Get ready for a summer of European football

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It’s time to crack open the beers, plug in the big screen TV and get the sofa ready as international football heads to France. We take a look at the biggest teams in the tournament, what their chances are, and the players to look out for.

Will Rooney fire England to glory? Tim Goode/PA Wire
Will Rooney fire England to glory? Tim Goode/PA Wire

France haven’t exactly set tournaments alight recently, going out in the quarter finals of the 2014 World Cup. And the squad lacks the past talents of Henry and Zidane. But they have to be classed as one of the favourites as the home nation. Though the lack of Karim Benzema up front could play a major part.

Players to watch

Their hopes rely on Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann getting goals, Hugo Lloris keeping things tight in goal and Paul Pogba pulling the strings in midfield.


After their World Cup success just two years ago, the German team will be the one to beat. Although they’ve lost some key players through retirement, there’s no shortage of young talent in the country. And with Joachim Low still in charge, expect them to be there or there about come the final stages.

Players to watch

Thomas Muller is one of the favourites to take home the Golden Boot, while the defensive duo of Boateng and Hummels will prove why Bayern spent so much to bring the latter from rivals Dortmund. Mesut Ozil has also impressed at Arsenal this season – can he replicate it on an even bigger stage? 


Many of the players who helped them to back-to-back tournament success are still playing – though perhaps past their very best. David Silva is now 30 and Iniesta 32, while Fabregas, 29, hasn’t really looked at his peak for Chelsea this season. But you can’t count them out after 9 wins out of 10 in qualifying.

Players to watch

David de Gea has had a great season in an otherwise underperforming Manchester United side, so should shore up the back to allow the team to play creatively and dangerously. While Álvaro Morata hasn’t fulfilled his potential at Juventus, he’s still young and could use the tournament to showcase his talents.


While we always like to think we’ve got a chance, this year we might actually do it. Maybe. We’ve got a host of young talents from the likes of Dele Alli to Harry Kane, along with a few experienced heads. But we are maybe lacking a world-class player at the top of his game. And our defence is arguably the weakest it’s been for years.

Players to watch

Has to be Wayne Rooney. While the likes of Alli, Ross Barkley and even young Marcus Rashford could catch the eye, it all comes down to whether Rooney, who seems guaranteed a starting place no matter how poor his form is, brings the team together, or can play alongside the in-form Kane and Vardy?


Always the dark horses, the team is full of talent but often fails to be the sum of its parts. The country hasn’t been at the competition since 2000 and went out at the Quarter Final stage in the last World Cup. They’ll also be missing the injured Vincent Kompany. But with their talent, they’re always in with a chance.

Players to watch

They have one of the strongest spines in the competition from Courtois in goal through to Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard – if he can get back in the goals. Up front, Romelu Lukaku might seem like he’s had a poor season but he’s actually netted 25 times in total as part of a poor Everton side.
Northern Ireland players during a celebration send-off before the team leaves for France. Niall Carson/PA Wire
Northern Ireland players during a celebration send-off before the team leaves for France. Niall Carson/PA Wire

The other teams

There are plenty of teams who could win it other than the five mentioned above. Italy will always be in with a chance, Portugal have a number of top players alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, and even dark horses like Croatia, Poland or Austria could pull a few surprises out of the bag.

It’ll also be interesting to see how Wales, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland perform.

Players to watch

Gareth Bale is the sort of world-class game changer the England team is sorely missing. While it’d be a push to see Wales getting to the final, Bale will hopefully give them a good chance in the group stages.

Poland’s Robert Lewandowski is simply one of the best goal scorers in the world currently, and he’ll be out to embarrass his Bayern team mates when Poland take on Germany in the group stages.

New Arsenal signing, Granit Xhaka of Switzerland is one to watch. The former Bundesliga midfielder is his country’s captain aged just 23.

Finally, Austria’s Marko Arnautovic has had a great season for Stoke and could carry that form through to the finals.


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