LBF Predicts: Euro 2016

It’s now just hours before a big tournament begins, and you feel like an excitable child ready to open his presents on Christmas day. Euro 2016 is here, and the dreams of one nation are about to be realised.

Have you thought about Wayne Rooney lifting the trophy in July? I’m sure many of you reading will at least have allowed the thought to cross your mind, even if it seems as farfetched as a Disney movie (no Shrek pun intended).

Here at Left Back Football, we’ve got all our writers together to give their views on who’ll be writing the headlines in this summer’s football festival that takes place in France.

Josh McGill’s predictions:

Top goal scorer:

Thomas Müller – The Bayern Munich forward is deadly in international competitions and his record for Germany is already staggering. 31 goals in 70 games is a good return, and Germany are certainties to make the latter stages of the competition. He won the Golden Boot in the 2010 World Cup and scored five in Brazil 2014. Having just come off the back of his most successful season in terms of goals for Bayern Munich, the German has a real chance of winning the Golden Boot this tournament.

Dark horses:

Croatia – The Croatians usually have a few good players dotteBrazil_and_Croatia_match_at_the_FIFA_World_Cup_2014-06-12_(50)d around their team, but this year they have an incredibly strong squad. From Danijel Subasic, Monaco’s goalkeeper, to Nikola Kalinic up front, they have lots of Champions League and Europa League experience amongst their players. They have strength in every area with a solid defence, Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, and Mateo Kovačić in midfield and Mario Mandžukić up front. The Croatians can go far in this tournament and definitely upset the big boys and certainly have the players to upset the big boys.

Player to shine:

Dele Alli – He goes into this tournament being England’s most exciting young talent since Wayne Rooney. Alli really does have something special, he has English strength and build along with European technique. He burst on to the scene in the Premier League this season, helping Spurs claim a Champions League spot and got Tottenham and England fans excited in equal measure. He has the ability to be effective from deep or behind the striker and I predict he will really make a name for himself across Europe in this tournament.

How will England do?

England’s squad is genuinely really exciting, with new names throughout the team sheet. Kane, Vardy, Alli and Rooney are going to have to play a big role if England are to go far. We have the potential, but for me, we still don’t have the right man in charge. Roy Hodgson’s tactics sometimes are questionable, and they’ve been somewhat struggled in the friendlies in the build-up to the tournament. I can’t see England going past the semis at best.

Winners:

Spain – Very little has been made of the Spanish in the build-up to the tournament, but their squad has a mass of talent. The fact that Diego Costa, Juan Mata and Atletico Madrid’s Saul have been left out shows just how good their team is. They have incredible depth in their squad, the best keeper in the world for me in David De Gea and they can retain their trophy for a third time in succession if Del Bosque can recapture the magic from the 2008-2012 era.

1837950_w2

Chaka Simbeye’s predictions:

Top goal scorer:

Thomas Müller – Germany will be without the retired Miroslav KloseThomas-Muller-Wallpapers-HD-Desktop-Backgrounds and Joachim Loew may not be able to trust Mario Gomez up front. The World Champions will heavily rely on his manipulation of space to beat the deep-lying defences of Northern Ireland, Ukraine and Poland while after putting his best goalscoring season behind for Bayern Munich, he should be raring to go for the Euros. He has a stellar supporting cast behind him and should be shoe-in for the Golden boot.

Dark horses:

Turkey – Under the stewardship of their vastly experienced manager Fatih Terim, the Turkish find themselves with a squad that has a unique blend of experience and young talent. They are tactically versatile as they can play a 4-1-4-1, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and 4-5-1 while being able to physically match up to teams and slice through teams with quick and lethal breaks lead by captain Arda Turan. They also manage games well as they can play on the counter while soaking up possession or take the incentive more. Group D which includes Turkey, Spain, Czech Republic and Croatia is a manageable group for the Turkish as Terim is blessed with a fine array of options from goalkeeper to attack.

Player to shine:

Paul Pogba –  Physically imposing, technically gifted, energetic while possessing the ability to do unimaginable things with the ball at his long legs, Pogba will be the star of a very strong French team. After a season where he lead the Serie A in assists, he has proven he is ready to shoulder the burden of expectation Les Bleus while he has the support in midfield and up front to provide a platform for his incredible ability. His beautifully curled cross for Olivier Giroud in a friendly against Cameroon recently, is just a sign of things to come for the 23-year-old.

How will England do?

England will certainly make their way to the knockout phase with three teams being able to qualify from a group but how far they go hinges on Roy Hodgson deciding what to do with Rooney. With the likes of Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy as options up front, he is not an option there while playing him in midfield forces a more effective player to be isolated out-wide. Personally, I see England making it to the Quarter-Finals where they will meet a European powerhouse who will have too much for them as they certainly have the talent to make a statement in France.

Winners:

France –  France still have a strong team without Karim Benzema, Raphael Varane, Lassana Diarra and Jeremy Mathieu as Didier Deschamps has created and harnessed an atmosphere of focus and calm among all the media frenzy. Lloris is coming off a great season with Tottenham, Evra shows no sign of ageing, N’golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi in the same midfield could be too much to handle, Pogba is simply amazing, Antoine Griezmann was on the cusp of Champions League glory. Deschamps is spoilt for choice on the other flank with Anthony Martial, Kingsley Coman and Dimitri Payet all fighting for one spot while Olivier Giroud provides the perfect foil for the team. Deschamps is adept at handling this sort of pressure as he was captain of a side that won the World Cup on home soil and that will speak volumes for their contendership.

france

Greg Stanley’s predictions:

Top goal scorer:

Thomas Müller – When it comes to top scorers in major tournaments, it is hard to look past German people – particularly those with the surname ‘Müller.’ 28 goals at major international tournaments have been side-footed, poached, poked and bundled over the line between the current day Bayern Munich forward and the legendary, Gerhard Müller. 26-year-old, Thomas, has 10 of those goals and how he is quite so reliable is a mystery to some. Uli Hesse of EightByEight recently wrote: ‘Thomas Müller can’t beat you with his close ball control. He can’t beat you with his pace. And he can’t beat you with his dribbling skills. He just beats you.’ I expect him to beat everyone else at Euro 2016.

Dark horses:

Austria – Captained by Christian Fuchs, Austria are a side who, like the left-back’s club side, have potential to cause an upset. Their qualifying campaign was superb, topping their group unbeaten with 9 wins out of 10 which included a big 4-1 win against Sweden to secure qualification. There is a lot more to this side than David Alaba, too, as the Munich man makes up part of a solid squad that only conceded five times in qualifying. Lots of pressure will be on Stoke City’s Marko Arnautovic at the offensive end, but the big man has the potential to do what Milan Baros did at Euro 2004 – in being a random Premier League player who could shine for his country.

Player to shine:

Eden Hazard – Along with Kevin De Bruyne, the Chelsea player arguably has the highest carat purity in what is Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation.’eden-hazard-belgium Hazard undoubtedly had a poor season, but so did Chelsea Football Club as a whole and their number 10 found form just as the campaign was ending. His performance at Anfield in the late-season draw was marvellous, making something happen on every occasion he had the ball and even though Chelsea finished 10th (TENTH), he still scored the title-deciding goal. The pressure will be on him in France as it’s the Red Devils best chance of glory, yet, but he appears to have re-found his touch at the right time.

How will England do? 

A simple answer to this question starts with the ‘f-word’ and ends with ‘knows.’ England have the best selection of strikers they have had in years with Kane and Vardy netting 49 league goals between them. However, defensively they look a little suspect with Smalling, Cahill and an often criticised Stones being weak in comparison to the likes of Ferdinand, Terry, Campbell and Carragher of old. I expect a couple of good group stage wins but an ultimately predictable elimination by a much better side before the semi-finals.

Winners:

Germany – A boring prediction some would say but the strength of Germany cannot be disputed. With Müller’s goals, Ozil’s assists, a midfield with players who can retain possession as well as be deadly with it, all in front of a strong defence with an even stronger goalkeeper, they are worthy favourites. Also, the last three major tournaments have all been won by the nation in which Pep Guardiola is managing, with a large bulk of the national team coming from either his Barcelona or Bayern Munich. Far from a deciding factor of course and it doesn’t mean England will win 2018’s World Cup, but worth noting.

Gianluca Leo’s predictions:

Top goal scorer:

Robert Lewandowski – Scored 41 goals for Bayern this season and was 145962753.0the top goalscorer in Euro qualifying, Lewandowski looks set to continue his international form into the Euros, with games against Ukraine, Northern Island and a German side looking experimental at the back, offering the possibility of notching a few goals in the group stage. The pole is in the prime of his career and if Poland get out of the group and receive a favourable round of 16 draw, Lewandowski could add yet more goals to his impressive tally.

Dark horses:

Italy – It’s hard to label a nation with 4 world cups, a European championship and a final appearance in the last Euros in 2012 as ‘dark horses’ but it’s the general opinion that Italy are not fancied to make many waves this year. I may be bit biased (being Italian) but I reckon Italy could have a really good tournament. The Italians seem to play better when no one fancies them. Italy’s squad seems weak at first glance but with the experienced back line marshalled by Buffon and Chiellini coupled with the exciting young wide men Insigne, Bernadeschi and El Shawaary – don’t be surprised if the Italians go deep into the tournament.

Player to shine:

Paul Pogba – The undisputed king of the dab, Pogba is amongst the best central Carpi - Juventusmidfielders in world football, scoring ‘worldies’ for fun, terrorising defences and laying on incredible assists for his teammates (Check out his Beckham-esque cross for Giroud against Cameroon for proof). At the age of just 23, he is a special talent that is getting better and better and with the home support behind him, the stage is set for Pogba to light up the tournament.

How will England do?

England have more than enough to get out of their group, with Wales providing the biggest threat to their chances of finishing top and gaining a better round of 16 draw. The attacking talent at their disposal has the capability to unlock many a defence but as the tournament progresses and the teams get harder to break down, England will be left vulnerable by their leaky, ever-changing defence. If England avoid the big four (Germany, Spain, France, Belgium) in the quarter final, perhaps they could go further…but this is England we’re talking about.

Winners:

France – The host nation have quality in all areas of the park, so much so they were able to omit Lacazette, Ben Arfa and Kondogbia to name just a few. With the roar of the french faithful behind them, France have more than enough to advance deep into the tournament and claim a 3rd European Championship. Their spine of Lloris, Koscielny, Pogba and Griezmann will be crucial to their success as well as their depth in midfield and attack that could change a game in a second.

Ben Esden’s predictions:

Top goal scorer:

Thomas Müller – After just finishing with 20 goals in Bundesliga, my money’s on Thomas Muller to grab himself the most goals at this year’s European Championship. Being fed by arguably the most creative midfield in the tournament, Muller will be looking to the likes of Kroos and Ozil to extend his impressive return of 32 goals in 71 caps for his country. He finished top goal scorer at the 2010 World Cup and second top when the tournament came around again in 2014, leading his team to lift the coveted trophy. The World Champions will again be looking to their prolific attacker for the goals that will secure the ultimate prize.

Dark horses:

Croatia – Ante Cacic’s Croatia could cause a few upsets at the Euros, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them exceed the low expectations cast around their manager. Scepticism persists over Cacic’s management of the team, but a well-decorated midfield of Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric know a thing or two about winning trophies, celebrating almost every domestic trophy at their disposal over the last few years. Questions remain whether Mario Mandzukic can shine in the tournament due to his average form in the qualifying rounds, and on the back of a difficult season with the Italian Champions Juventus, his turn in fortune could be key to Croatia causing a shock.

Player to shine:

Dele Alli – This year’s tournament will be the ultimate test fo13392984_10209192726553505_1853154472_nr young Dele Alli but one I feel he will rise to with as much confidence and swagger that he approached the league with. Depending on where Roy finally plays Alli, the Spurs star could really shine for England and assist Harry Kane’s efforts like he has done all season. His discipline is something that should be highlighted but not necessarily tamed, as it’s the passion that he plays with which makes him so special to watch. The buzz and excitement around this young England side is epitomised by Alli’s fearlessness and determination and it will be very exciting to see how he performs when the stakes are higher.

How will England do?

Coming into a new international tournament there is the ever perennial excitement over a youthful and explosive England side. Roy’s boys appear to be in fine form, winning 10 out of 10 in qualifying and a further three friendly victories in the build-up to France but it’s difficult to determine where England will eventually bow out of the competition. This current crop of players have been in scintillating form all season, with Jamie Vardy and the Tottenham players surely being the ones to look to, to produce their best going into their first major tournaments, and with Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane scoring 49 goals between them in the league this season, there is huge optimism going forward. One thing to be worried about however should be the lack of central defenders, as the tournament progresses fitness concerns will surface and injuries could occur, negatively affecting this otherwise incredibly hopeful young England side.

Winner:

Germany – I’m expecting Germany to perform as they should and win yet another major European tournament. Joachim Löw’s side carries no passengers and play with the perfect balance of German efficiency and flair. Neuer is still performing on top of his game and is rightly considered the best in his position in the world, protected by a formidable defence that has replaced former captain Lahm effortlessly. Ozil and Kroos and will be crucial going forward with Thomas Muller beating players at will right up until the final in St. Denis.

Marc Craig’s predictions:

Top goal scorer:

Thomas Müller – I think that due to his prior performances in big tournaments and the quality he has around him in Die Mannschaft it’s difficult to look past Thomas Müller as the outstanding leading candidate for the “top goal scorer at the Euros” gong. He was the top scorer at the 2010 World Cup and 2nd highest goal scorer at the 2014 World Cup so why should we think Mr. Müller cannot reproduce those results especially after coming off his most successful club season ever. Muller netted 32 goals in 49 appearances this campaign and also scored 9 goals in 9 games as Germany topped their qualifying group to qualify for Euro 2016.

Dark horses:

Poland – Any team that boasts a striker of the calibre of Robert Lewandowski is in with a chance of winning the tournament proper as he top scored in the qualifying roundPoland-Ireland-Euro-2016-Qualifier-2. But Poland aren’t just about Lewandowski, they’ve also got a strong squad of players who have a true sense of unity and teamwork. It’s no surprise that they’ve only lost once in the past 2 years of football and that was to Germany. The Poles find themselves in a reasonably tough group alongside Germany again but proved in their qualifying games that they are capable of mixing it with the big teams having beat their neighbours 2-0.

Player to shine:

Paul Pogba – If he wasn’t hyped up enough already, I think Euro 2016 will be the true making of Paul Pogba. He’s capable of both scoring and creating goals as well as working hard in defence making a complete, well rounded player. He’s impressed again this season for Juventus and he’ll be difficult to stop in full flow when playing on home soil and having the advantage of the partisan French support behind him. Whilst many starting berths are to be contested expect him to be a certified starter and the box-to-box ever-present lynchpin of the French midfield.

How will England do?

I can see this youthful and spirited England side reaching the semi-finals of the tournament. They have enough quality to make it through their group. In fact, I expect them to emerge as winners of their group and if they do then in the round of 16 they should be able to negotiate an opponent who came 3rd in their group. In the quarterfinals they’d probably be faced with either Italy, Belgium or Portugal and that would be the true acid test for England. So perhaps semi-finals is optimistic especially considering England’s recent history in major tournaments but I back them to buck the trend and eventually be defeated in the semis by one of the tournament favourites.England-national-team

Winners:

Germany – This is a really difficult choice for me. Prior to 2014’s World Cup I bet that Germany would take it down, which they did, but Euro 2016 is a toss up between Germany, France and Spain for me. France are the host nation who will have plenty of vociferous support as they did the last time they hosted – and won – a major tournament. However, France’s star players are still relatively young and I feel they might succumb to the weight of the expectation which surrounds them. Spain will be keen to avoid another early knockout and they do find themselves in a pretty tough group but have a good draw if they manage to escape it so I think Spain have a very good chance of making the final. Whereas Germany are weaker than they were in 2014 and would have to face France in the semis en route to the final if they both make it that far. Despite this, I’m backing Germany to win two major tournaments in a row. Their squad has the infrastructure to set up tactically for any opponent and it’s a group of players who have been playing together successfully for a while now both at club and international level. The bookies have them as second favourites to France too.

 

Euro 2016 kicks off with France vs Romania at 20:00 on the 10th of June, with England’s first game against Russia at the same time the following day. 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s