If you’re looking for tactical analysis, insider news or interviews from coaches or players leading up to Euro 2016, you came to the wrong place. This particular article will be used for predictions and predictions only. So if you’re planning to lose money in either Las Vegas or Monte Carlo, then read my Group Stage picks here.
France, Switzerland, Romania, Albania
France will go in as big favourites in Group A and should top the table. The battle for second place will be between Switzerland and Romania. Albania are in their first ever major tournament and will probably just be happy to be there. Take France in first. The Swiss eke out second place. Romania slides into third. Albania brings up the rear.
Match To Watch: France vs Romania June 10.
The match to kick-off Euro will be very emotional. This will be the first football fixture to be held at Le Stade de France since the terrorist attacks last November. Expect a stirring rendition of La Marseillaise prior to the match itself.
Group B: England, Russia, Wales, Slovakia
A fascinating group headlined by perennial underachievers England. While expectations aren’t as high for the Three Lions, they know that the ruthless British press are ready to pounce when England slip up. Russia want to impress as they get set to host the World Cup in two years. Wales could be the darlings of the tournament. Slovakia are a dangerous foe that could pull a shocking upset or two. England tops the group. Russia ekes out Wales for second. Slovakia will have tough luck getting out of the basement.
Match To Watch: England vs Wales June 16
Whenever two nations from the United Kingdom square off in a football match, fireworks usually happen. This fixture has potential to grab the spotlight. England will be favoured but don’t discount the Welsh. The city of Lens should prepare accordingly.
Group C: Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Northern Ireland
Germany are the clear favourites in Group C. Poland will be a formidable opponent. Ukraine survived plenty of distractions in their homeland to qualify. Northern Ireland will play in their first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup. Germany tops the group. Poland finishes second. Ukraine ends up third. Northern Ireland ends up bottom.
Match To Watch: Germany vs Poland June 16
Whenever Germany and Poland collide you’ll hear the obvious and somewhat tedious World War II references. But this match should have a major impact in Group C. Add to the fact Poland’s best player, Robert Lewandowski plays his club football at Bayern Munich, Germany’s most successful club and you have a recipe for a fascinating fixture at Le Stade de France.
Group D: Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, Croatia
Some may call it Spain and three mysteries. There’s no doubt the defending Euro titleholders are the favourites but after a poor showing in the 2014 World Cup, Spain do face questions heading to France. A serious argument could be made for either the Czech Republic, Turkey or Croatia to finish either second, third or fourth. I have Spain first. Czech Republic second. Turkey third. Croatia fourth.
Match To Watch: Spain vs Czech Republic June 13
Spain’s first tournament match since their epic failure in Brazil two years ago while the Czechs are looking to escape past disappointments. Toulouse will be the site for this interesting fixture.
Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Ireland
If there is a Group of Death at Euro 2016, it may be Group E. Belgium are looking to build off an impressive showing at the 2014 World Cup. Italy reached the Final at Euro 2012 and are hoping to have a similar run but with a happier ending. Sweden are dangerous thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Ireland may lack skill but they don’t lack spirit. Belgium tops the group. Italy finishes second. Sweden gets third while Ireland are in tough.
Match To Watch: Belgium vs Italy June 13
A team on the rise versus a team on the decline. Or so they say. Belgium’s stock keeps going up while Italy’s is falling. This will also be a fixture of contrasting styles. The free flowing Belgians clash with the structured Italians. Lyon will be the site.
Group F: Portugal, Austria, Hungary, Iceland
This is Portugal’s group to lose. Cristiano Ronaldo and company should breeze through but stranger things have happened. Austria are slowly improving. Hungary is in its first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup. Iceland is in its first major tournament ever. Portugal tops the group with Austria the runners-up. Hungary sneaks into third. Iceland will finish last.
Match To Watch: Portugal vs Austria June 18
The key to this match will be can Austria contain Ronaldo? Group F may hinge on that factor as a disciplined Austrian side try to shut down one of the best players in the world. Parc des Princes in Paris will be the setting.
One last note. There will be four third place finishers who will advance to the knockout stage with the top two sides in each group. This is difficult to pick but I’m going to try. I have Romania, Wales, Turkey and Sweden to get through to the Round of 16.
You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973