With the European Champions starting again next week our FCapitalSport student writers have taken their look at some of Europe’s best teams. Here are our predictions!
France are the clear favourites for the tournament this summer, with the home advantage as well as a young talented squad to follow up all the hype surrounding Les Bleus. With the experienced Didier Deschamps at the helm, France’s youngsters will be given the opportunity at ultimate national glory at the Stade de France in July should, they make it that far. Moreover, if France finish top of their group, which many expect, then it looks as if Germany will be the only real testing opposition to the French prior to the final. In this case France look all but sure of a semi final place in their home tournament. The main man for this French side, and the man that will win them the tournament, is Atletico Madrid’s Antoinne Griezmann. He has been in fine form this season, scoring 35 goals in all competitions and coming within a penalty shoot-out of Champions League glory.
The Capital Players
As for London’s players, Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal and Dimitri Payet of West Ham all make the cut for Deschamps. Payet has been hugely influential in the friendlies for France in the build up to the tournament, including scoring a miraculous late free kick against Cameroon which secured a 2-1 victory for Les Bleus. Giroud isn’t likely to feature too heavily for his national side, despite performing well in recent friendlies, and will more than likely serve as back up for Griezmann. Likewise Koscielny’s position is also in doubt, with hot competition for places in the French defence.
Spain can create history this summer by winning a record third European championship in succession. Since their spectacular collapse at the 2014 World Cup, many have suggested that the Spanish’s period of international football dominance has come to an end. Yet the ever stern Vincente Del Bosque will quietly believe that the Spanish regime is far from over.
Of course, legendary players such as Xavi and David Villa have moved on, but it remains imperative that other countries this summer do not underestimate the talent the team’s midfield still possess. Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets of Barcelona are both still vital figureheads, while the emergence of stars like Koke and Thiago would suggest that Xavi’s dictatorial presence in the centre of the park is not too sorely missed.
The Capital Players
Players from London may also prove to play a key role for the defending champions. Despite suffering a poor season with Chelsea, three players in Fabregas, Pedro and Azpilicueta have made the 23 man squad. Hector Bellerin of Arsenal is additionally part of the team, after Dani Carvajal of Real Madrid was forced to withdraw after suffering a thigh injury during the Champions League Final. Santi Cazorla was so not fortunate however, having failed to be selected due to the congestion of top quality midfielders Spain have to choose from.
Interestingly though, despite having a lack of a target man upfront, Chelsea’s Diego Costa has not been picked by del Bosque. Since switching alliances from Brazil, the controversial striker has failed to make a big impact for Spain and was part of the team that underperformed at the World Cup. Hamstring issues have been cited as the main reason for his omission from the squad, yet it would still seem that without him, Spain lack depth in forward positions. If they are to defend their title, it seems most likely that they will once again have to play without a true number 9, and could yet again call on Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas to play as the furthest man forward.
Ever the optimist. If Roy can get his formation right England have the quality going forward to damage even the best team at this years European Championships. England’s front two of Kane and Vardy scored 49 goals between them in this seasons Premier League and will be a frightening prospect for Europe’s best defenders. The bookmakers have put England at long odds of 8/1 to bring the European trophy home this summer, but with a perfect qualifying record and a team of exciting and talented youngsters England could provide a surprise package at this years tournament. Although largely underwhelming in their recent friendlies, the Three Lions have come away from fixtures with Turkey, Australia and Portugal with victories, and this winning habit should serve them well during their opening group matches. With a stronger attacking squad depth than English fans have seen in some time, there is no reason this team cannot make it all the way to the final in Paris.
The Capital Players
The fantastic form this season of our capital clubs has been reflected in the national team, with seven London lads in England’s squad crossing the channel this week. Spurs’ amazing breakthrough season mean they compose the majority of the capital players. Kane, Alli, Dier, Walker and Rose all look set to start against Russia next Saturday. Likewise, Chelsea’s Gary Cahill looks nailed on to start at centre back and will play an important role next to Chris Smalling at the heart of England’s defensive unit. On the other hand Jack Wilshere’s place in the starting XI is more doubtful, but the Arsenal starlet with surely feature prominently in this tournament, if only as an impact sub off the bench.
For years we’ve been told how the Belgians show more and more promise coming into international tournaments. They failed to deliver on this at the World Cup in Brazil 2014, but coming into the Euros they will look to prove their doubters wrong.
Overall, Belgium seem solid in most aspects of the pitch. Squad depth is good in goal, where Liverpool’s keeper Mignolet will more than likely play second fiddle to the younger Tibaut Courtois. The young Chelsea starlet will play a particularly important role this year due to the loss of talismanic defender Vincent Kompany through injury. A miss that will damage both their defensive capabilities and mean they lose a valuable leader and organiser at the back.
The stars from Manchester form a centre of the Belgian midfield, Fellani and De Bruyne, and the Merseyside sides play a similarly pivotal role in shaping Belgium’s attack, Origi, Benteke and Lukaku all ply their trade each week in the North West.
The Capital Players
However, it is when you focus on the capital that the strength of this Belgian team is shown. As previously mentioned, Courtois will crucial in goal for Chelsea this season, and can take a lot of the credit for their improved form. Similarly, the loss of Kompany is not so heavily felt due to Tottenham’s duo of Vertonghen and Alderweireld, who have worked together closely this season as a defensive partnership. These two have been outstanding for Spurs this year and will hope to take their club form onto the international stage.
In midfield, the capital is represented by Dembele, who plays in the centre of the park, and mercurial winger Eden Hazard from Chelsea, who will look to recover a poor season with a string of good performances for his country.
World Cup winners Germany will be looking to make up for their disappointing form in qualifying and justify the bookies decision to put them at 4/1 second favorites to pick up in the trophy in Paris on July 10.
After their recent shock defeats to England and Slovakia at home it would be fair to say that the Germans are far from being in top form in the lead up to the tournament. Indeed their 3-1 defeat at the hands of Slovakia must surely go down as one of the most embarrassing defeats in German football history.
However despite the poor form, Germany possess what is man for the man the best international side in the world. A team who should they approach the tournament in the right mindset are more than a match for anyone.
In Manuel Neuer Germany possess the best goal keeper in the world; a goalkeeper who not only is a fantastic shot stopper but also an extremely capable sweeper. The side is littered with talent and in the midfield Germany possess players which are the envy of the top clubs around the world. Look out for the wonderful attacking talent of Maro Reus who’s vision and pace have seen him playing outstandingly his club side Borussia Dortmund.
The Capital Players
After the retirement of Per Mertesacker only one London based player finds himself in the squad: Mesut Ozil. The Germany player of the year for 2015. Despite Arsenal’s disappointing season, Ozil enjoyed an impressive season with the Gunners and his remarkable tally of 19 assists put him at the top of the table. He will surely see the Euros as a fantastic opportunity to put the disappointment of his club’s year behind him and hopefully enjoy some tangible success.
Edited by Freddie Stuart.
(quotespics.net,EuroSport, sepakbola.com, FIFA, ibtimes.com)