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Euro2016: the favourites, the outsiders and the tournament debutants

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Euro2016: the favourites, the outsiders and the tournament debutants

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There are three teams participating at Euro 2016 that standout as favourites to lift the trophy come July 10 in Paris.

Hosts France, three times winners Germany and two-time reigning champions Spain head into the 15th edition of the European Championship as favourites.

According to Goldman Sachs, France is the odds-on favourite to win Euro 2016 with 23 percent to Germany’s 20 and Spain’s 14 percent.

With six goals from their wins against Cameroon and Scotland ‘‘Les Bleus’‘ continued their fine season, which includes nine victories for only one defeat against England on 17 November just after the deadly attacks in Paris.

This nation never usually lets the privilege of hosting a tournament go by without winning it, it’s the case for Euro 1984 and the 1998 World Cup.

The Germans are coming

2014 World Cup champions Germany have a tough defence, supported by one of the best goalkeepers in the world, Manuel Neuer.

Despite a wobbly qualification phase and below par performances in friendlies the Nationalmannschaft always appear to bring their best when needed.

Germany have won the European Championship three times (1972, 1980 and 1996), and why not a World And European double – 20 years after their last Euro triumph.

Spain’s date with history

Spain have also won the Euros three times in 1964, 2008 and 2012 and are also looking to set a new competition record with a fourth title.

The most expensively assembled team in the competition at 647 millions euro look to win back the confidence of their supporters after a shocking group stage exit at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Coach Vicente del Bosque wants to turn the page and kick-start a new generation of players in order to rediscover a positive dynamic and become the first team to win the competition for a third consecutive time.

Outsiders

And what if none of the European giants were to lift the trophy at the Stade de France on July 10?

Imagine if Spain, Germany or France were outsmarted by an underdog.

Come on England, come on England

England may be underdogs at Euro 2016, but don’t underestimate Roy Hodgson’s men, who could reach the final thanks to a strong rejuvenated team.

They won 10 out of 10 matches in qualifying and surely mean business this summer.

Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy were outstanding in the Premier League this year and could be decisive in France, as could Delle Ali who has had a fantastic season.

England’s most glaring weakness is their defense as Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling are yet to find their stride at the back.

The Red Devils

Many believe Belgium have what it takes to go all the way.

Coach Marc Wilmots has incredible players at his disposal and this might be, on paper, the strongest Belgian side we have ever seen.

Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku have proven their worth while Atletico Madrid’s Yannick Carrasco stood out during the Champions League final.

Belgium, who can’t afford to repeat the mistakes of their disappointing 2014 World Cup campaign, can go far in the competition although they were pitted against Italy, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland in arguably the toughest group.

Italia, Italia

A big question mark surrounds Italy but they should never be underestimated.

The Italians have always looked solid in defense and this year they will be relying on the experienced Juventus trio Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci.

Antonio Conte might have to paper over the midfield cracks following injuries to Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio and appears to have little options up front.

Only Graziano Pellè and Lorenzo Insigne have scored more than 10 goals this season.

Rookies

Anything can happen in football, just as Denmark and Greece showed us in the past.

So who knows, the champions could come from one of the five tournament rookies.

Iceland

Iceland, with a population of just under 333,000 surprised all by reaching Euro2016.

Their 37-year-old Striker Eidur Gudjohnsen is the best-known player on the rooster but they boost Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson and proven goalscorers Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Alfred Finnbogason.

During qualification Iceland even beat the Netherlands, who won the 1988 edition but failed to qualify this year.

The Nordic nation begin their very first major tournament in a relatively easy group alongside Portugal, Hungary and Austria so they could spring a surprise at Euro 2016.

Northern Ireland

Reaching Euro 2016 is already a major success for Northern Ireland.

With manager Michael O’Neill at the helm they have never competed at the European Championship finals, despite playing in three World Cups.

That’s about to change of course.

The main Northern Irish hope in this tournament is striker Kyle Lafferty, who with 7 goals in qualification is a reliable goalscorer and talisman to the national side.

Wales

Wales are in the same group as England and with a star player Gareth Bale in their ranks a victory against their neighbours and old rivals could be a possibility.

A victory in that match would be like winning the Championship title.

Aside Bale, The Dragons have a real threat in Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey and Leicester’s Andy King, who helped his club become Premier League champions this season.

Wales also have a solid defence built around James Collins and Ashley Williams.

The other teams in Wales’ Group are Russia and Slovakia.

Slovakia

Slovakia are not so new to the tournament as you would imagine.

Eight of the 11 players competing for Czechoslovakia when they famously beat West Germany to win the Euro 76 were from Slovakia.

Last year on their way to qualifying for the Euros, they beat reigning two-time champions Spain.

They have good players in captain Marek Hamsik – the Napoli midfielder who can score goals from anywhere, striker Robert Vittek and of course Liverpool’s physically tough defender Martin Skrtel.

Albania

This will be Albania’s first appearance in a major tournament and they impressed in qualification to get there.

The Country is ranked 42nd in the world by FIFA, and on paper is the weakest team in the Euro 2016 finals.

Albania is in the same group as France, Switzerland and Romania and Gianni de Biasi’s men know that they have little chance of reaching the last 16 – an unfancied underdog but (once again) anything is possible in football.

Every story can be told in many ways: see the perspectives from Euronews journalists in our other language teams.

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