With the European Championships under two days away and countries around the continent finalising their strategies, heads have been turned to cast an eye for the stage to be set on 10th June at the Stade De France to witness the hosts play a Romanian side who advanced to the diverse tournament after a plausible qualifying period.
With leagues all around Europe producing mouth-watering football week in week out , history being made in England’s top flight, the season going down to the wire in Spain and Maurizio Sarri’s men succumbing to a dominant Juventus side after an exciting, to say the least, campaign in Italy. All talent on show will come together to produce a much-anticipated month of football in France this summer.
With all 24 teams from each corner of Europe set and ready for the continuous schedule ahead, we look at the potential outcomes for this month’s tournament:
Strongest defensive outfit
Having clinched their first World cup back in 2010 and then dominating a European Championship two years on, a since disappointing Spanish side has portrayed a comeback and formidable form after an abysmal four weeks in Brazil 2014. This season’s Manchester United golden boy David De Gea has pulled off a remarkable 76 saves in England’s top flight and despite not finishing in the top four and shadowing over a shaky defence ridden by injuries, mishaps and disaster the 26-year-old narrowly missed out on a golden glove award claimed by Arsenal’s Petr Cech, who took a 16 clean sheet record in contrast to De Gea’s 15. However with competition from former Real Madrid star and current captain Iker Casillas, it is deemed as imperative to start the €50M rated keeper to ensure sturdiness and consistency throughout the monthly period.
Adding on to the Spanish’s talented array of shot-stoppers, we see another developed man at the back who could play as a potential game changer for Spain this summer, this is Gerard Pique. The Catalan player averages over 67 passes per game and completes an astonishing 90.5%, this gives him the third highest passing accuracy in La Liga behind two house names of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric from rival team Real Madrid. Pique’s presence and leadership are integral for the progress for his country this summer, he has showcased this throughout his eight-year stint at the Camp Nou where this season he lifted a 6th league title to his growing collection. At the end of this title winning season, Barcelona have only conceded a resounding 29 out of 38 matches in la Liga and with Pique at the heart of the Spanish defence, it seems highly probable that Barcelona’s big number 3 will undoubtedly look to emulate this form over the course of the competition.
Having bagged five goals in South Africa as a promising German talent, Thomas Muller has certainly delivered and has been a European powerhouse for club and country for over six years. The 26-year-old has played in a variety of roles at his parent club in Munich and as a result has developed a skill set fore passing those playing the game at the top level. This season by no means has been one of high example for Muller in European competitions, however the experienced German national who was a leading benefactor of his countries last major honour has created an impressive 60 chances almost quadrupling the number by fellow countryman Julian Weigl and embarrassing Ilkay Gundogan, who set a bench mark of 26 chances created this campaign. With Thomas Muller the stats certainly do not lie and finishing third in the league’s goal scoring pecking order and having a monumentous tally of 93 shots throughout the season there is no hiding that Muller doesn’t mind having an effort when needed.
Arsenal midfielder and German provider Mesut Ozil has taken the Premier League by storm over the last 10 months at the Emirates. The number eleven who earned a staggering 19 assists this campaign is set make a resounding alliance with the Bayern marksman in white colours this summer to create another potential major honour and a certain golden boot to Muller in France this summer.
Being part of a ruthless group D which include a developed Turkish squad, a strong Czech side and previous talked topic Spain, the Croatian national team have progressed to their pinnacle with players in the realms of the team working wonders for top clubs all around Europe. The Croats have only lost two games since September 2014 and the momentum of the offensive football played on the pitch has reflected on the development of the players considerably. Champions League winning duo Mateo Kovacic and midfield maestro Luka Modric, who made a colossal seven chances against Atletico which was four more than anyone on the pitch, play in the centre of the red and white team who can single handedly drag their nation across the line. However it’s the squad depth the Eastern European nation has acquired what makes them as deadly as they are going into June 12th where Croatia kick off their Euro campaign against Turkey. From the AS Monaco giant Danijel Subasic, who has made a strong 97 saves this year in Ligue 1, Catalan playmaker Ivan Rakitic to Juventus finisher Mario Mandzuckic the talent on hand for Ante Cacic’s men this year is relentless and for the Euro travellers to progress to the newly implemented Round of 16 for me is a given.
19-year-old Ante Coric has been a hot topic for pundits all across the footballing world in the build up to June 10th. The Dinamo Zagreb youngster was awarded the Croatian Hope of the Year and has been linked with a move to the likes of West Ham United, Inter Milan and Benfica after an impressive season. The central midfielder who has been said to be a future Ballon D’or winner can single handingly break apart defence with wide play,vision and fluid movements and skills and runs to his name. The youngster who has sprouted through the ranks in Croatia has picked up a large amount of attributes and to help look cause an upset in a sinister looking group D is highly likely and much anticipated.
To summarise the development and progression of this Croatian “Dark horse” side is that they have been incredible and eyes have been fixed upon the fluidity and flair they bring to the game.
Having scored the most goals out of all individuals in the European qualifying period, being Bundesliga’s top scorer and coming on as a substitute in September last year to score five goals in nine minutes for current club Bayern Munich against Wolfsburg, the pressure has been piled upon Polish striker Robert Lewandowski to set the upcoming tournament alight with his flair, power and dominance when on the ball. The 27-year-old has made a name for himself to have the ability to “create something out of nothing”, however, there is only a certain distance this phrase can be used before looking at the build up play around and the individuals who support this process.
Sevilla pivot player Grzegorz Krychowiak and Rennes attacking midfielder Kamil Grosicki have made a dismal combined assist tally of three in their apparent leagues. In contrast to the Bayern playmakers of Douglas Costa, and Kingsley Coman who have generated a considerable amount of assists more than the Polish duo with (14) highlights the service and support they can provide to the Real Madrid transfer target. In hindsight, Lewandowski by all means will score goals over the four-week period in France, however, I believe that due to the abilities around him he will not thrive and compete to the level fans across the continent are expecting the talisman to do this summer.
With the tournament in touching distance away and all club football complete, the ever growing excitement for the European Championships is growing amongst supporters and the demand for top class football is one what will most certainly be granted.
This article is written by Reuben Rosso, you can follow him on Twitter at @Talk2RossoSport. What are your thoughts? Let us know by dropping a comment via our comments box below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Google+, Instagram and like us on Facebook.