This summer’s European Championships is set to feature a selection of the best international teams, including reigning champions Spain, World Cup winners Germany and hosts France. The tournament has been expanded to include 24 teams for the first time, which could enable a dark horse such as Belgium or Wales to surprise the more fancied sides in the group and knockout stages.
Wales will make their first appearance in major international competition since 1976 and have one of the world’s leading players, Gareth Bale, at their disposal. Chris Coleman’s side lost just once en route to Euro 2016 and had the fourth best defensive record in qualification, behind England, Spain and Romania. Wales are in a tough group alongside England, Russia and Slovakia, but their “Together Stronger” mantra could be key in helping them to advance and achieve their dream of a maiden international tournament victory. Other key players for Wales including Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey and centre back Ashley Williams, who was in superb form during qualifying.
Belgium have arguably the strongest squad on show and many hope their “golden generation” of players will finally be able to go all the way in France. Belgium are currently ranked as the best side in Europe and second only to Argentina in the world. They have a clutch of Premier League stars in their ranks, including Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, Vincent Kompany and Romelu Lukaku, but have often tasted disappointment on the biggest stage, having been knocked out in the quarterfinals in the World Cup two years ago. Belgium will be looking to make amends this time around, though they also have a tricky group, which includes Italy, Sweden and Republic of Ireland. Marc Wilmots’ team advanced to Euro 2016 after topping Group B with 23 points and seven victories.
England have long been tipped as potential European champions, but previous sides including names such as David Beckham and Paul Scholes failed to live up to the favourites tag. It could be different this time as Roy Hodgson has built a young and exciting team, featuring some of the Premier League’s best young stars. Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Dele Alli are two who have made a name for themselves on international duty during the last twelve months. England qualified with a 100% record and were the second highest scoring side behind Poland but will have to cope with growing expectations and poor history in recent competitions.
England will kick off their campaign against Russia, and this match has notably shorter odds for under 2.5 goals bets due to the defensive capabilities of each team. It is a similar picture for Belgium’s opening game against Italy, as the latter is known for its ability to keep clean sheets rather than its attacking prowess. Wales will then take on England later in the group stages, which will be among the harder games for both teams. Here, it is likely that Wales will be able to make an impact on the score line, due in part to the prolific Gareth Bale.
Euro 2016 is set to be one of the most exciting international competitions to date, with traditional thoroughbreds such as Germany and Spain likely to be tested by up and coming nations including Wales, Belgium, Poland and Croatia this summer.