Euro 2016 Group A Preview

Spread the love

With just nineteen days until the tournament kicks off, the Euro 2016 Group A is certainly an intriguing one. Hosts of the tournament, and many people’s favourite, France have drawn against Switzerland, Romania and Albania.

It has been argued that the group selection gave the hosts an “easy” group but this will just add more pressure to Didier Deschamps‘ men as expectation to perform in the group will be heightened.  Furthermore, the description of Switzerland, Romania and Albania as ‘easy’ opponents is not only disrespectful but exaggerated as all three teams have players in Europe’s top leagues and each team will pose a difference test.

France

There are a lot of expectations on both France and Didier Deschamps. The national side has failed to perform in big tournaments since finishing runners-up in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Subsequent poor showings in Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup, and Euro 2012 highlighted this.

France have won two of three post-war tournaments held in their home country—the European Championships in 1984 and the World Cup in 1998. Their display at the 2014 World Cup was varied. A successful group stage and 2-0 win over Nigeria in the last 16 showed France’s ability but a disappointing performance against Germany—albeit the side that went on to lift the trophy—showed the side’s weaknesses.

This is probably the best shape France have been in going into a tournament for a long time. The build-up to their campaign has not been disrupted with problems that other French sides have experienced including the infamous 2010 World Cup fallout or problems with the manager and discipline involving Laurent Blanc. There has been one cloud hanging over France and this is the sex-tape scandal involving Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena which resulted in the Real Madrid striker being banned from international involvement until legal proceedings are settled.

Squad Analysis

Goalkeepers: Benoit Costil (Rennes), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille)

Defenders: Lucas Digne (Roma), Patrice Evra (Juventus), Christophe Jallet (Lyon), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City), Jeremy Mathieu (Barcelona), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)

Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace), Lassana Diarra (Marseille), N’Golo Kante (Leicester), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle)

Forwards: Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Tigres), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Dimitri Payet (West Ham).

France are blessed with one of the most impressive squads, boasting great ability and depth. Hugo Lloris will certainly be France’s first choice keeper. His ability has been displayed many times this season as he helped Tottenham Hotspur to Champions League qualification. France have good cover in this position as well with stalwart Steve Mandanda and the impressive yet less experienced Benoit Costil.

Defensively, France are also very strong with the experienced Bacary Sagna, Jeremy Mathieu and Patrice Evra as well as young prospects Raphael Varane and Lucas Digne. However, recent friendlies have shown potential defensive vulnerabilities as Deschamps’ men conceded six goals in their last three games.

In midfield, France are arguably as strong with the sensational Paul Pogba and West Ham’s player of the season Dimitri Payet’s creativity and style is certainly apparent. Blaise Mautidi, Lassana Diarra and N’Golo Kante also provide structure and protection to the defence. The omissions of the revived Hatem Ben Arfa and Geoffrey Kondogbia show France’s depth and range of talent. Newcastle United’s Moussa Sissoko is definitely the surprise inclusion in the squad.

Attacking-wise France are arguably one of the strongest in the tournaments. Even with the omission of highly-rated Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette and the situation surrounding Benzema, France’s attacking strength is profound. Atlético’s Antoinne Griezmann and Manchester United’s Anthony Martial show the dynamic and youthful nature of France’s attack while evergreen striker André-Pierre Gignac provides experience in attack.

Strengths and Weaknesses

France’s squad has an incredible amount of balance to it and it looks strong in every position. Most importantly, there don’t seem to be any internal disputes that have marred others tournaments and it problems, should they encounter them, they will most likely come on the pitch and not off it for the hosts.

Romania

Romania lack well-known quality in their team but will still pose a threat in the tournament. The Eastern Europeans are currently 19th in the essentially flawed FIFA World Rankings in front of France (21st). Romania’s European Championship success has been few and far between with just one win in their 13 games and that came in a famous 3-2 win over England in Charleroi in Euro 2000. The tricolorii also had success in the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States, surpassing expectations by reaching the quarter-finals.

Squad Analysis – Strengths and Weaknesses:

Goalkeepers: Ciprian Tatarusanu (Fiorentina), Costel Pantilimon (Watford), Silviu Lung (Astra Giurgiu).

Defenders: Cristian Sapunaru (Pandurii Targu Jiu), Alexandru Matel (Dinamo Zagreb), Vlad Chiriches (Napoli), Valerica Gaman (Astra Giurgiu), Cosmin Moti (Ludogorets), Dragos Grigore (Al-Sailiya), Razvan Rat (Rayo Vallecano), Steliano Filip (Dinamo Bucharest), Alin Tosca (Steaua Bucharest)

Midfielders: Mihai Pintilii (Steaua Bucharest), Ovidiu Hoban (Hapoel Beer Sheva), Adrian Ropotan (Pandurii Targu Jiu), Andrei Prepelita (Ludogorets), Adrian Popa (Steaua Bucharest), Gabriel Torje (Osmanlispor), Alexandru Chipciu (Steaua Bucharest), Alexandru Maxim (Stuttgart), Nicolae Stanciu (Steaua Bucharest), Lucian Sanmartean (al-Ittihad)

Forwards: Claudiu Keseru (Ludogorets), Bogdan Stancu (Genclerbirligi), Florin Andone (Cordoba), Denis Alibec (Astra Giurgiu), Ioan Hora (Pandurii Targu Jiu), Andrei Ivan (CSU Craiova)

 

Romania’s squad certainly lacks stand out players but does involve some that could pose a real threat and will be integral to any success. Key players include Nicolae Stanciu, Alexandru Maxim and former Tottenham Hotspur player Vlad Chiriches who have impressed in Europe’s top leagues this season. However, a problem is that their team relies heavily on players from within the Romanian league and despite this perhaps bringing more unity and chemistry, it also shows a lack of depth.

Albania:

Albania’s squad is yet to be announced but they are by far the least-known team at Euro 2016, but do pose a considerable threat on their day. This is their first appearance at a major international tournament since their inception in 1946 and they will be hoping to make it one to remember.

The Eagles controversially sealed their place in Euro 2016 after they were awarded three points after the infamous “drone incident” while playing away to rivals Serbia. However, Albania were not fortuitous and a lot of hard work went into their qualifying campaign that included a memorable win in Portugal when they shocked Cristiano Ronaldo and his team-mates as Bekim Balaj scored the solitary goal in a 1-0 win.

Their squad is yet to be announced but superstars should not be expected. Key players include captain and talisman Lorik Cana and the impressive Serie A duo of Etrit Berisha and Elseid Hysaj who have both impressed this season. Albania will also be lining up against Switzerland players with Albanian links such as Xherdan Shaqiri, Valon Behrami, Pajtim Kasami and Granit Xhaka.

 

Switzerland

Switzerland finished second behind England but were never near challenging the runaway group winners. Petkovic’s side have a lot of quality in their ranks with players such as Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and Roman Bürki, but will probably not have enough to seriously challenge. However, they will surely have their best ever European Championship as they have never progressed out of the group stage.

Squad Analysis:

(28-man provisional squad)

Goalkeepers: Roman Bürki (Borussia Dortmund), Marwin Hitz (Augsburg), Yvon Mvogo (Young Boys), Yann Sommer (Borussia Mönchengladbach).

Defenders: Johan Djourou (Hamburg), Nico Elvedi (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Michael Lang (Basel), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), François Moubandje (Toulouse), Ricardo Rodríguez (Wolfsburg), Fabian Schär (Hoffenheim), Philippe Senderos (Grasshoppers), Steve Von Bergen (Young Boys), Silvan Widmer (Udinese).

Midfielders: Valon Behrami (Watford), Blerim Džemaili (Genoa), Gelson Fernandes (Rennes), Fabian Frei (Mainz), Renato Steffen (Basel), Granit Xhaka (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Denis Zakaria (Young Boys), Luca Zuffi (Basel).

Forwards: Eren Derdiyok (Kasımpaşa), Breel Embolo (Basel), Admir Mehmedi (Bayer Leverkusen), Haris Seferović (Eintracht Frankfurt), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City), Shani Tarashaj (Grasshoppers).

Switzerland’s squad is full of well-known players, many of whom play in the Premier League. The Swiss squad includes four goalkeepers, three of whom have impressed in the Bundesliga this season with Roman Bürki being instrumental in Borussia Dortmund’s success this season. It is defensively where Switzerland may struggle but with the highly-rated Ricardo Rodríguez and Stephan Lichtsteiner in the side they certainly won’t be pushovers.

Switzerland are arguably strongest in midfield with players such as Arsenal target Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri that will be the creative spark in the team. Petkovic’s side lack a prolific striker but the highly-rated Admir Mehmedi and Breel Embolo will be important.