Expect the unexpected


Rashford is England’s latest sensation and all eyes will be on him.

Every two years, football fans are spared a torturous long break from the beautiful game with the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championships taking turns to entertain us between seasons and this year, Euro 2016 is set to kick off on June 10.

With all 24 teams confirming their squads just days ago, the 15th edition of the competition will unfortunately be missing some familiar names such as Marco Reus, Diego Costa, Karim Benzema, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata.

But that will not stop Euro 2016 from being yet another exciting 30 days filled with talents ranging from young debutants such as England’s 18-year-old Marcus Rashford and France’s 20-year-old Anthony Martial to stars such as Gareth Bale whose country (Wales) had never qualified for the tournament before.

Topping the list of favourites by talent and virtue of home-ground advantage are host country France who happen to be the last country to win the tournament as hosts, back in 1984.

A repeat of history will be sweet for the French team decorated with hopefuls such as Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet and N’Golo N’Kanté.

France also has the edge being in one of the easiest groups with Romania, Albania and Switzerland.

Defending champions Spain, however, were not so lucky. Grouped with Czech Republic, Turkey and Croatia, they make Group D arguably the most difficult one – the other tough one being Group E which comprises Belgium, Italy, Republic of Ireland and Sweden.

Spain will be aiming to set a record by winning the competition for a third consecutive time.

They are currently the only country in the tournament’s 56-year history to win it twice in a row.

Winning Euro 2016 will also make them the country to win it the most number of times. Currently, they are tied with Germany (three titles each).

Speaking of the Germans, what better way to stamp their mark than to add to their 2014 World Cup medal.

Ibrahimovic will be aiming to make Euro 2016 a memorable one.
Ibrahimovic will be aiming to make Euro 2016 a memorable one.

That ambition, paired with a tenacious line-up, makes them one of the most-feared teams in the tournament.

There to experience it first-hand will be Ukraine, Poland and Euro-first-timers Northern Ireland who are with Germany in Group C.

Manuel Neuer, Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller are just three of Germany’s many powerhouses that could drive the team towards the possibility of being crowned champions.

England sealed their spot in style by being the only team in the qualifying stages to win all 10 of their matches.

While bragging a perfect 30-point run, they were the team with the fewest shots in the qualifying stages (12).

When it came to squad selection, Rashford dominated the headlines when he made the cut after a splendid display which included a debut goal.

Rashford, Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Harry Kane are among the new faces that make up England’s youngest squad (average age of 25) since the 1958 World Cup team in Sweden.

England’s squad is also the youngest in Euro 2016 and they are in Group B with Russia, Wales and Slovakia.

Belgium are the highest ranked European team in FIFA’s world ranking (2nd) – two spots above Germany and four above Spain – making them a force to be reckoned with.

The Belgians to look out for include Kevin De Bruyne, Divock Origi and Eden Hazard.

Also looking to make a name for himself would be the younger Lukaku – Jordan – Belgium’s left back option.

Pogba is among the host’s hopefuls – France kick off the tournament with a tricky fixture against Romania next Friday.
Pogba is among the host’s hopefuls – France kick off the tournament with a tricky fixture against Romania next Friday.

Other stars who are expected to stand out include Cristiano Ronaldo.

A medal for his country is just about the only thing missing from a decorated career and there aren’t many chances left for the 31-year-old.

His Portuguese teammate Renato Sanches, who made an impact in Benfica’s road to the Primeira Liga title, is one who could rise to fame in Euro 2016.

All eyes will also be on Zlatan Ibrahimovic as he will definitely be showing off some insane skills in what could be his last major international appearance.

The 34-year-old will make Sweden’s games a lot more interesting despite their FIFA ranking of just 35th in the world.

As with any major tournament, there are bound to be surprises.

If football forecast wasn’t already tough enough, Leicester City’s astonishing triumph has completely thrown us off course where predictions are concerned.

Nevertheless, we at Metro Sports have given it a shot with our top four picks.

What are yours going to be?

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Sport , Central Region , euro 2016

   

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