Everybody loves a flutter on the Euros right? The problem is that so many people go for the big names and the obvious choices but there's always a few surprise packages that turn up and shake up the hornets' nest. I mean we're only 12 years on from when Greece won Euro 2004 and they haven't even managed to qualify for this tournament!
In this article we'll be discussing the likelihood of somebody else 'doing a Greece' in Euro 2016 and arming you with all of the necessary information so that you can bet on the Euro's with confidence and not blow your money like lots of other people will be doing this summer.
So we start with Group A, here is the list of teams that have been drawn from the 4 qualification spots and into this group, as well as their FIFA World Ranking.
At a glance you can see that the rankings appear somewhat distorted, this is because France did not play any competitive qualifiers and therefore did not pick up as many ranking points as the other countries have done for the past 2 years. So, who is going to qualify for the knockout stages from Group A? Let's have a look at each team and dissect the important information that you're going to need.
Albania are ranked 45 in the FIFA World Rankings sandwiched between Egypt and Peru. They're clearly seen as the minnows of Group A and you can see why, but let's have a look at how they did in qualifying, this is surprising stuff.How Did They Qualify and from Which Group?
Here is the first surprise, Albania managed to qualify automatically for Euro 2016 from qualifying group I. Surprise no.2, this group contained Portugal, Denmark, Serbia and Armenia. Now taking Armenia out of the equation (they finished bottom with 0 wins), this means that Albania beat Denmark and Serbia to 2nd place in Group I and actually managed to beat Portugal away from home 1-0!
The only thing that takes away from them slightly is that they were handed 3 points in a game against Serbia due to crowd trouble and only just sneaked by Denmark to automatic qualification by 2 points - what makes it even more telling is that Serbia won the return game.Top Goalscorer in Qualifying
Now as good as Albania are defensively, they also lack a bit of bite up front. No Albanian player scored more than 1 goal with 6 of their players achieving this feat including 25 year old striker Bekim Balaj. Albania will definitely need to start scoring more goals or they could play out a lot of 1-0's.Style of Play and Manager
Albania have been tough to beat in qualifying, they only conceded 5 goals in all 8 games which is quite astonishing really. This is no doubt down to the fact that their 3 best players are defensive minded. You may remember Lorik Cana from his short spell at Sunderland, he's their captain and a brilliant defensive midfielder, they also have impressive Lazio goalkeeper Etrit Berisha, combine this with centre back Armend Dallku who is lesser known but a capable defender, its easy to see how the rear guard action has managed to get them a place at Euro 2016.
Their manager is an Italian born Albanian named Gianni De Biasi, now with those defensive players and an Italian coach, the statistics are starting to make sense.Record in Previous European Championships
This section is relatively easy, as this is the first major international football competition that Albania have qualified for! So there is nothing apart from the qualifiers to compare it against. This could be a good thing as the opposition won't know what to expect.Group Final Standing Prediction : 3rd
It will come as no surprise that we don't expect Albania to qualify and the most that they can settle for in our humble opinion is the role of spoilers. I think Albania will get at least 1 unexpected draw against France or Switzerland but they just don't have the firepower to get past the likes of Varane of France and the experienced Stephan Lichtsteiner of Switzerland.
So, a home Euro's for the French, I seem to recall them to doing quite well in the last major football competition they hosted in 1998. France seem to have discovered players from absolutely nowhere that are all bang in form and they represent a scary prospect to any team that comes up against them.How did they Qualify and from which Group?
Well, as the host nation France did not have to participate in the qualifying rounds but we have no doubts that they would have qualified for the tournament if they had.Top Goalscorer in Qualifying
Again, the French did not participate in the qualifiers and they used a lot of players in the friendlies that they did play. They have an array of talent at their disposal though in terms of scoring goals like Loic Remy, Olivier Giroud, Griezmann and Martial. Unfortunately for France, the most potent threat would have come from Karim Benzema who's been left out of the squad due to pending police investigations.Style of Play and Manager
France have a lot of young players coming through that have created a team full of pace and power. Players such as Paul Pogba epitomise this, lots of strength and pace to attack the opposition and having at least one player in midfield that just wants to defend. The France of old really, if its not Henry, Zidane and Vieira then its Griezmann, Pogba and Kante.
Didier Deschamps is the national team manager and was captained the French when they won that fabled World Cup in 1998 so he knows what it takes to win a big international competition.Record in Previous European Championships
France have 2 European Championships trophies in their cabinet, one from 1984 when they were again hosts, can you see a pattern forming here? The other was more recently in Euro 2000, so they definitely know how to win this thing and with their knowledge and history of winning as the host nation, they have to be seen as a strong candidate to win a third European Championship crown this year.Group Final Standing Prediction : 1st
France are terrifying team on paper, with the emergence of Payet, Kante and Martial this season adding to the plethora of talent they already at their disposal, France should win this group easily and their hopes come down to whether Didier Deschamps finds the right balance and has them playing with the attitude of the Euro 2000 squad and not the attitude of the squad from the World Cup in 2002!
It may rightly shock people to see that Romania are actually above France in the FIFA World Rankings, however, this is such a false representation of the ability of these two teams. Romania are not widely fancied and we intend to try and explain why to you.How did they Qualify and from Which Group?
Romania qualified automatically from Group F and have to be commended for this, however, this was such an easy group in which the favourites did not perform as well as they could or should have. The best example is that Greece (managed by soon-to-be Premier League winning manager Claudio Ranieri) contrived to finish bottom of a group that contained the Faroe Islands.Top Goalscorer in Qualifying
Romania had 3 top goalscorers in the qualifying rounds as Budescu, Stancu and Papp all scored 2 goals. If you're asking us for a 'first goalscorer' tip, that has to be striker Bogdan Stancu. He never quite lived up to his Football Manager potential but he knows where the goal is and scores regularly for his club Genclerbirligi in the Turkish top flight.Style of Play and Manager
Romania are currently in the process (as are England) of trying to recreate a national footballing identity. The idea is that they will use possession and pace on the counter attack to achieve this, the only issue being that the only player with any notable pace is former wonderkid winger Gabriel Torje. So they may try to play the possession and quick counter attacking game in the Euros but I can only see this nearly working against the Albanians and it may not even work there as Albania love defending.
Their current manager is Romanian Anghel Iordanescu, obviously you will know all about him but I'll just jog your memory with a few facts. He played as a striker and spent most of his career at Steaua Bucharest in his homeland and was a Romanian international. He has won titles domestically as a player and manager so he has experience and this is his second stint as the manager of his national team.Record in Previous European Championships
Romania reached the quarter finals of Euro 2000 but have either not qualified or been knocked out in the Group Stage of every other competition that's been held. Our guess is that they will probably have to settle for being happy that they managed to qualify.Group Final Standing Prediction : 4th
It was so difficult to choose between Romania and Albania for 4th but I just think with Albania's defensive record they will do slightly better than the Romanians, especially as Romania don't have any top quality players.
The Swiss will see this as a good opportunity to go far in an international competition. With players coming through and playing well in Europe's top leagues and being ranked in the top 20 of the FIFA World Rankings, they may be quietly optimistic this time around.How did they Qualify and from Which Group?
Switzerland managed to automatically qualify from the Group E the same as England with two of their three losses coming against the Three Lions (who incidentally had a 100% win record to qualify). They did start slowly with losses against England and Slovenia but quickly picked up momentum and managed to score 24 goals in qualifying to comfortably qualify in the end.Top Goalscorer in Qualifying
It will come as no shock to you that Switzerland's top goalscorer in the qualifying rounds was Stoke City's former Bayern winger Xherdan Shaqiri. If Switzerland do anything in this tournament, it will come down to the short, speedy winger. He has pace, power and a lethal shot and he will be a thorn in the side of any team the Swiss come up against. He should be able to handle the pressure of national expectation as he's not short on confidence.Style of Play and Manager
The Swiss are known for having lots of pace on the flanks and being methodical in the middle. Players such as Xherdan Shaqiri and Valentin Stocker provide good width in midfield, combined with the stamina and crossing ability of the full backs Lichtsteiner and Ricardo Rodriguez behind them they will be hard to handle in wide areas.
Then you have to factor in who will be getting on the end of these crosses, the Swiss are blessed with 3 big, strong strikers in Drmic, Seferovic and, probably one of the most exciting young talents in the tournament, Breel Embolo. In the middle of the park, possession is the game and with excellent passer Granit Xhaka and the defensively solid Gokhan Inler, Switzerland have a very well balanced side.
Their manager is Bosnian born Vladimir Petkovic. Petkovic took over from legendary German manager Ottmar Hitzfeld after the 2014 World Cup and has previously managed Lazio in Serie A.Record in Previous European Championships
Switzerland only qualified for the European Championships for the first time in 1996! And also didn't qualify for the last Euros in 2012. Regardless of this, they have a young, hungry team with just the right amount of experience to give this a good go and I fancy them to better their record of only ever making it to the Group Stages.Group Final Standing Prediction : 2nd
Switzerland are expected to follow France into the knockout stages and finish 2nd by beating Romania and Albania but anything can happen in international football and Switzerland do lack experience and good performances in the Euros.
The winner of this group will play the 'best loser' from Group C, D or E, we expect it to be France against the 3rd placed team in that group, so France are expected to reach at least the quarter finals.
Switzerland on the other hand, if they finish 2nd in Group A, will face the runner up of Group C, which contains Belgium, Italy, Republic of Ireland and Sweden, so that will be a horrible draw no matter what and we expect them to fail at the last 16 stage.