Euro 2016 Countdown: 18 Months to Go

 

This may seem like a weird post but there is only 18 months to go until Euro 2016. Yes that’s right just 18 months! We are now in 2015, 6 months after the euphoria of Brazil 2014 and just like England national team I am (or should be) looking forwards.
Come the 10th of June the eyes of Europe will be fixed upon France as the tournament kicks off once again, but will be kicking off in no way like never before. The 2016 tournament sees the première of UEFA’s idea to change the tournament to 24 teams (instead of the previous 16); and should allow for more of the better teams to qualify for the tournament in the coming years….8 years too late for Steve McClaren I’m sure.

So what do we discuss 18 months before the event? The infrastructure of the French FA? No. The question as to whether England will qualify or not? No. Let’s look at a few of the teams that will be hoping and needing a big tournament should and if they get there. Sound good? Super, smashing, great! For our first team lets go down the autobahn, drink a gallon of bier and say guten tag to our Deustch freunde. Sorry I have to, but imagine this in a German accent….Hello Europe and welcome to Germany (for all the Eurovision fans amongst you)

Germany are the rightful world champions. They have been the most consistent team for the last few years and had been threatening the end of Spanish reign as kings of football. They won the World Cup in Brazil (something I called on the Severn Sport podcast back in June) and did it in style, trouncing their Samba counterparts in their own back yard.
Why did they win it? Not only because they played the best football, but because they had one of the youngest average ages in terms of their squad. Yes, that’s right lets get technical, but with a younger average age in the high altitudes of Brazil, Germany had the advantage of more stamina, easier ability to adapt and they have an insane mental toughness that not many teams can compare with.

So how will the world champions fair at this early predictive stage in Euro 2016? Two words. Very well.
Their first tournament since the world conquering trip to Brazil, all eyes will be on the Germans. One question that may be interesting to assess, how will they cope under pressure? We will obviously find out next year, but as an overall assessment they will be the team to beat going into France next year.

In terms of players to watch, Gotze, Ozil, Muller, Hummels, Reus (if he isn’t injured this time around) do I need to continue? You get the picture.

Current Place in the betting: 10/3 favourites in most places, Coral and William Hill give a brave 7/2 at this stage.

 

Germany’s World Cup winner Mario Gotze will be hoping for a major role in the road to Euro 2016


Next we look at the wounded animal that is España…that’s Spain for the simpletons amongst you.
Yes we all know about the disastrous turn out for Spain in the world cup, yes we all saw the former world conquering masters of the game torn apart by Holland and Chile and yes we all know that in Diego Costa they have a player capable of firing them to future successes on the big stage.
They will be back, we all know it. How soon though is the question. The Spanish are slowly regenerating an ageing team and are slowly finding themselves again as a major player on the world stage. In David De Gea they have probably one of the two best keepers in the world right now (the other belonging to those lucky Germans).

Right now Spain aren’t as amazing as they could be, but in 18 months time they should have a more settled team with a hopefully settled striker (who keeps out of trouble) firing on all cylinders as they try to reignite the sleeping Spanish armada and once again conquer the world.

For Spain’s players to watch you have to look at De Gea, Diego Costa, Fabregas, Mata, David Silva, Pique. And more

Current place in the betting: Prices vary amongst the bookies but they are best priced 13/2 third favourites with William Hill, Paddy Power and bet365

Third favourites you say? Who must be second favourite? Well, second favourites are my pick for the tournament. The hosts. The baguette eating, garlic and beret wearing, rude and cowardly (too much?) French. That’s right, I, Ryan Butler think France are going to win the Euros.
Why? Well because they are currently maturing into a fine footballing team. They have used the same players over the last couple of years with minimal change. So I reckon by the time they kick off next summer they will be settled as a squad and ready. Ready to claim their seat in the 2017 Confederations Cup and take their place back at the top of the European football ladder.

Their World Cup was a good one. Knocked out by Germany in the quarter finals in extra time, so not a bad way to go, being knocked out by the eventual winners. But in the group stages they looked sharp, they looked good, they played well and they looked like the France of old again. In Didier Deschamps, they have a great footballing manager. A man who understands football, a man who has won the World Cup and knows what it takes to win. He is nurturing the young French players into a force to be reckoned with. France finally have a spine again (not another coward joke…yeah joke…so don’t worry) with Hugo Lloris in goal, Raphael Varane, Paul Pogba – two of the best young players in the world today. And they are both French! – and Karim Benzema. Not just that, the surrounding players on that spine are an impressive bunch.

The players to watch are those surrounding players, Zouma, Valbuena, Lacazette, Cabaye, and of course Antione Griezmann.

Current place in the betting: As I said, they are second favourites. And if you fancy Les Bleus then many bookies are as long as 9/2, including SkyBet, StanJames and once again, William Hill.

 

In Paul Pogba, France have one of the hottest properties in World Football


Just two more teams to look at before we leave the pot to stew for 6 months and take a look again once teams have qualified and we have an actual idea of how the Euros are shaping up. For the third team we travel to the best place in the world I have ever been to. Three words, Viva la Belgie. Let’s discuss Belgium. Little Belgium, tiny Belgium, good old Belgium. I love Belgium, what a place. And finally, finally, they have a cracking football team. One that they so richly deserve. The showed signs of their quality during the World Cup, without Christian Benteke, a man who (I know this will be controversial) is probably better than Lukaku (I know, crazy right), just imagine if they had Lukaku and Benteke up front. Together. On the same pitch. At the same time. It’s mouth watering of a prospect, a front four of Lukaku, Benteke, Mirallas and Hazard. Unreal means of quality right there. But alas Benteke was out and despite a good run in the World Cup, so were Belgium. But they will rise again and who knows, maybe it could be over the border in France.

In terms of players to watch you are talking about Hazard. A player who will be up there (if not already) with the world’s best. I am talking top 3 or 4 players in the world, he has the potential to be that good. The only thing I can see preventing this development is an implosion at Chelsea. But not just Hazard, but Vertonghan, Fellaini (ha), Dembele and De Bruyne make the Belgium team look strong going into the future.

Current place in the betting: Belgium currently sit back at 14/1 with some bookmakers. My boys at BetFred know what’s happening, giving you good each way value at this stage with the 14s.

Euro 2016 kicks off on June 10th and lasts a whole month with the final on the 10th July in Paris


I conclude this early look at the 2016 Euros with of course, our boys, Roy Hodgson’s England. Now is a good time for England as we are under a period of change. A transitional period for our national team. With the departing Gerrard passing the captaincy onto Wayne Rooney, England look more dynamic going forward and look quite balanced with Rooney, Sturridge, Sterling and Welbeck leading the front for the Three Lions.
The main argument for me is the midfield, I wouldn’t have Wilshere in the middle on balance (despite the fact he has been better for England than Arsenal in the last 12 months) and would go for a more experienced head in Michael Carrick. I know people drone on about the future and the young players and this and that. Grow up. You know as well as I do, great teams have slowly incorporated the young players in with the experienced players and have used the experienced players. They have used the experienced players like a discarded orange peel, juiced and de-segmented for all its nutrients and good things. Something England need to learn to do, I have to say mainly down to the media pressures that the English players deal with on a regular basis (especially on the eve of major tournaments and matches), incidents are always magnified by those idiots at the Sun or the Mirror into something they’re not and England as a team suffer for it. I’m sorry I’m rambling but god damn it, if we just let the English team get on with it without being complete bastards then they will play with less pressure and ultimately perform better. And breathe

Players to watch for England, Rooney, Sterling, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain (my pick as the single player to watch for England) and the likes of Phil Jones and Luke Shaw.

Current place in the betting: Naturally England’s price is always all over the place, but they are as long as 14/1 with the likes of Belgium with BetFred. In fact only the biggest independent bookmaker, the bonus king, Fred Done offers England at 14s, everywhere else settles for 12/1.

 

Now that’s a little taster for you. I could sit here and discuss all of the teams in line for the Euro 2016 tournament but I won’t. Instead I will tell you to enjoy the road to France and we will meet up again in the summer to see how the next 6 months affect the betting and affect who will actually make it all the way to France 2016.

Ryan Butler

@abaconButtee

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