There’s just over a week to go until Euro 2016 kicks off and here at FourFourTwo HQ we’re pretty excited – and you should be too! Just in case you’re not quite feeling it yet, here are 10 reasons why you don’t want to miss a kick of Euro 2016.
1. It’s wide open
Defending champions Spain will arrive in France with the hangover of their disastrous World Cup defence looming large, where they didn’t progress from the group stages. Reigning World Champions Germany have serious injury concerns and were uncharacteristically patchy in qualifying, with this form continuing in a recent 3-1 defeat to Slovakia in a warm-up for the tournament. This will give heart to the other pretenders to the throne with the likes of France, Belgium, Italy, England and Portugal all fancying their chance of going deep into the tournament.
2. Awesome stadiums. Filled to capacity
Three of the last four European Championships have been held across two countries so it’s good to get back to one nation hosting all the games, making it easier for fans to follow their teams. France is also perfectly positioned for fans to gather to enjoy a month of great football. If the players are the artists then the stadiums are their canvasses and this year’s Championships will be blessed with some fantastic arenas hosting the action. From the classic Stade de France that will play host to the first and last game of the tournament to the upgraded stadium in Marseille and the brand new stadium in Lyon – Euro 2016 will be a spectacle on and off the pitch
3. Young Guns Taking Centre Stage
Euro 2016 will provide the opportunity for several young players to step up and fire their countries to glory while catapulting themselves to global stardom at the same time. On home soil, Paul Pogba and Kingsley Coman have the perfect opportunity to write their own chapter of football history. Coming off the back of a breakthrough season in the Premier League, England’s Dele Alli will get the chance to strut his stuff on the international stage. Kevin De Bruyne is another young gun who will be central to his nation’s fortunes as Belgium aim to prove they’re worthy of their No.2 overall FIFA ranking, second only to Argentina and best among the European nations.
4. The Leicester Effect
A 5000-1 outsider has just walked away with the Premier League title over 38 games. It only takes seven games to lift the European Championship, so there will be plenty of unfancied nations eyeing the chance to cause a Leicester-like shock in France. Heading that group will be Wales who in Gareth Bale boast the world’s most expensive player, with proven Premier League pedigree alongside him in Aaron Ramsey and Ashley Williams. Even minnows like Iceland, in their first major tournament appearance, will take inspiration from Leicester who proved that in football anything really is possible.
5. Cinderella Stories
Everywhere you look there are potential Hollywood storylines waiting to be written. Can Jamie Vardy deliver a spectacular footnote to his rags to riches narrative and end England’s 50-year wait for an international trophy? Can Cristiano Ronaldo bring glory to Portugal to go with another stellar club season and his three Champions League titles? Can his Real Madrid teammate Bale steer Wales to an unlikely victory in their first tournament finals appearance since 1958? Can what’s left of the all-conquering Spain team dust off their World Cup disappointment to claim an unprecedented third European Championship in succession? Or can Belgium deliver on their undoubted promise to lift a first major international title?
6. More teams, more football – Yes please!
In its new expanded 24 team format, this year’s European Championships will present 51 games over a whole month. That means only eight teams will depart after the group stages, so almost every game will have something riding on it. Countries could enter their final game knowing that even after two defeats a win could see them progress as one of the best third-placed teams. The introduction of the round of 16 knock out stage adds eight more sudden-death matches where anything can happen and presents an extra opportunity for England to lose in a penalty shoot-out!
7. The best of the best
Reigning World Champions? Check. Reigning European Champions? Check. Five of the top-10 ranked teams in the world? Check. All are present for Euro 2016. No doubting the pedigree but will the winners come from this elite group? We have 51 games to find out!
8. Five debutants
There was a degree of harrumphing in certain quarters about UEFA’s decision to expand the finals to 24 teams, but there can be no denying it spiced up the qualification process. Many more teams were given the belief they could qualify and for five nations that belief translated into reality. This year’s tournament will welcome no less than five nations on debut at the finals of a European Championship and who’s to say we won’t see Iceland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Albania or Slovakia go on to write a new chapter in their nation’s footballing history by causing an upset or two in the finals?
9. Derbies galore
Major tournament final games are high stakes, high-pressure affairs but add in some local derbies and these games guarantee drama at any stage of the competition. Wherever you turn in Euro 2016 you’ll see neighbouring countries with scores to settle and bragging rights to be won. Look at Wales striving to upset England, Germany hoping to see off Poland or the too-close-to-call Austria v Hungary clash and it’s easy to see the classics coming early in the competition.
10. A great ball
Every great football tournament deserves a great ball and adidas have delivered for Euro 2016. The players will be working their magic with the Beau Jeu and fans all over the world will hoping it lives up to its translated name of The Beautiful Game.