Euro 2016 Predictions, Odds, Stats and Analysis
The fifteenth renewal of the European Championship is shaping up to be one of the best ever, with at least five teams with a genuine chance of lifting the trophy and the potential for plenty of shock results and surprises along the way.
The tournament will be hosted by France, with the key matches taking place in the country’s historic Stade de France venue. Playing on home soil in major tournaments has proven to be something of a lucky charm for the French; they have claimed the title at both the European Championships of 1984 and the World Cup of 1998, so you can’t blame Les Bleus for their bullish confidence this time around either.
But they will face plenty of stiff tests along the way, with a potential quarter-final meeting with Belgium, followed by a likely last four clash with Germany, sure to prove a strong test of their credentials.
The Germans are the reigning world champions after lifting the Jules Rimet trophy in 2014, and their history in the big international competitions (four World Cup wins, three European Championship crowns) dictates that they must be considered genuine contenders here as well.
And how can we write off the claims of Spain? They are looking to make history here with a third consecutive European Championship title win; a feat never achieved before. They are also on the easier side of the draw, assuming they win Group D, and so they should enjoy a charmed route to the latter stages of proceedings.
As we can see, hosts France have had a charmed draw and should progress with absolute comfort from Group A with Switzerland. England and Russia are the standouts in Group B, as are Germany and Poland in Group C, while the supposed ‘group of death’ should see Spain and Croatia progress. In the last two brackets, expect Belgium to just pip Italy to the post in Group E, with Portugal and Austria the likely ascendants from Group F.
And this year, for the first time ever, the four best third-placed teams will go through as ‘lucky losers’. To do this, they will need to achieve at least three points from their group matches, and looking at the brackets you would have to say Romania, Wales, Turkey and Iceland stand the best chance of achieving that.
Things get interesting here with the last 16 followed by the quarter and semi-finals before the final itself on July 10.
The Possible Last 16: Switzerland vs Poland, Spain vs Iceland, England vs Romania, Portugal vs Italy, Germany vs Wales, Belgium vs Croatia, France vs Turkey, Russia vs Austria.
The above fixtures are just predictions based on the expected results from the group phase, and the standout fixtures here are the clash of two European heavyweights in Italy and Portugal, Wales’ first taste of knockout football against the mighty Germany, and a tough test for hosts France against an in-form Turkey.
Here you’d have to fancy Spain and Germany’s greater experience in major tournaments to tell, while a youthful England should overcome a rather flaccid-looking Italian side. Latterly, France should have too much quality for Austria.
England reached the last four of the European Championships 20 years ago, but Spain’s ability to turn it on at this stage of the tournament should see them home. Meanwhile Germany and France looks almost too tough to call; although the French’s home advantage could be the differentiator.
You could make a case for either side in the potential final, with Spain’s immaculate record in major finals a key consideration, as is France’s ability to win silverware in front of their own fans. One thing is for sure, we’re in for a thrilling ride.
One category that is always hotly debated by pundits, punters and supporters is that of the Golden Boot winner. In each of the last five European Championships, the top goalscorer has been a striker that played for a team that has reached the semi-finals at least. So by that logic, we’re looking for a frontman from Spain, England, Germany or France to do the honours….
Spain are unlikely to field an out-and-out striker, ironically, and instead are likely to opt for the ‘false nine’ formation that worked so well for them at Euro 2012. England boast Harry Kane amongst their ranks, fresh from a 30-goal season for Spurs, while Germany’s Thomas Muller is one of the most prolific attackers in Europe for both club and country.
But it is France’s Antoine Griezmann who really catches the eye. He scored 32 goals for Atletico Madrid this term, including strikes against some of the best teams on the continent in Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and the young winger showed at World Cup 2014 that he is ready to strut his stuff on the big stage.