Rosters are finalized, teams are ready, and the Euro 2016 is set to kick off on Friday, June 10th. Just two years removed from their World Cup triumph, Germany looks to continue its dominance. But their quest for European domination will not be easy, as they will have to face off against a number of other top teams, one of them being the host nation, France. Before I give too much away, let’s get right into my Euro 2016 preview.
It’s hard to not favor a team that has endured so much success in international play the past decade. There’s death, taxes, and Germany making a deep tournament run and I’m predicting the Germans will enjoy similar success in this year’s Euro. This team is anchored down by a world class defense led by Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels at the center back positions. And let’s not forget they boast one of the world’s top keepers in net with Manuel Neuer. Up top will be Mario Gotze, who after his goal to send Germany to soccer immortality has had a rather pedestrian stint with Bayern Munich. The defense is sure to be good, but Germany will depend on how far their offense takes them.
Probably the hottest team leading up to the tournament, France will look to challenge Germany for the top spot in Europe. Although a young squad, there is no doubt that this France team is among the most talented we have seen in years. Their center midfield consists of one of the top young players in the world in Paul Pogba and a workhorse in N’Golo Kante. These two will look to set up an offense that consists of great speed from Anthony Martial, Kingsley Coman, and Antoine Griezmann, who emerged as one of the top strikers in Europe this season. Although one of the more dynamic offenses in the tournament, the question mark with France comes with their defense, which will be without Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane and Barcelona’s Jeremy Mathieu due to injury.
Since their consecutive wins in the Euro 2008, 2010 World Cup, and the Euro 2012, Spain has underperformed on the national stage. The once dominant Spanish side now has the opportunity to return to the top with its next wave of stars taking the reigns. Spain is still able to put together one of the top midfields in the tournament with the likes of Iniesta, Thiago, and David Silva, while their tiki-taka play style always makes them a challenge to defend. But don’t sleep on their talented, and experienced backfield anchored by Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique. For Spain, it will be a matter of rising to the occasion as they have been drawn into the Group of Death.
Not many people associate Croatia with the top teams in Europe, but this is their chance to show the world how good they really are. After losing just two games since their quarterfinal defeat in the 2014 World Cup, Croatia is on the rise. They are led by a dynamite midfield duo of Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric. The squad features Mario Mandzukic as their lone striker, who looks to build off the Euro 2012 where he was tied for the lead in goals. Although placed within the Group of Death, Croatia is more than adept at securing a playoff bid and possibly even making a run at the championship.
The country of Belgium can finally enjoy entertaining soccer for the first time since they last qualified for a European Championship in 2000. Belgium boasts one of the more well-rounded teams in the tournament. In net is the always skillful, Thibaut Courtois who will be protected by an adequate defensive unit in Alderweireld, Denayer, Vermaelen, and Vertonghen. The midfield will see Eden Hazard look to rebound after an underperforming season with Chelsea and Kevin De Bruyne, who excelled this year for Man City. These two will look to feed their beast at striker, Romelu Lukaku. After scoring 18 EPL goals this season, Lukaku will surely draw the attention of opposing defenses. If lack of experience doesn’t hold this team back, they are poised to challenge any team for European glory.
One of the younger squads England has sent to a tournament in recent years, this team consists of a multitude of talent. Looking at their offensive prowess, Jaime Vardy and Harry Kane will start up top for the Three Lions. Kane and Vardy finished one and two respectively for most goals in the Premier League this season as they look to carry their success onto the national setting. Joe Hart always is a force to be reckoned with in net, but has his international play for England been hindered by his lack of defensive help? If England wants to have a successful tournament they will need their defense to play up to par and for Wayne Rooney to return to his old form in the midfield.
The former Euro 2012 finalist come into this tournament with a roster that lacks superstar talent. Although their midfield and attack is a huge question mark, Italy has put together a rock solid defensive unit. With the ageless wonder GiGi Buffon in net, Italian coach Antonio Conte will most likely go with the 3-4-3 formation. His back three defenders will presumably be the Juventus trio of Barzagli, Bonucci, and Chiellini. The Italians seem to be boom or bust on the national stage, so if they can muster up enough offense to relieve their in-form defense, this could be the tournament the Azzurri begin to turn their luck around.