By Niall Clarke
- Euro 2016 Group A preview and predictions
- France, Romania, Switzerland, Albania
Hosts France feature in Group A and will open the tournament on June 10th. How will Les Bleus fare in the opening group at Euro 2016?
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Arguably the favourites to go all the way, France will be expected to top Group A with comfort. It has been 16 years since the likes of Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane led the hosts to a major tournament, and one of the key players from that French generation will manage the side into Euro 2016.
Didier Deschamps will look to rekindle that World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000 glory as the French have struggled since the World Cup 2006 final. Plagued with off-field scandals and fall outs, France have been disappointing in recent tournaments. Deschamps’ arrival has undoubtedly improved squad morale and suddenly the French look like a force again.
The likes of Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Hugo Lloris are just some of the World class talent that this squad possesses, while the likes of Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman are expected to reach that level within the next couple of years.
There is a sense of optimism surrounding France for the first time in over a decade. The last time they hosted a major tournament, they won it. Can that success be repeated 18 years later?
Romania are back in the group stages of a major tournament after an eight year absence. Once a feature side in major tournaments, Romanian football has been in a lull since reaching the quarter finals of Euro 2000.
Anghel Iordanescu’s side went unbeaten in qualifying, leading the home fans to believe that qualification from Group A is not only possible, but expected. However poor form in the friendlies leading up to the tournament has not done anything to enhance that optimism.
Romania’s strength lies with their organisation. They only conceded two goals in qualifying which is a remarkable statistic, but will that be enough to see them qualify from this group? They will have to show more potency going forward to achieve the desired results and a lack of a star player might just be their downfall.
Cordoba’s Florin Andone will be the man they look to for attacking inspiration. He hit 21 goals in the Spanish second tier and has attracted interest from various La Liga clubs. However they will enter the tournament without number 10 Alexandru Maxim, who is the surprise omission from the squad.
Despite having solid squads with some very good players over the years, the Swiss have never qualified from the group stages of the European Championships. With a fairly kind group in front of them, will that change this year?
Switzerland showed a lot of promise at the World Cup two years ago, but they have since flattered to deceive. They barely qualified for Euro 2016 and Vladimir Petkovic has really failed to fully implement his philosophy.
That said, the Swiss are full of talented players such as Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri and Arsenal’s new signing Granit Xhaka. Switzerland will look to these players for inspiration to book their place in the next round. The attack has often been accused of being toothless and the injury to Josip Drmic will not help that situation. The defence has also not settled, but individual quality might prove to be the difference maker.
Expected to be the whipping boys of the group, Albania come into Euro 2016 with no expectations. That could be dangerous however as it will allow the side to play their way and they could end up surprising a few.
Albanian sport has possibly never bigger as the squad qualified for their first major tournament. Thousands of Albanians will flock to France to support their nation in the group stages as they attempt to make history.
Captain Lorik Cana will be the inspiration that the rest of the squad and the fans will look to. The midfielder was once a target for Arsene Wenger and has played the majority of his football in the French top division. Whilst his 94 caps show that there is experience in this side, the rest of Gianni De Biasi lack experience.
France should top this group without loss. Providing there are no more spats within the squad, this talented side should win all their games even though Romania and Switzerland can be tricky customers. Albania are likely to finish bottom as expected, leaving second to be fought between the Swiss and the Romanians. It will most likely come down to their encounter as both sides will lose to France and beat Albania. Individual talent vs organisation will make for a great contest, but Switzerland’s experience and talent may see them through
Prediction: 1st-France, 2nd– Switzerland, 3rd– Romania, 4th– Albania.
Euro 2016 takes place between June 10 & July 10
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