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  1. Euro 2016 – A team-by-team guide

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    Words by Nick Frith

    Euro 2016 is finally here. As always, the backstories have been written, replica shirts purchased and days off work booked (who’s idea was it for England vs Wales to be a 2pm kick off on a Thursday?!). The excitement is reaching its peak with kick off of the opening game just a few hours away.

    This year’s finals have been expanded to 24 teams, leading to the bizarre situation that 3rd place in your group will probably get you into the next round, as well as places in the tournament for a few lesser known teams. Great for the likes of Wales and Northern Ireland, but for the casual fan things become a little trickier. Does anyone really know who plays in goal for Iceland, and if the Slovakian’s are any good?

    Check out our quickfire preview of each team below, and make sure you sound like you know what you’re talking about over the next few weeks!

    Group A


    Chances – None, just happy to be here.

    Entertainment – Only scored 10 goals in qualifying, so don’t expect fireworks.

    Manager – Gianna De Biasi is the man who guided Albania to their first major tournament. Kudos.

    Support – Won’t be many of them, but those who make the trip will make themselves heard!

    Best 5 – Etrit Berisha, Lorik Cana, Taulant Xhaka, Ledian Memushaj, Sokol Çikalleshi


    Chances – Possible winners. Home support and an exciting squad could see them go all the way, as long as they avoid the usual French implosion.

    Entertainment – Their midfield is oozing with class, and going forward they could be exceptional. We’ve seen what the likes of Payet and Martial can do in the Premiership this season, and they might not even get in the team.

    Manager – He won it all as a player, and as a manager Didier Deschamps hasn’t taken long to reach international level. Not without controversy, particularly with the racism row around the squad he’s picked for the tournament.

    Support – France has had a pretty traumatic last 12 months, but here is a chance for them to unite as a country. Keep an eye out for cockerels sneaking into stadiums.

    Best 5 – Hugo Lloris, Laurent Koscielny, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud


    Chances – Should get through their group if they do well against France in the first game of the tournament.

    Entertainment – Low. A defensive minded team who only conceded 2 in qualifying. Lack of attacking spark.

    Manager – Another manager who took a foray into politics, Anghel Iordănescu is in his second spell as Romania manager.

    Support – Have a pretty bad reputation, with racism accusations and partial stadium closures in recent years.

    Best 5 – Ciprian Tătărușanu, Vlad Chiricheș, Răzvan Raț, Alexandru Chipciu, Florin Andone


    Chances – This is a very good Switzerland team, and should harbor hopes of a quarter final.

    Entertainment – Potential to play some good stuff, coming from Xherdan Shaqiri in particular.

    Manager – Vladimir Petković trumps Roy Hodgson, speaking 7 languages. Known as ‘The Doctor’, despite having no medical experience.

    Support – A country where winter sports dominate, don’t expect any flares in the Swiss end.

    Best 5 – Yann Sommer, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Haris Seferović

    Group B


    Chances – We still believe, right?

    Entertainment – Lack of wide players in the squad, but still plenty of excitement going forward from Alli, Vardy and Kane. Let’s just hope Rooney can keep up.

    Manager – Roy Hodgson can speak 5 languages, has 50 years managerial experience and has the second highest win rate of any England manager, ever. Yet he is probably best known on social media for looking like an owl.

    Support – Calais will be busy. 100,000s of England fans will be making the journey, many without tickets. Let’s hope for plastic chairs to be sat in, not thrown, and for fountains in town squares, not water cannons.

    Best 5 – Joe Hart, Chris Smalling, Dele Alli, Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane


    Chances – Injury to star man Alan Dzagoev is a cruel blow, but if the Russians recover they should make the last 16 minimum.

    Entertainment – Fast wingers and strikers in form, their opening game vs England’s shaky back four could be fun.

    Manager – Leonid Slutsky replaced Fabio Capello last summer and has done very well in his first 12 months. Had to retire from playing in 1989 after falling out of a tree rescuing his neighbour’s cat.

    Support – England vs Russia has been cited as a potential problem game by French police, so hopefully not too much vodka will be drunk.

    Best 5 – Igor Akinfeev, Sergei Ignashevich, Alexander Samedov, Roman Shirokov, Artyom Dzyuba


    Chances – Bit of a 1 man team, but if Marek Hamsik fires then they could do well.

    Entertainment – See above. Hamsik or nothing.

    Manager – Ján Kozák has a son of the same name who also plays football. Very confusing.

    Support – Travelling to their first ever Euros, they are sure to want to make themselves heard.

    Best 5 – Matúš Kozáčik, Martin Škrtel, Ján Ďurica, Miroslav Stoch, Marek Hamšík


    Chances – Will celebrate like they’ve won the whole tournament if they topple England in Lens and get out of the group.

    Entertainment – There is no denying that Gareth Bale has the x-factor. The do lack a centre-forward though.

    Manager – Chris Coleman had to retire from playing after a car crash, and has been fantastic in leading Wales to their first major tournament since 1958.

    Support – The ball may not be egg shaped, but still expect lots of noise from the Welsh if they win any games.

    Best 5 – Wayne Hennessey, Ashley Williams, Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey, Gareth Bale

    Group C


    Chances – They’re world champions for a reason. Fantastic quality, although perhaps lacking a little bit of depth.

    Entertainment – Not the most flash, but a quick counter attacking game can prove good to watch.

    Manager – Hard to top winning your country the Jules Rimet Trophy as Joachim Löw did in Brazil 2 years ago. Could write himself into German legend status if they win back-to-back tournaments.

    Support – Some of the best in the world. If they can produce support like Borussia Dortmund fans have in Europe over the last few years then they are a true 12th man.

    Best 5 – Manuel Neuer, Jérôme Boateng, Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller, Mario Gomez

    Northern Ireland

    Chances – Slim. Hardwork and organisation can only take you so far.

    Entertainment – Low. 5 man midfield and Championship quality strikers.

    Manager – Michael O’Neil has led them to a major tournament for the first time in 30 years, and has done an exceptional job.

    Support – The best chant at Euro 16 has already been decided. Will Grigg’s on fire!

    Best 5 –  Roy Carroll, Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans, Steven Davis, Kyle Lafferty


    Chances – Should get through the group. A quarter final would be a successful tournament.

    Entertainment – They’ll be playing with two strikers, so expect goals.

    Manager – Adam Nawałka was a one club man as a player, spending 10 years with Wisła Kraków.

    Support – Extremely passionate. Check out the fans’ displays at the Polish Cup final this year – impressive stuff.

    Best 5 – Lukasz Fabianski, Kamil Glik, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Arkadiusz Milik, Robert Lewandowski


    Chances – Solid if unspectacular. May get out of the group in 3rd.

    Entertainment – Great wingers, although the team concentrates mostly of keeping the opposition at bay.

    Manager – Mykhaylo Fomenko has 37 years coaching experience. At 67, this could be his final major tournament.

    Support – Fans of the country’s biggest clubs joined forces back in 2014 to help oust former President Viktor Yanukovych. Over 1000 have not been granted visas to travel, causing protests.

    Best 5 – Andriy Pyatov, Yevhen Khacheridi, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Yevhen Konoplyanka, Andriy Yarmolenko

    Group D


    Chances – Lots of individual talent, but a manager who has failed to fully harness it.

    Entertainment – Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic should mean some exciting play.

    Manager – Ante Cacic likes to tinker, and is yet to settle on a preferred formation. Could be their failing.

    Support – Caused stoppages in play in their qualifier against Italy with flares and fighting police. Then banned from away games fearing racism. Best avoided.

    Best 5 – Danijel Subašić, Vedran Ćorluka, Ivan Rakitić, Luka Modrić, Mario Mandžukić

    Czech Republic

    Chances – Should be able to get out of their group. Will all come down to their game vs Turkey on June 21st.

    Entertainment – Their main characteristic is organisation, so don’t expect too much flair. If they do fire, it’ll be through the creativity of Tomas Rosicky.

    Manager – Pavel Vrba won Czech Manager of the Year 5 years in a row from 2010 – 2014, but is yet to reach the same heights on the international scene.

    Support – It’s a long time since the glory days of Czechoslovakia winning Euro 1976. Should still have a good following, as long as there isn’t any Ice Hockey on.

    Best 5 – Petr Čech, Tomáš Sivok, Jaroslav Plašil, Tomáš Rosický, Tomáš Necid


    Chances – Not as good as you’d expect, despite being the current holders.

    Entertainment – Lots of technically gifted players, but a lack of goals.

    Manager – Vicente del Bosque is a living legend in Spain, and has won everything as a manager. Retiring after the tournament.

    Support – Fans will be worried after the loss to Georgia in their final pre-tournament friendly. At least they don’t have far to travel.

    Best 5 – Iker Casillas, Gerard Piqué, Cesc Fàbregas, Andrés Iniesta, David Silva


    Chances – Ranked highly by FIFA, but may be let down by a weak defence.

    Entertainment – Some excellent attacking midfielders could grab your attention.

    Manager – Fatih Terim a.k.a The Emperor.

    Support – Get to wear the best looking shirt in the tournament. May not be particularly welcome after booing a minute’s silence for victims of the Paris attacks last year.

    Best 5 – Volkan Babacan, Gökhan Gönül, Ozan Tufan, Arda Turan, Burak Yılmaz

    Group E


    Chances – Highest ranked team according to FIFA. A lot of talent, despite a lack of recent tournament success.

    Entertainment – Huge. The attacking players at their disposal is a little scary, and that’s not including Marouane Fellaini’s new haircut.

    Manager – Marc Wilmots went to four World Cups as a player, and made a brief foray into politics, elected into the Belgium Senate in 2003.

    Support – A group of Belgium fans ended up in the small village of Wales, nr Rotherham, instead of at Cardiff City Stadium during the qualifiers. Hopefully will have more luck with the Sat-Nav on their way to Lyon.

    Best 5 – Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku


    Chances – Not as good as in previous years, and in quite a tough group.

    Entertainment – As ever, the Italians have a great defence. Up front, however, Graziano Pellè leads the line having only managed 11 Premier League goals this season.

    Manager – Antonio Conte is heading to Stamford Bridge to manage Chelsea after the tournament, having recently been cleared of match fixing accusations.

    Support – Another country who have had some hooliganism issues in the past, although this has been improving in recent years.

    Best 5 – Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele De Rossi, Lorenzo Insigne, Graziano Pellè

    Republic of Ireland

    Chances – Very tough group, so a place in the last 16 would be a real achievement.

    Entertainment – Arriving via Robbie Keane’s trademark celebration, hopefully.

    Manager – Martin O’Neil is no stranger to England fans, having spent much of his career managing in the Premier League. Roy Keane should provide some good soundbites in his role as assistant.

    Support – Expect a wall of green wherever the Irish play. Do they sell Guinness in Paris?

    Best 5 – Darren Randolph, Seamus Coleman, Aiden McGeady, Shane Long, Robbie Keane


    Chances – Not bad, because Zlatan.

    Entertainment – High, because Zlatan.

    Manager – Erik Hamrén, because Zlatan.

    Support – Blonde, because Zlatan.

    Best 5 – Andreas Isaksson, Andreas Granqvist, Kim Källström, John Guidetti, Zlatan Ibrahimovic

    Group F


    Chances – Dark horses? Should make it out of the group comfortably and went unbeaten in qualifying.

    Entertainment – Wing backs like to charge forward, which is always fun to watch.

    Manager – Marcel Koller played for Switzerland at Euro 96 and now he’s back leading the Austrians.

    Support – Snow sports dominate back home, but they did a good job at co-hosting Euro 2008.

    Best 5 – Robert Almer, Christian Fuchs, David Alaba, Marko Arnautovic, Marc Janko


    Chances – Came third in their qualifying group behind Northern Ireland and Romania, so not great.

    Entertainment – They like to try and keep possession to protect their defence, and score goals from set-pieces. Low.

    Manager – Bernd Stock is the former Kazakhstan manager who lead Hungary through qualifying. Has spent most of his managerial career as an assistant.

    Support – Could take up to 20,000 fans to France, and hoping to avoid the ugly scenes that marred their recent games against Romania.

    Best 5 – Gábor Király, Tamás Kádár, Zoltán Gera, Ádám Nagy, Balázs Dzsudzsák


    Chances – Incredible achievement to even qualify, the word ‘underdog’ just doesn’t do them justice. Might still manage to get out of a relatively weak group though.

    Entertainment – Off the pitch it will most likely come from listening to commentators attempting to pronounce some of the trickier Icelandic surnames, and on it from Gylfi Sigurdsson.

    Manager – Lars Lagerbäck has led the side to Euro 2016 with the help of Heimir Hallgrímsson, who will be taking sole control once the tournament is over.

    Support – 10% of the population are rumored to be travelling to France, including Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson aka Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane of Game of Thrones fame!

    Best 5 – Hannes Thór Halldórsson, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Aron Gunnarsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Eidur Gudjohnsen


    Chances – Ronaldo vs the world? They are a bit more than a 1 man team, and could go quite far.

    Entertainment – Despite some big name forwards, goals are often a problem for Portugal. Looked blunt in recent friendly against England, albeit with 10 men and no Ronaldo.

    Manager – Fernando Santos managed all three of Portugal’s big clubs before taking charge of the international team via a spell in Greece.

    Support – Crushed by repeated semi-final defeats for the ‘Golden Generation’ in the early 00s, the hope is there that the current crop can go the next step.

    Best 5 – Rui Patricio, Bruno Alves, Renato Sanches, Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo