Euro 2016 Group A Preview

As is tradition with major international tournaments, the hosts France will get the Euro 2016 action underway on June 10th when they face off against Romania in a Group A clash at Paris’ Stade de France. With Albania and Switzerland also fighting it out for qualification to the round of 16, Group A could be a more competitive pool than is expected at first glance. My Old Man Said takes a look at all four respective teams and assess their chances of Euro 2016 glory, in the first of our Euro 2016 Group previews.

France

With many key squad members fully fit and, of course, home advantage on their side, France have been made favourites to win this summer’s European Championships according to the Euro 2016 betting.

After an impressive showing at the 2014 World Cup, where Didier Deschamps’ men scored an impressive 10 goals in 4 games, France’s main strengths are the pace and power they possess whilst on the offence with players such as Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba at their disposal. They might miss Karim Benzema, after his well documented omission from the squad, but this could potentially allow Olivier Giroud to take centre-stage. With accomplished defenders Patrice Evra and Laurent Koscielny also lining up for Les Bleus, defensively they shouldn’t be too bad either, although the absence of Real Madrid centreback Raphael Varane due to injury is certainly a big loss.

Switzerland

With players such as Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri within their ranks, Switzerland would be disappointed not to finish second in a group where arguably they should be beating at least two of their three first-round opponents.

 

In a qualifying pool that contained the likes of England, Slovenia and Estonia, Switzerland – as expected – qualified for this summer’s Euro finals in relative comfort. Despite a population of just eight million, La Nati have recently fared consistently at major tournaments, qualifying for three of the last four European Championships, as well as making it to the last 16 in both the 2014 and 2006 World Cups. They don’t tend to make much of an impression though, once they’re there.

Albania

France 2016 marks the very first time Albania have qualified for the European Championships. In a tough qualifying group that contained Portugal, Serbia and Denmark, Gianni De Biasi’s men surprised many by finishing second in Group I and thus qualified automatically for this summer’s Euros in France. It could be argued that their qualifying group was harder than their tournament group.

With the Albanians being a relatively unknown quantity, captain and commanding centreback Lorik Cana, as well as Nantes midfielder Ermir Lenjani, will be the ones to watch out for at this summer’s tournament.

They may struggle to score goals, as they were the lowest scorers in qualifying.

Despite being rank outsiders to even progress to the latter stages of the competition, the very fact that so little is known about them may work in Albania’s favour as they attempt to become this year’s European Championships’ ‘surprise package’.

Romania

Romania will presumably be quite pleased with their Group A draw this year considering the last time they appeared at a European Championship back in 2008, they were drawn in the so-called ‘group of death’ containing France (again), Italy and the Netherlands.

This time round, with their decent defence they should prove tough nut to crack and having players such as Watford’s Costel Pantilimon and ex-Spurs defender Vlad Chiricheș within their roster will surely give them a fighting chance of qualifying for the round of 16 stage via a second or third place finish.

Highest Scorer

With Arsenal centre forward Olivier Giroud likely to lead the line for Les Bleus, the 29-year-old surely has to be the front-runner to be Group A’s top scorer. Whilst his national team mate Griezmann has also been in fine form domestically this year and cannot be overlooked. We reckon Giroud should just clinch it providing the likes of Pogba and co create plenty of chances for him in the opening games. If Giroud wants to be known as a national hero, this will be his best ever chance.

Who will qualify?

With the possibility of three teams making it out of the competition’s first group, it would take an implosion of epic proportions to stop France from advancing to the round of 16 stage.

Elsewhere in the group, Switzerland should have enough about them to qualify with relative ease, with Albania and Romania battling it out for a potential third spot into the next round. On paper, the Romanians have a pretty useful side and, with their previous major tournament experience, we’re tipping them to edge their way into the knockout stages via the best third-placed team route.

Villa connection to the group

Sadly, with Villa’s less than ideal season (let’s not go there again), there isn’t much claret and blue representation at the Euros. Group A could have certainly offered more of a presence though. At the start of the 2015/2016 campaign, new French recruits Jordan Veretout and Jordan Amavi had an outside chance of forcing their way into Didier Deschamps’ squad plans. Any dreams either player harboured of making the national set-up were halted however, as midfielder Veretout flattered to deceive for Villa and Amavi suffered a serious injury during French Under-21 duty.

Follow MOMS on Twitter at @oldmansaid

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