placed team.

GROUP E

BELGIUM: The rave of the moment, Belgium may be as good as the Belgian side that reached the semi finals in 1986. After a very good run at the last world cup, that saw them beaten only once by Argentina.
Only beaten once by Wales in the qualifiers, the red devils reached the tournament as main favorites. They start their campaign at the Euros again Italy, the Azzurri might prove to be a very tough match.
A major weakness in this team would be the absence of captain Vincent Kompany, and Denayer may not possess the strength which the captain brings.
Players to watch out for: Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.

ITALY: After a weak performance in the last two world cups, the Azzurri reached the Euros during one of the lowest status in their history.
With lots of doubts in the side already and key players injured like Verratti and Marchisio and with national team coach Conte already a Chelsea man, a dark cloud hangs over the team camp.
They might make it past the group, but not past the round of 16.
Players to watch out for: Stephan El-Sharaawy and Lorenzo Insigne.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Not much can be said about this team asides its remarkable team work, Ireland don’t have a big player, but they rely on team work to beat big teams, thet beat Germany and Bosnia thanks to their team work.
With their first match against Sweden and Ibrahimovic, the boys in gren might fancy their chances to make it out of the group.
Players to watch out for: Robbie Keane, Shane Long and John O’shea.

SWEDEN: A team built around Zlatan Ibrahimovic, their first match against Ireland will be important, this might be Zlatan’s last competition in a national team shirt and the team would put most of their key plays into Zlatan – the man that decides everything.
Players to watch out for: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Kim Kallstrom and Oscar Lewicki.

MY VERDICT: With an average world ranking of 20.5, this is the 3rd easiest group in the competition.
I see Belgium topping the group followed by Italy.

GROUP F

PORTUGAL: Finally the team is breaking away from total reliance on Christiano Ronaldo and now adopting a more compact style of play merging both the old and the young, with 38 year old defender Ricardo Carvalho at the heart of the defense, and Fernando Santos mix of the talented squad that reached the UEFA U-21 a year ago with 8 wins in 8 games, this Portuguese tea promises to have the best taste in recent times.
With Christiano Ronaldo still in top form, Portugal may just be the team to beat at this years euros.
Players to watch out for: Christiano Ronaldo and Renato Sanchez.

ICELAND: The team who eliminated Netherlands could be a very hard nut to crack, they are an underdog and surely one of the major surprises in this year’s euro.
The team has been credited to being tactical under the watchful eyes of Lagerback and his assistant Hallgrimson, who is set to take charge of the team afte the tournament.
Players to watch out for: Eidur Gudjohnsen and Gylfi Sigurdsson.

AUSTRIA: Can be said to be the second best team in the group after Portugal.
This team relies on the defensive trio of Alaba, Fuchs and Arnautovic, and they can cause serious damage to any team.
Players to watch out for: David Alaba and Valentino Lazaro.

HUNGARY: After a 30 year absence from the world stage, this young Hungarian team managed to beat Norway to qualify for the euro 2016.
Although a very good team, but a qualification more that the round of 16 would be unprecedented.
Players to watch out for: Akos Elek and Zolten Gera.

MY VERDICT: Witha an average world ranking of 18.25, this group is the 5th easiest and I see Portugal topping the group, closely followed by Austria.

CONCLUSSION

The 2016 UEFA European Cup in France would offer not just excitement, but also suspense, tears and joy. It would feature 24 of the best in Europe slugging it out for the title.
France, Germany and Spain seem to be the tournaments favorites, but teams like Belgium, England and Portugal should never be underestimated. The underdogs like Turkey, Iceland and Wales also have points to prove.
All in all the Euros promises to be an intercourse between the best legs in europe, don’t blink as the tournament is poised to produce orgasmic excitement like never before.

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