Scottish fans look away: the European Championship group stages have been announced. Saying that, Scotland won’t be jealous of Republic of Ireland’s grim looking group, there’ll be more on that later on. With games set to kick off on June 10th 2016, international coaches have plenty of time to prepare their squads. Now let’s see who they have to get ready for:
Hosts France received a draw they will surely be happy with. They open their campaign against Romania before games against Albania and Switzerland should surely see Les Blues comfortably through to the knock out stages. Switzerland should have enough quality to see off Albania and Romania for second spot, though group stages are renowned for their surprising results so don’t be surprised for either Romania and Albania sneaking through.
An interesting battle steals the headlines in group B: but who will win, 3 lions or a red dragon? An exciting match for both England and Wales fans will see thousands of Britons board the Eurostar to see the clash. I’d fully expect these two teams to take the top two spots in the group, which is completed by Slovakia and Russia. Slovakia had a solid win over Spain in their qualifying group though should fall short of the quality that Wales and England possess.
A tough group for Northern Ireland will have many fans doubting their progress in the tournament. Joined by Poland, Germany and Ukraine, the group should be full of tight and energetic games. The pure regularity of Robert Lewandowski’s goalscoring for Poland will be enough to send them through to the knockouts. I expect to see Germany topping the group, the current World Champions have a wealth of experience and talent that should see them overpower Northern Ireland and Ukraine.
With a lot to prove, the importance of Spain topping the group is more than just securing an easier knock out round draw. Despite being reigning champions, a shambolic World Cup knocked them off of the peak of international football. A strong qualifying record shows it is far from over for this generation of Spaniards. Croatia, Czech Republic and Turkey round out the group, with a tough competition expected between Croatia and Czech Republic for the second spot.
Here’s the time to skip forward a section Republic of Ireland fans, as you have been drawn in one of the hardest groups imaginable. Kicking their campaign off against Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden is difficult enough. To then have to face Belgium and Italy is just plain unfair. This group is the hardest to predict and will be an exhilarating prospect for the neutral. I’d fancy Belgium to just top the group over Italy, with Sweden and Republic of Ireland not far behind.
Cristiano Ronaldo would have had an even smugger than usual face at the prospect of this draw, if it’s even possible for him to look more smug. Portugal have been drawn against Austria, Iceland and Hungary in a group that should see them progress further. Austria are my favourites to finish second in the group off the back of a strong qualifying campaign.
There we have it, the European Championship group stages. It is sure to be an exciting tournament full of twists and turns. Who will lift the trophy come next Summer is anyones guess.