The Euros are finally upon us, and for the first time ever they will feature 24 teams – meaning that our festival of football will be all the more jam-packed with games.
Although my expectations and hype for the tournament haven’t been all that high, as Scotland yet, yet, yet again have failed to qualify, now that it’s here I’m sure that it will produce some memorable matches and be an interesting month – although it would be very hard indeed to match the World Cup just two years ago.
My predictions then are laced with a bit of hesitation, and I’m not expecting anything like a Costa Rica or a Brazil 1-7 Germany sort of situation (not just cause some of those teams obviously aren’t taking part). With the expanded version of this year’s Euros, it does leave more room for mistakes in the group stages – as only a third of teams will be knocked out in the group stages – so that means that one or two bad games early on won’t end up scuppering the entire tournament in the way it did for teams like Spain and England back in Brazil.
Here’s how I think the Euros will go, with the tables for each group and how far I think each team will go when it comes to the knock-out stages:
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D||Group E||Group F|
France are the favourites, with a solid team with a little flair and home advantage, but for me I don’t think their experiences in major tournaments in the last ten years have served them much in terms of going in to this year’s edition of the Euros.
Although some big name countries have hosted major tournaments lately, namely Portugal – 2004, Germany – 2006, Brazil – 2014, not one of them managed to carry the weight of their nation on their shoulders all the way to lifting the trophy, and with such a squad as France’s I’m not sure if they can either.
However, the last big team to win on home soil was France with their magnificent 1998 World Cup win so they do have form. It’s just whether they can have another Zinedine Zidane, a player with such talent and skill that the team around them can be carried to victory.
My money’s on Germany, as although their last two years since clinching their 4th World Cup title have been a little shaky, they still have a squad that is the envy of the world and, crucially, they have the experience of showing up at major tournaments and doing amazing things. They haven’t failed to reach the semi-finals of a major tournament since Portugal 2004, and their composure, flair and skill in the World Cup two years ago shows they’re still a side to be wary of.
For the home nations I think it’ll be one of mixed results. I think England will reach the quarter-finals where they’ll be humbled by a side that’s better. England’s squad is maturing and they’re definitely improving, but their eyes should be on the World Cup in Russia in 2018 rather than France for any sort of success.
I also think Wales will make it out of the group stage, in what would be an amazing achievement considerign it’s their first major tournament in almost sixty years. The squad, built around Gareth Bale, is strong enough to get results against Russia and Slovakia and I truly believe they’ll give England a run for their money when they clash next Thursday.
For the Irish teams I think this year will be a step too far. Northern Ireland have the group of death, with Germany, Poland and Ukraine all looking to go much further than the Group Stages in the competition and with squads full of tournament experience.
For the Republic, I believe that their squad isn’t quite ready for the Euros – with no real star power to pull them through the games against the likes of Belgium and Italy.
So that’s what I think will happen in the Euros this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all pans out. The tournament starts tonight at 8pm, as the hosts France take on Romania.