Below, Calum Chinchen analyses all six of the Euro 2016 groups, providing you with insight and tips in the process…
It is common knowledge that the last time France hosted a major tournament, they were successful. Les Bleus won the 1998 World Cup and set the tournament alight with a brand of fast, attacking football.
The French are 3/1 favourites for this tournament, and while this is partly down to the fact that they are hosting, it also has a great deal to do with their current playing staff.
Didier Deschamps has a wealth of young talent at his disposal, with the likes of Rafael Varane, Kingsley Coman, Antoine Griezmann, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba (below) all expected to play a part.
While their main source of talent comes from their youngsters, they also have a real spine of experience, with Deschamps naming Hugo Lloris, Patrice Evra, Bacary Sagna and Yohan Cabaye in the squad after their successful domestic campaigns.
There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that the French will go unbeaten in the group stages – advancing as winners of Group A in the process.
Talking of exciting young squads, the current Swiss playing staff is among the best in their history. Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri are two of the most talented youngsters in the game, and both will be present for Switzerland at the tournament.
Arsenal were so impressed by Xhaka that they forked out a reported £30m recently, while Shaqiri has starred in the Bundesliga, Serie A and Premier League since making his international debut at the age of 18.
We don’t see the Swiss doing enough to stop France, however, there is no doubting that they will advance to the last 16.
While both Albania and Romania did wonderfully to reach the finals, we don’t see either side advancing from the group stages. The only chance either side has of winning a game, is when they face each other in Lyon during the last round of group games.
The question on everyone’s lips – can England finally end their 50 year wait for a major trophy?
Roy Hodgson’s men sailed through qualification and looked impressive throughout, winning every single game en-route to topping their group.
That said, England weren’t really tested during the campaign, with only Switzerland providing any sort of test for Hodgson’s men.
At major tournaments, scoring goals in a real issue for the Three Lions – at Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup, they netted on just seven occasions.
Wayne Rooney started in attack at both of the above tournaments, however it looks as though the England captain will revert to a deeper role due to the fact that Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy (below) shared 49 Premier League goals between them this season.
Finding the net shouldn’t be a problem for England at Euro 2016, and neither should be group qualification. We see them making the last 16, but can’t guarantee that they will top the group.
Wales will be competing at their first ever European Championships in the summer and their clash with England on June 16th is already wetting the appetite of many.
In Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale (below) Wales have two of the most talented players at the tournament and there is absolutely no reason why they can’t make a real impact in France.
Chris Coleman has assembled a fearless squad who are most comfortable when playing on the break – as they showed during their two qualification games against Belgium, where they won an impressive four points.
Wales are our dark horses for the tournament and we see them advancing from the group with their neighbours.
While Russia are an efficient unit, they do have a real lack of flair among their ranks.
The Russian’s tend to adopt a rather negative style and this may cause a problem when playing against the pace of England and Wales.
Marek Hamsik and Martin Skrtel are the key men for Slovakia and both will have to be at their best and ever present if their nation are to avoid finishing bottom of Group B.
However, due to a lack of big tournament experience and quality within the squad, we see the wooden spoon being the only outcome for the Slovakians.
Germany were crowned World Champions after their wonderful campaign in Brazil two years ago, however despite topping their Euro 2016 qualification group, they were less than convincing.
Joachim Low’s men only finished a point clear in their group after losing to neighbours Poland and failing to beat the Republic of Ireland in either of their two meetings.
While Germany coped without a recognised centre forward at the World Cup, we see it being a real hindrance for them in France. That said, they will still advance from Group C as winners.
As mentioned, Poland were in the same qualification group as Germany, qualifying after finishing in second place.
Adam Nawałka’s side were the highest scoring of all in Euro 2016 qualification – with a staggering 33 goals from their 10 games. While some of this was down to the four games in which they faced Georgia and Gibraltar, it was mainly down to the predatory instinct of Bayern Munich striker, Robert Lewandowski (below) who topped the scoring charts with 13 goals.
The Poland striker is 14/1 to be the top scorer in France, however, his success depends on whether or not his country can qualify from Group C.
Ukraine qualified for the tournament via the playoffs, where they defeated a sub-standard Slovenia side.
The Ukrainians are one of the most defensive sides at the tournament and conceded just four goals during their qualification campaign.
However, this style really hampers them when going forward and despite having the always impressive talents of Adriy Yarmolenko within their ranks – we see them finishing at the foot of the group.
Northern Ireland are back in a major tournament for the first time since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Michael O’Neil and his men shocked everyone in qualification – topping Group F ahead of Romania and Hungary.
While Northern Ireland don’t have any so-called ‘superstars’ within their squad, they do have a remarkable team spirit.
Defensively, they are remarkably efficient with Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart and Gareth McAuley (above) all turning in some heroic performances during qualification.
There is no pressure on the Green and White Army, and that may just allow them to play with freedom in France. Don’t be surprised if they cause a few shocks along the way!
Spain appear to be the side that everybody has forgotten about. Despite their dreadful World Cup showing two years ago, it is worth remembering that before that, they managed to win THREE major tournaments in a row.
Their dismal World Cup showing was down to an experiment that went wrong. While Diego Costa was in fantastic form for his then club, Atletico Madrid, his style of play just didn’t fit that of his adopted nation. This really showed in Brazil, with Spain scoring on just four occasions and Costa failing to net during their three games.
Costa hasn’t been selected by Vicente Del Bosque for the finals in France and we see that as a wise move – not just because of his dreadful disciplinary record, but because there is now a far better option within the Spanish ranks.
Alvaro Morata (below) is the complete forward and has enjoyed a wonderful campaign with his club Juventus. The former Real Madrid man will be key for his nation in France due to his link-up play and predatory instinct.
We see Morata firing Spain to the top of Group D.
Croatia have a wealth of talent in their ranks, with the likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mateo Kovacic and Mario Mandzukic all making their final Euro 2016 squad.
The 1998 World Cup in France was a magical tournament for the Croatians. In their first ever World Cup as an independent nation, Croatia surprised everyone by eventually finishing in third position.
We see them drawing inspiration from 1998, and making it to the last 16 alongside Spain.
There is no doubting that Turkey have the capabilities to advance, but in our minds, Fatih Terim’s squad really lacks balance.
With Arda Turan, Nuri Sahin, Gokhan Tore and Hakan Calhanoglu (below) in their ranks, it is fair to say that Turkey have one of the strongest midfield units in the entire tournament.
However, they really lack presence and quality, both in defence and attack – which may become a real issue.
The Czech Republic were drawn alongside Turkey in qualifying, and managed to finish four points ahead of their Group D rivals en-route to top spot.
While the Czech’s squad is full of quality, age is a real issue with Peter Cech, Tomas Rosicky, Jaroslav Plasil and David Lafata all now over 33 years of age.
The Czech Republic will be required to play three group games in just eight days during the tournament, which may be a real hindrance to Pavel Vrba’s team.
For years, Belgium were a mediocre side who struggled to reach major tournaments – but that has all changed nowadays.
In recent years, Marc Wilmots and his talented playing staff have gone from strength-to-strength, and found themselves at the top of the FIFA World Rankings in late 2015.
While Argentina have now replaced them at the top of that list, Belgium are still the second best team in the world, and we see them topping Group E with relative ease.
Antonio Conte (below) will take over as Chelsea manager in July, but before that, he will be leading Italy at the European Championships.
Despite not having the greatest squad, you can never count the Italians out of a major tournament. They have finished as runners-up in two of the last four European Championships, losing to a very impressive Spain side in the final four years ago.
The Republic of Ireland will be hoping for a better showing than they mustered at the 2012 European Championships. At that tournament, Ireland lost all three of their group games and only managed to score once in the process.
However, the ‘Boys in Green’ seem to be a totally different animal under Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane. Ireland managed to finish behind Germany and Poland in a tough qualification group, and reached the finals after a wonderful playoff victory over Bosnia.
Jonathan Walters (above) was the key man for Ireland during that campaign – scoring on five occasions and putting in numerous energetic performances.
At present, Sweden are looking like a one man team.
Zlatan Ibrahimović got 11 of Sweden’s 19 goals in qualification, including a vital brace in the second leg of their playoff tie against Demark.
While a Zlatan inspired Sweden could well make it to the last 16, a loss of form or injury to the charismatic free agent would almost certainly see Sweden heading home after three games.
Whilst Portugal sailed through qualification, it is worth noting that they only needed to finish above Albania, Denmark, Serbia and Armenia in order to do so.
Cristiano Ronaldo (below) is undoubtedly the key man for his nation and the Real Madrid winger got five of his side’s 11 goals during qualification.
This is the weakest of all the Euro 2016 groups, and by default, we see Portugal advancing, but we can’t guarantee they will go through as winners.
After a wonderful qualification campaign, which saw them finish top of their group, Austria find themselves in the top 10 of the FIFA World Rankings.
The combination between David Alaba, Marko Arnautovic and Marc Janko proved deadly during qualification and if the three men can continue their form then there is no reason why Austria can’t challenge for top spot in Group F.
Iceland and Hungary both defied the odds to reach Euro 2016, but due to a lack of quality, we feel the two sides will struggle to advance to the last 16.
That said, we do see Iceland as the far better side, and fancy them to grab the third spot – leaving the Hungarians at the foot of the table.
Get your club, however large or small, its own tailor-made betting service – FREE – and start benefiting now! See myclubbetting.com for details.
You must be 18+ in order to bet. Please gamble responsibly: www.gambleaware.co.uk