Italy v Spain match review

In what was dubbed one of the biggest games in the tournament so far, Italy beat Spain 2-0 to knock the holders out of the competition. Thanks to a brilliant performance from the Italians.

Italy v Spain

Chiellini (33), Pellè (90+1)

This is how the teams lined up

Italy (3-5-2)

Buffon, Chiellini, Bonucci, Barzagli, De Sciglio, Giaccherini, De Rossi, Parolo, Florenzi, Eder, Pellè

Spain (4-3-3)

De Gea, Alba, Ramos, Pique, Juanfran, Iniesta, Busquets, Fabregas, Nolito, Morata, Silva

It was a game in which Italy deserved to go through and if it wasn't David De Gea the Spanish goalkeeper, the Italians may have been out of sight and scored more goals.

Here is a summary of the key moments from the game.

Italy started the brighter of the two teams and in the 8th minute of the game, they had a great chance to the take the lead. A free kick from Alessandro Florenzi was meet by Graziano Pelle who directed a powerful header towards goal, but David De Gea made a brilliant save to turn it behind for a corner.

Two minutes later Italy had another great chance to take the lead, Florenzi sent a ball into the box. The ball found it way to Emanuele Giaccherini who connected with a spectacular overhead kick, but De Gea made another great save. He tipped the ball onto the post, but it would not have counted as the referee gave a free kick to Spain for a high boot.

Spain tried to get themselves into the game and in the 19th mintue, Cesc Fabregas had a shot blocked after a pass from Celta Vigo winger Nolito

Italy though were looking threatening and they had a decent chance in the 24th minute to make it 2-0, when a cross from Mattia De Sciglio found Marco Parolo. Who could only head wide after making a late run into the box.

Spain were still trying to get their noses in front. On 27 minutes Nolito's corner found Andres Iniesta whose shot was straight at Gianluigi Buffon the Italian goalkeeper.

Embed from Getty Images

A minute later Italy almost went in front, De Sciglio sent a low cross into the penalty area and Spanish centre back Sergio Ramos almost turned the ball into his own net. Ramos did however manage to turn the ball away for a corner.

However on the 33rd minute Italy finally got the breakthrough, a free kick from Eder on the edge of the box was saved from De Gea. However he could only parry it into the path of Giorgio Chiellini, who turned the ball home to gave Italy the lead. Italy 1-0 Spain.

Italy almost made it 2-0 on 44 minutes when Pellè passed the ball to Giaccherini. He then unleashed a powerful shot at goal, but De Gea made a sensational save to turn the ball away for a corner.

Half time Italy 1-0 Spain

Spain came out trying to get an equaliser. Spanish striker Alvaro Morata had a free header from just outside the six yard box, but could only guide the ball into the arms of Buffon.

Fabregas then had an effort three minutes later, but his shot sailed over Buffon's crossbar.

Then Italy had a glorious chance to make it 2-0 on 56 minutes, Pellè flick the ball Eder who raced away from Ramos. Eder found himself one on one with De Gea, but the goalkeeper made a superb block to keep the score at 1-0.

Italy then had another great chance to make 2-0 on 61 minutes, De Sciglio put a low cross into the box. But there was no one there to turn it home and Spain cleared the ball away after a brief scramble in the box.

Spain were still a threat and they had a decent chance to equalise on 70 minutes. Fabregas' pass found substitute Aritiz Aduriz whose first time shot curled past Buffon's far post.

Embed from Getty Images

A minute or two later Spain had a corner which was delivered by Fabregas. The ball found Ramos, but he could only head over the bar. Better from Spain.

Spain were now pressing for an equaliser, substitute Lucas Vazquez sent a ball over to Iniesta whose first time volley was push away by Buffon for a corner.

A minute later Spanish centre back Gerard Pique struck a powerful effort. However Buffon was equal to it and the ball was cleared.

Italy were a threat on the break and were looking for a goal that would seal victory. With five minutes remaining, substitute Lorenzo Insigne had a shot that was saved by De Gea after running from the halfway line with the ball.

On the 90 minute mark Spain almost forced extra time, by nearly getting an equalising goal. De Gea's long ball was headed into Pique's path by Italian defender Andrea Barzagli. Pique volleyed the ball towards goal, but Buffon the Italian goalkeeper made an incredible instinctive save to keep it out.

Italy then made their spot in the quarter finals safe with a second goal in the first minute of added on time. A long pass found substitute Matteo Darmian, he cross the ball into the box. The ball took a deflection Ramos into the path of Pellè, who smashed the ball home with De Gea will beaten. To make it Italy 2-0 Spain.

Full time Italy 2-0 Spain

Star man - Graziano Pellè

Embed from Getty Images

Not only did he get the all important goal that sealed Italy's place in the quarter finals against Germany. But his hold up play and link up play through out the game was excellent. This was shown when Pellè released Eder one on one with De Gea after a fantastic flick. When the Italians face the Germans in the quarter finals, he will make a huge difference as to whether or not Italy get through.

 

 

 

England exit Euro 2016

England exit Euro 2016, another tournament defeats the team, and another tournament claims the job of the England manager. Roy Hodgson resigns immediately after the final whistle.

The pundits are now bickering on what went wrong and twitter is awash with strategies that should have been, and players that shouldn't have started.

Roy Hodgson quitsIn a game where Roy 'tinkered' again, by bringing in Kane, Sterling, Walker and Rose, dropping Vardy and Lallana to the bench and not using the excellent Clyne or Bertrand, he seemed to be slipping back into his old ways. It wasn't long before the majority of England fans realised Kane was taking free kicks again!

The game started on a high with Sterling immediately onto a long flick and brought down in the box by the Iceland goalkeeper, to be awarded a penalty which Rooney swiftly converted. The deficit was quickly eroded after the hallmark long throw into the box through which England have so busily been preparing for according to Hodgson, and converted past Hart by an unmarked Sigurdsson. England were punished again in the 18th minute through Sigthorsson's shot which Hart should have stopped but the ball went through his hands - where have we heard that one before?

there are several thousand England fans in France who sold their wives to watch their team tonight

Iceland then dug in and despite changes which didn't introduce Lallana at all, Wilshere (considering some of the part timers for Iceland have probably played more minutes than he has) was introduced for Dier on the 45th, Vardy for Sterling on the 60th, and it wasn't until Rashford's introduction for Rooney on the 86th where some sense of urgency seemed apparent.

England exit euro 2016Rashford managed to weave his way through 3 Iceland defenders on his first run and two on his second before winning two corners. Something England hadn't managed in the previous 86 minutes!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBGlJ0YOrQ0

So England are out and within minutes of that debacle of a performance, Roy Hodgson was in front of the camera's with a pre-written statement and taking no questions.

Where do we go from here? England exit Euro 2016 and it is clear something is wrong. As one of the richest footballing nations, we cannot seem to put together a team that can win a major tournament. It is clear some of the players were doing things that they never should have - Kane free kicks - and clear (to me) some players should never have gone, with equal resignation that quite a few players should have gone and been in the starting line-ups (Drinkwater, Albrighton, Noble).

England needs a shake up and a few of these £200,000 a week players need to step up to the mark as there are several thousand England fans in France who sold their wives to watch England exit Euro 2016 tonight!

 

 

France v Romania match review

In the tournament's opening game we saw late drama as hosts France had to wait 89 minutes for the game winner, scored by West Ham man - Dmitri Payet.

France   2-1    Romania

Giroud (57')    Stancu (64' Pen)

Payet (89')

So the European Championships 2016 officially kicked off last night, as France beat Romania 2-1 at the Stade de France.

This is how the teams lined up.

France (4-3-3)

Lloris, Sagna, Koscielny, Rami, Evra, Kanté, Matuidi, Pogba, Griezmann, Payet, Giroud.

Romania (4-3-3)

Tatarusanu, Sspunaru, Grigore, Chiriches, Rat, Hoban, Pintilii, Stanciu, Popa, Stancu, Andone.

It was a closer game than most people expected, with Romania ultimately being undone by a spectacular 25 yard strike from Dimitri Payet.

Here is a summary of the key moments from the game.

Romania had a great chance to take the lead inside 4 minutes. Bogdan Stancu the left winger had an effort cleared off the line by Hugo Lloris, the French keeper after Stancu got in ahead of the French defence. The resulting corner was headed over the bar.

That was to be Romania's best and only chance of the first half as the hosts got themselves going.

On the 10 minute mark, France created their first chance of the game, a floated cross by Payet found Olivier Giroud, who could only head wide despite finding on space in the box.

This was followed on the 14th minute when right back Bacary Sagna's cross bounced up into the air. In demand forward, Antoine Griezmann pounced but could only hit the post with a header from close range.

Chances then became a premium as both sides pressed for the opener but it was on 35 minutes when Payet's cut-back ball found Griezmann, however his first time shot just went wide of the right hand post.

In the dying minutes of the half, France missed another chance to go in front. Olivier Giroud found space in the 18 yard box, but could only head over from Payet's corner.

The game ended goalless at half time.

At the start of the second half Romania started how they started the first half. Stancu again found some space in the box, but couldn't direct his effort goalwards.

It wasn't until the 56th minute when France got going again. Payet made a great run into the box and found Pogba who hit the ball first time but the Romanian goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu made a brilliant save to turn it behind for a corner.

A minute later, France got the breakthrough.  Payet's floated cross found Giroud who got ahead of Tatarusanu and headed the ball into the bottom corner to give France the lead and the opening goal of this year's European Championship. 1-0 to France on 57 minutes.

Romania fought back and were awarded a penalty after a clumsy challenge by Patrice Evra on Nicolae Stanciu.

Bogdan Stancu stepped up and scored, sending Lloris the wrong way and putting the visitors level at the Stade de France 1-1.

Just like in the first half, chances became a premium as Romania tried to hang onto to a precious point.

However the Romanian's hard work was undone, when on 89 minutes Dimitri Payet, just like he had done for West Ham in the Premier League last season scored a spectacular goal. He picked up the ball and ran before unleashing a 25 yard effort that went into the top left hand corner, with Tatarusanu well beaten. Payet's effort gave France the three points they needed to kick-start their tournament.

Final score: France 2-1 Romania.

Star man - Dimitri Payet

Not only did Payet setup the opening goal and score the 89th winner, he also looked calm and assured on the ball all night long and showed just why he has cemented a place in the starting line-up.

Embed from Getty Images

 

 

Euro 2016 - Group F Preview

Group F is there for the taking for Ronaldo's Portugal but can David Alaba's Austria cause the upset.

Iceland are the hipsters choice and Hungary could just be there to make up the numbers.

Portugal

Qualifying record:

7 wins, 1 loss.

Top scorer:

Cristiano Ronaldo (5)

Projected top performer:

Renato Sanches  - The obvious answer would be to select CR7 for this answer but we all know what he's about already. Sanches was coverted by many of the worlds top teams prior to the end of last season before eventually signing for Bayern Munich in a deal which overall could cost the German giants €80 million.

He comes into the tournament off the back of breaking Ronaldos 12 year record of being the youngest international player for Portugal. At just 18 years old he could be the player to watch in the Euros with all the focus being set on Ronaldo, Sanches could shine bright and even overshadow his goalscoring machine team mate.

Expectations:

The Portuguese have always been something of a let down at major tournaments especially in the Ronaldo era, they should breeze through the group stage but after that it's anyone's guess.

Austria

Qualifying record:

9 wins, 1 draw.

Top scorer:

Marc Janko (7)

Projected top performer:

David Alaba - After strolling through what, on paper seemed a tough qualifying group Austria are very much in the dark horse category for the summer spectacle.

Bayern Munich star David Alaba is key to this success, whether playing in defence or as a midfielder Alaba has the class to hang with the big boys in world football and he's also joined by a very solid looking cast of support players.

Premier League players such as Marko Arnautovic and Kevin Wimmer give the Austrians plenty of options and whilst top scorer in qualifying Marc Janko may not be to everyones tastes he is very effective.

Expectations:

Getting out of the group is a must and i think with a bit of luck a run at the Quarter Finals isn't out of the question.

Iceland

Qualifying record:

6 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses.

Top scorer:

Gylfi Sigurðsson (6)

Projected top performer:

Gylfi Sigurðsson -  The Swansea star could be set for a big competition after leading the country in scoring during qualification.

Iceland’s best player by some distance, the attacking midfielder can provide a goal in an instant with either a long-range strike or a perfectly placed pass.

Ably assisted by veteran striker Eidur Gudjohnsen the pair provide a challenge for any team to deal with.

A strong qualification campaign has seen the minnows become a hipster choice and with players like Sigurðsson it's easy to see why.

Expectations:

Just being here is a massive achievement in itself for the tiny country, qualification from the group would make for an excellent tournament and with the new 3rd place team rule i won't count that out at this stage.

Hungary

Qualifying record:

4 wins, 4 draws, 2 losses. (Qualified via Playoffs)

Top scorer:

Tamas Priskin (2)

Projected top performer:

Balazs Dzsudzsak - The Bursaspor winger is maybe the only genuine talented player in the squad's ranks with an impressive club goal-scoring record for a winger he has the weight of a country laying on his shoulders for the next few weeks.

With workman like strikers and a goal keeper who wears grey tracksuit bottoms for every game, Hungary do little to excite but with a good team work ethic and Dzsudzsaks ability to get a goal they could surprise one or two.

Expectations:

Finishing the group stage in 3rd place is about as high as their expectations should be based on what is going to be a tough few weeks for the Hungarians

 

 

Euro 2016 - Group E preview

Two of the top-6 favourites for this event are in this Group E, Belgium and Italy. Sweden and Republic of Ireland are the other two that complete a very competitive group.

Belgium are slight favourites ahead of Italy to win the group, but you would expect them both to qualify, whilst Sweden and Republic of Ireland will try and qualify as 1/4 best 3rd placed teams.

Group E

Belgium

Qualifying record:

7 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss

Top scorer:

Eden Hazard & Kevin De Bruyne (5)

Projected top performer:

Eden Hazard - It was well-known and documented last season how poor Hazard was at club level, for the most part anyway.

He fell out with Jose Mourinho, that much is clear however since Guus Hiddink took over and Hazard had earned his trust, it was clear he is every bit as talented as he was last season.

Now he has found some form again, albeit at the tail-end of the season, it is time for him to do the business on the international stage, something I am convinced he will.

Hazard originally looked destined to leave Chelsea earlier this year, but it looks as though he may have reversed that decision and will give new coach, Antonio Conte a chance. If he is still interested in a move to either PSG or Real Madrid, the most obvious suitors, this is the place to impress.

Along with De Bruyne he impressed during qualifying and the pair of them can lead their country to glory. It was a toss-up between the two for which one I preferred as the top performer, but Hazard didn't suffer an injury like De Bruyne's and also has more to prove, which for me gives him the edge.

Expectations:

There is a lot of expectation on Belgium and rightly so. The squad is littered with talent in every position and the semi-finals may well be the minimum expectation.

If each player plays to their full potential they can beat the likes of Germany, France or Spain and now the once, young squad is slightly more experienced they might be ready to take a tournament by storm.

Anything less than the semi-finals will be considered a disappointment, as there is plenty of warranted optimism around this side.

Italy

Qualifying record:

7 wins & 3 draws

Top scorer:

Gratiano Pelle (3)

Projected top performer:

Gianluigi Buffon - Buffon is 38 years old and can still perform at the top-level, something that has to be admired.

Buffon equalled his best performance in a single season with Juventus last year, keeping 21 clean sheets and he will look to take similar form to France this summer.

Italy are not particularly efficient in the attacking department these days and it is their ability to keep it tight in defence that makes them the side that they are.

With Buffon still playing at a high level, he can still be the reason his team makes it as far as possible in this competition and he is most certainly still a match winner.

Expectations:

Italy don't enter competitions without thinking they can win, that is what winning 4 World Cups and 1 European Championship will do to you, but honestly I do not think they have the squad to do it this year.

Up front, Graziano Pelle is their most prolific goalscorer with 5 international goals in 13 games. Eder, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne and Simone Zaza only have a combined 6 goals in 43 games between them, with Immobile the most experienced, joining Pelle on 13 caps.

Whilst a good defence goes a long way, it is hard to envisage them getting into the semi-finals without an out-and-out goalscorer, although they have done before. There are probably 6 or 7 teams I would rather pick to win this tournament than them.

Republic of Ireland

Qualifying record:

5 wins, 3 draws, 2 losses (Qualified via play-offs)

Top scorer:

Robbie Keane (5)

Projected top performer:

Shane Long - Whilst Robbie Keane is the most prolific goalscorer and the most experienced player in the side also (67 goals in 143 games), Long is an exceptional player and he can be a huge part of any success.

Long is a very mobile, hard-working forward who creates as much as he does score and with his work ethic he should cause lots of problems for all the defences in this group.

He is a bright spark and whilst his side have very little chance of progressing, he can without a doubt put in some eye-catching performances.

After a successful season at club level for Southampton he may well be on the radar for a big summer move, with reports that Liverpool are interested. Like many others he will be keen to show what he can do on the biggest stage.

Expectations:

None. Irish coaches, players and fans will just be happy with being involved in the tournament and if they were to somehow sneak through the group, even in 3rd place it would be a massive over-achievement.

This is just Ireland's 3rd appearance at the European Championships in the side's history and they have never progressed from the group stage.

I cannot see that changing this time around and fully expect them to suffer a swift exit from the tournament.

Sweden

Qualifying record:

5 wins, 3 draws, 2 losses (Qualified via play-offs)

Top scorer:

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (8)

Projected top performer:

Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Ibrahimovic is without the doubt the best player in this squad and if his team have any chance to progress from the group stage he will need to put them on his shoulders.

He has scored 62 goals in 113 games for his country, an exceptional record and I am sure he will add to that before he ends his international career.

Zlatan loves the attention to be on him and it is that sort of arrogance that makes him so good, which is why he will love the spotlight being on him.

An announcement is expected on 7th June on his future at club level and once that has been confirmed his attention will be solely in France, the place he has called home since 2012.

The former Paris St.Germain man is the only player in Sweden's history to score at three consecutive European Championships (2004,2008,2012) and he has scored 6 goals in the competition in total.

Expectations:

I cannot see Sweden going far, there is only so far you can get when relying one man, especially when that man is ageing.

Ibrahimovic scored 11 goals in 10 international games last year and 50 goals in 51 games at club level in all competitions, so he is showing no signs of slowing down therefore will believe he can get them through to the last-16 at least on his own.

Sweden will probably be battling it out with Republic of Ireland for 1/4 best 3rd placed spots, which could go either way.

Veterans like Kim Kallstrom (128 caps) and Sebastian Larsson (84 caps) will hope to provide support for their superstar striker, but I think they will struggle as a unit.

Euro 2016 - Group D Preview

Group D is far from easy for the reigning european champions, Spain. Croatia and Turkey are both teams capable of causing a shock and you can never count out 1996 runners-up Czech Republic.

Spain

Qualifying record:

9 wins, 1 loss

Top scorer:

Paco Alcácer (5)

Projected top performer:

Andres Iniesta - Despite his advancing years he's still the key cog in that spanish midfield, if Spain are to achieve what must surely be their goal of winning the competition everything will have to go through Iniesta.

With a lack of a clear number 1 striking threat with the top scoring player in qualifying Paco Alcácer not in the squad and Alvaro Morata hardly being the most consistent goal scorer, everything is going to come from that still supremely talented midfield.

Expectations:

Retaining their crown has to be the expectation for Del Bosque, whilst not at the level they used to be they're still a danger for any team they come up against.

Not many countries have a better Goalkeeper in De Gea and the back 4 could be in for a breath of fresh air with Hector Bellerin set to make the right back position his own for a long time.

Czech Republic 

Qualifying record:

7 Wins, 1 draw, 2 Losses

Top scorer:

Bořek Dočkal (4)

Projected top performer:

Petr Cech - When you have one of the worlds best Goalkeepers, this choice becomes very easy. What they lack in attacking ability they make up for in a very good midfield with Tomas Rosicky still being a key performer, he has spent most of the season on the sidelines but if he can find his fitness he can still be on of the most creative forces in the tournament.

Expectations:

This is where it gets tricky, they qualified top of the group with an impressive record, but being handed a tough group is a rough break. It's tough to write them off this early after the impressive qualifying but unfortunately i can't see them progressing past the group stage.

Turkey 

Qualifying record:

5 wins, 3 draws, 2 losses. (qualified as best 3rd placed team)

Top scorer:

Burak Yılmaz (4)

Projected top performer:

Arda Turan - When Barcelona pay £30m for you, well that could go one of two ways. In Turan's case he had a rough first season at the camp nou, not being able to make his debut until January due to Barcas transfer ban he went on to make 18 appearances scoring 2 goals in the second half of the season. The chance to show the world what he can do when competing with the best is something he must be relishing.

The mix of him Sahin and Calhonoglu is an exciting prospect to watch at the euros.

Expectations:

Not making a major international competition for the past 8 years they'll be keen to show the world what they can do.

Making it out of the group will be seen as a success and i fully expect them to do so.

Croatia 

Qualifying record:

6 wins, 3 draws, 1 loss

Top scorer:

Ivan Perišić (6)

Projected top performer:

Ivan Rakitic - Filling in to Xavi's boots would daunt most midfielders, not Ivan though. He took up the role and ran with it becoming a key part of Barcelona's midfield.

Lining up along side Modric, Kovacic & Brozovic gives Croatia one of the strongest midfields in the whole competition.

12 goals in 68 games for Barca is impressive when you consider who he's competing with for those goals. The Croatians are my dark horse for the whole competition and Rakitic is key to their success.

Expectations:

As i said in the previous paragraph Croatia are definitely in the dark horse category for the Euros they have a strong midfield and in Mandzukic they have a genuine goal threat that few other teams in the competition have.

(Side note) Croatia also sport the tournaments best kit.

 

 

 

 

 

Euro 2016 - Group C Preview

Another tough group but Germany are clear favourites in this group for a reason and I fully expect them to lead the way.

Germany have a squad full of talent, whereas the rest of the group have workmanlike teams with one or two top players. That may be harsh on Poland who garnered 21 points in qualifying (finishing behind Germany), whilst Northern Ireland performed well in a weaker group and Ukraine just snuck through via the play-offs.

Germany

Qualifying record:

7 wins, 1 draw, 2 losses

Top scorer:

Thomas Muller (9)

Projected top performer:

Thomas Muller - Without a shadow of a doubt, Muller is the man Germany will be relying on to put the ball in the back of the net.

At the 2010 World Cup he won the Golden Boot and at the 2014 World Cup he was the second top goalscorer, so he has a knack for doing it on the big stage.

Despite scoring 3 goals and providing 7 assists in qualifying for Euro 2012, he didn't manage to nail down a spot at the finals and instead, Mario Gomez led the line.

There is no way history will repeat itself. Muller has to start in this tournament, he featured in 9/10 games in qualifying scoring 9 goals (a goal a game ratio) and has also just managed his most prolific scoring season of his career at club level, finding the net 32 times in 49 games in all competitions.

He is not even the main striker at Bayern, fellow Group C player, Robert Lewandowski holds that spot, so despite being seemingly overshadowed for large parts of his career, Muller still gets the job done.

Whilst Gomez enjoyed a great season on loan at Besiktas (26 goals in 32 games) , I still think Muller is the main outlet and if they are going to win this tournament I am sure he will be a big part of it.

Expectations:

Win and nothing else will do. The 2014 World Cup winners are behind France in the betting market, but for me they should be favourites.

France have the home advantage, but Germany strike me as the better team. If you were to question Germany in any position it would be defence, however with the likes of Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels etc. protecting Manual Neur, it is hard to call it a weak link.

They should make it to the semi-finals at least, however if you were to ask me who my pick was in a one and done format, it would be Germany.

Ukraine

Qualifying record:

6 wins, 1 draw, 3 losses

Top scorer:

Andriy Yarmolenko (6)

Projected top performer:

Andriy Yarmolenko - Yarmolenko is an exciting player, who brings flair to a team that desperately needs it.

At club level Yarmolenko has played nearly 200 games for Dynamo Kyiv first team, since joining them in 2007 and he has been on the radar of Premier League clubs for the last few seasons.

Everton and Stoke are known admirers however Dynamo's president, Ihor Surkis was not set on the idea of him joining either side being quoted saying "He is already a top player, so he should go to a top club. My position is that we should not let Yarmolenko go to such clubs as Everton and Stoke City."

If he plays to his full potential, he can grab a couple of goals in the early stages and prove to potential suitors that he is the real deal, but that's about as much as he can do in my opinion. It is now reported that the club will let him go to any interested party should their asking price be met and Yarmolenko is happy with the team he is joining.

Yarmolenko also has a well-known rivalry with international team-mate, Taras Stepanenko who plays for Shakhtar Donetsk. In October 2015 Yarmonlenko nearly broke Stepanenko's leg and whilst the two looked to make up after the game, it didn't last long, as the former threw the shirt the pair had exchanged to the ground when thanking his fans.

In the next meeting Stepanenko kissed the badge in front of the away fans, leading to a brawl between the two where Yarmolenko kicked and beat Stepanenko to the ground.

Tension must be in the air still, even if they put their personal issues to one side for the sake of the team and that cannot be healthy.

Expectations:

Whilst I do think it will be a struggle for Ukraine to even get out of the group, they have been very solid under current head coach, Mykhaylo Fomenko. In his 34 games in charge, Ukraine have won 24, drawn 6 and lost just 4 a good achievement all things considered.

They struggled to qualify from a group that included Slovakia and Spain and as a result had to go through the play-offs, their reward - a very tough group.

I can't see them getting a result against Germany or Poland and anything they can get against Northern Ireland may just be a consolation.

Yarmolenko was as good as ever in qualifying but he is not on the same level as someone like, Gareth Bale who may well able to drag his team through the group stages single-handedly. He may have support on the other wing from Yevhen Konoplyanka and the two can be dynamic in attack, but a team without an out-and-out striker is always going to struggle.

I cannot see Ukraine progressing from the group stages, despite their ability to shut up shop at the back (conceded just 4 goals in qualifying).

Poland

Qualifying record:

6 wins, 3 draws, 1 loss

Top scorer:

Robert Lewandowski (13)

Projected top performer:

Robert Lewandowski - Robert Lewandowski is one of the best strikers in the world and will be keen to put on a show this summer for his country.

He scored 42 goals in 51 games in all competitions at club level and his 13 goals in qualifying for this tournament took him to 34 goals in 76 appearances for his country.

Euro 2012 was his first and only major tournament appearance for his country, as he did not make his debut until after Euro 2008 and Poland failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

This is his chance to shine. Poland were great in qualifying, he was the top scorer across the whole of Euro 2016 qualifying and he can build on that in France.

Games against Northern Ireland and Ukraine represent great opportunities for him to score plenty of goals and that is why he is only just behind bookies' favourite, Muller in the Top Goalscorer betting.

Muller has the advantage of a better side around him, but Lewandowski has a support cast of his own. Strike partner Akadiusz Milik scored 24 goals in 42 games at club level for Ajax this past season and the 22-year old has already scored 10 goals in 24 games at international level.

If Milik can take some of attention of his partner, Lewandowski could be very dangerous and similarly if all the focus is on Lewandowski it will open up chances for Milik, either way Lewandowski is the key for this team.

Expectations:

Poland have other stars in their ranks including Borussia Dortmund defender, Lukasz Pisczcek and Sevilla midfielder, Grzegorz Krychowiak and the squad looks solid across the board.

This is their best chance in recent years to go deep in a major finals and I do believe they can get to at least the Quarter-finals or even further. I do not think they can win it, as there are a few teams stronger than them, but a team that has a striker with the quality that Lewandoswki possesses will always stand a chance of winning any game on the day.

I fully expect Poland to qualify comfortably to the next round, and a Germany/Poland 1-2 finish looks the most likely outcome in this group.

Northern Ireland

Qualifying record:

6 wins, 3 draws, 1 loss

Top scorer:

Kyle Lafferty (7)

Projected top performer:

Steven Davis - Davis is the captain of the team and arguably the best player amongst the squad.

The midfielder goes quietly about his business popping up with the odd important goal at both club and international level - notably the 2 goals he scored against Greece to help secure his country's spot in the finals.

He has been a regular for his country since making his debut in 2005 and became Northern Ireland's youngest "modern-day" captain 10 years ago, at just 21 years of age.

Davis played a big part in Southampton's successful Premier League season and for a manager like Ronald Koeman to hold in such high regard tells you something about his qualities as a footballer.

Coach, Michael O'Neill also has plenty of good things to say about his captain as, proved in an interview after the Greece game.

"There's all types of captains, but for me Steven epitomises everything you want in a captain; he takes responsibility on the pitch, he drives the team forward, he's an example in terms of how he is as a professional, how he is as a person," he said. He also added "I didn't expect him to score an 18-yard header if I'm honest, but I'm delighted for him to get the goal because in my opinion he's one of the most underrated players in the Premier League, he's a top, top, top player and he showed that again tonight."

Expectations:

Whilst Northern Ireland enjoyed a great qualifying campaign and they will be ecstatic to make it to the finals for the first time in the nation's history, I cannot see the fairytale lasting long.

Germany and Poland are strong opponents and even if they could somehow avoid defeat against either side, they would still have to beat Ukraine, which for me is a 50/50 game.

With the new rules, they could make the last-16 but I really do doubt it and it looks like an early exit for the European Championship newcomers.

A lot of the squad play in the lower leagues so whilst they may have a squad full of players that will put maximum effort in, they unfortunately lack the quality to have any real impact on this elite stage.

They are rank outsiders (500/1) alongside Albania and that is no doubt a fair reflection of their chances. The fans will no doubt enjoy the occasion and it is a good experience for all the players involved, young and old.

The Euro 2016 Teams

Finally we have the complete list of the teams for the Euro 2016 Tournament. Big names that have missed out in Europe this year are Benzema, Reus, Balotelli, Mata, Costa, Trapp, Isco, Kompany and Torres whilst from England Noble, Drinkwater and Townsend all miss the cut. Harry Arter has left the Irish squad due to injury.

The Premier League now represents nearly 20% of the players in the Euro 2016 Championships this year, showing just how dominant this league is and the determination of foreign players to play in it.

Premier League Euro 2016Source: BBC

Home Nations

England Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Fraser Forster (Southampton), Tom Heaton (Burnley). Defenders: Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), John Stones (Everton), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool). Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal). Strikers: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United).

Northern Ireland 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Alan Mannus (St Johnstone), Michael McGovern (Hamilton Academical), Roy Carroll (Linfield) Defenders: Craig Cathcart (Watford), Jonathan Evans (West Bromwich Albion), Gareth McAuley (West Bromwich Albion), Luke McCullough (Doncaster Rovers), Conor McLaughlin (Fleetwood Town), Lee Hodson (MK Dons), Aaron Hughes (free agent), Patrick McNair (Manchester United), Chris Baird (Derby County) Midfielders: Steven Davis (Southampton), Oliver Norwood, (Reading), Corry Evans, (Blackburn Rovers), Shane Ferguson (Millwall), Stuart Dallas (Leeds United), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest) Forwards: Kyle Lafferty (Norwich City), Conor Washington (Queens Park Rangers), Josh Magennis (Kilmarnock), Will Grigg (Wigan Athletic).

Republic of Ireland Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph (West Ham), Shay Given (Stoke), Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday). Defenders: Cyrus Christie (Derby), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa), Richard Keogh (Derby), Shane Duffy (Blackburn), John O’Shea (Sunderland), Stephen Ward (Burnley). Midfielders: James McClean (West Brom), Glenn Whelan (Stoke), James McCarthy (Everton), Jeff Hendrick (Derby), Stephen Quinn (Reading), Wes Hoolahan (Norwich), David Meyler (Hull City), Robbie Brady (Norwich), Aiden McGeady (Everton). Forwards: Jon Walters (Stoke), Shane Long (Southampton), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Daryl Murphy (Ipswich).

Wales Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), Daniel Ward (Liverpool), Owain Fon Williams (Inverness Caledonian Thistle). Defenders: Ashley Williams (Swansea City), James Chester (West Bromwich Albion), Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur), James Collins (West Ham United), Chris Gunter (Reading), Neil Taylor (Swansea City), Jazz Richards (Fulham). Midfielders: Joe Ledley (Crystal Palace), Joe Allen (Liverpool), David Vaughan (Nottingham Forest), Jonathan Williams (Crystal Palace), David Edwards (Wolverhampton Wanderers), George Williams (Fulham), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Andy King (Leicester City). Forwards: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), David Cotterill (Birmingham City), Hal Robson-Kanu (Reading), Simon Church (MK Dons), Sam Vokes (Burnley).

European Nations

Albania Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Etrit Berisha (Lazio), Alban Hoxha (Partizani), Orges Shehi (Skenderbeu). Defenders: Lorik Cana (Nantes), Arlind Ajeti (Frosinone), Mergim Mavraj (FC Cologne), Elseid Hysaj (Napoli), Ansi Agolli (Qarabag), Frederic Veseli (Lugano), Naser Aliji (Basel). Midfielders: Ledjan Memushaj (Pescara), Ergys Kaçe (PAOK), Andi Lila (Giannina), Migjen Basha (Como), Odise Roshi (Rijeka), Burim Kukeli (FC Zurich), Ermir Lenjani (Nantes), Taulant Xhaka (Basel), Armir Abrashi (Freiburg). Forwards: Bekim Balaj (Rijeka), Sokol Cikalleshi (Medipol Baksasehir), Armando Sadiku (Vaduz), Shkelzen Gashi (Colorado Rapids).

Austria Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Robert Almer (Austria Vienna), Heinz Lindner (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ramazan Oezcan (Ingolstadt). Defenders: Aleksandar Dragovic (Dynamo Kiev), Christian Fuchs (Leicester City), Gyorgy Garics (Darmstadt), Martin Hinteregger (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Florian Klein (Stuttgart), Sebastian Prodl (Watford), Markus Suttner (Ingolstadt), Kevin Wimmer (Tottenham Hotspur). Midfielders: David Alaba (Bayern Munich), Marko Arnautovic (Stoke City), Julian Baumgartlinger (Mainz), Martin Harnik (Stuttgart), Stefan Ilsanker (RB Leipzig), Jakob Jantscher (Lucerne), Zlatko Junuzovic (Werder Bremen), Marcel Sabitzer (RB Leipzig), Alessandro Schoepf (Schalke). Forwards: Lukas Hinterseer (Ingolstadt), Rubin Okotie (1860 Munich), Marc Janko (Basel).

Belgium Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Jean-François Gillet (Mechelen), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool). Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact), Jason Denayer (Galatasaray), Christian Kabasele (Genk), Jordan Lukaku (Oostende), Thomas Meunier (Club Brugge), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham). Midfielders: Mousa Dembélé (Tottenham), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester Utd), Radja Nainggolan (Roma), Axel Witsel (Zenit). Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Marseille), Christian Benteke (Liverpool), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Divock Origi (Liverpool).

Croatia Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Lovre Kalinic (Hajduk Split), Ivan Vargic (Rijeka). Defenders: Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Domagoj Vida (Dynamo Kiev), Sime Vrsaljko (Sassuolo), Gordon Schildenfeld (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivan Strinic (Napoli), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen). Midfielders: Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic (both Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter MIlan), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), Milan Badelj (Fiorentina), Marko Rog (Dinamo Zagreb), Ante Coric (Dinamo Zagreb). Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Nikola Kalinic (Fiorentina), Marko Pjaca (Dinamo Zagreb), Duje Cop (Dinamo Zagreb), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim).

Czech Republic Euro 2016 Squad

Goalkeepers: Petr Cech (Arsenal), Tomas Vaclik (Basel), Tomas Koubek (Sparta Prague). Defenders: Theodor Gebre Selassie (Werder Bremen), Pavel Kaderabek (Hoffenheim), David Limbersky (Viktoria Pilsen), Marek Suchy (Basel), Michal Kadlec (Sparta Prague), Tomas Sivok (Bursaspor), Roman Hubnik (Viktoria Pilsen), Daniel Pudil (Sheffield Wednesday). Midfielders: Borek Dockal (Sparta Prague), Jiri Skalak (Brighton), Vladimir Darida (Hertha Berlin), Daniel Kolar (Viktoria Pilsen), Ladislav Krejci (Sparta Prague), Josef Sural (Sparta Prague), David Pavelka (Kasimpasa), Jaroslav Plasil (Bordeaux), Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal). Forwards: Milan Skoda (Slavia Prague), Tomas Necid (Bursaspor), David Lafata (Sparta Prague).

France Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Benoit Costil (Rennes), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Steve Mandanda (Marseille). Defenders: Lucas Digne (Roma), Patrice Evra (Juventus), Christophe Jallet (Lyon), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City), Samuel Umtiti (Lyon), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Adil Rami (Sevilla) Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace), Lassana Diarra (Marseille), N'Golo Kante (Leicester City), Blaise Matuidi (Paris St-Germain), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle United). Forwards: Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Tigres), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Dimitri Payet (West Ham United)

Germany Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)  Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Emre Can (Liverpool), Jonas Hector (Cologne), Benedikt Howedes (Schalke 04), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia), Antonio Ruediger (Roma) Midfielders: Julian Draxler (VfL Wolfsburg), Sami Khedira (Juventus), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray), Andre Schurrle (VfL Wolfsburg), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United), Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund) Forwards: Mario Gomez (Besiktas), Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich), Leroy Sane (Schalke 04).

Hungary Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Gabor Kiraly (Haladas), Denes Dibusz (Ferencvaros), Peter Gulacsi (Leipzig). Defenders: Attila Fiola (Puskas Academy), Barnabas Bese (MTK Budapest), Richard Guzmics (Wisla Krakow), Roland Juhasz (Videoton), Adam Lang (Videoton), Tamas Kadar (Lech Poznan), Mihaly Korhut (Debrecen). Midfielders: Adam Pinter (Ferencvaros), Gergo Lovrencsics (Lech Poznan), Akos Elek (Diosgyor), Zoltan Gera (Ferencvaros), Adam Nagy (Ferencvaros), Laszlo Kleinheisler (Werden Bremen), Zoltan Stieber (Hamburg). Forwards: Balazs Dzsudzsak (Bursaspor), Adam Szalai (Hoffenheim), Krisztian Nemeth (Al Gharafa), Nemanja Nikolics (Legia Warsaw), Tamas Priskin (Slovan Bratislava), Daniel Bode (Ferencvaros).

Iceland Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Hannes Halldorsson (Bodo/Glimt), Ogmundur Kristinsson (Hammarby), Ingvar Jonsson (Sandefjord) Defenders: Ari Skulason (OB), Hordur Magnússon (Juventus), Hjortur Hermannsson (PSV Eindhoven), Ragnar Sigurdsson (Krasnodar), Kari Arnason (Malmo), Sverrir Ingi Ingason (Lokeren), Birkir Saevarsson (Hammarby), Haukur Heidar Hauksson (AIK) Midfielders: Emil Hallfredsson (Udinese), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea), Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff), Theodor Elmar Bjarnason (AGF), Arnor Ingvi Traustason (Norrkoping), Birkir Bjarnason (Basel), Johann Gudmundsson (Charlton), Runar Mar Sigurjonsson (Sundsvall) Forwards: Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (Nantes), Alfred Finnbogason (Augsburg), Jon Dadi Bodvarsson (Kaiserslautern), Eidur Gudjohnsen (Molde).

Italy Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Federico Marchetti (Lazio), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris St-Germain). Defenders: Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham). Midfielders: Federico Bernardeschi (Fiorentina), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Matteo Darmian (Manchester United), Daniele de Rossi (Roma), Mattia de Sciglio (Milan), Stephan El Shaarawy (Roma), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Emanuele Giaccherini (Bologna), Thiago Motta (Paris St-Germain), Marco Parolo (Lazio), Stefano Sturaro (Juventus). Forwards: Eder (Sampdoria), Ciro Immobile (Torino), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Graziano Pelle (Southampton), Simone Zaza (Juventus).

Poland Euro 2016 Squad

Goalkeepers: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City), Wojciech Szczesny (AS Roma), Artur Boruc (Bournemouth) Defenders: Thiago Cionek (Palermo), Kamil Glik (Torino), Artur Jedrzejczyk (FK Krasnodar), Michal Pazdan (Legia Warsaw), Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund), Bartosz Salamon (Cagliari), Jakub Wawrzyniak (Lechia Gdansk) Midfielders: Jakub Blaszczykowski (Borussia Dortmund), Kamil Grosicki (Rennes), Tomasz Jodlowiec (Legia Warsaw), Bartosz Kapustka (Cracovia), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Sevilla), Karol Linetty (Lech Poznan), Krzysztof Maczynski (Wisla), Slawomir Peszko (Lechia Gdansk), Filip Starzynski (Zaglebie Lubin), Piotr Zielinski (Udinese) Forwards: Arkadiusz Milik (Ajax), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Mariusz Stepinski (Ruch Chorzow).

Portugal Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Rui Patricio (Sporting), Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Eduardo (Dínamo Zagreb). Defenders: Vieirinha (Wolfsburg), Cedric (Southampton), Pepe (Real Madrid), Ricardo Carvalho (Monaco), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahce), Jose Fonte (Southampton), Eliseu (Benfica), Raphael Guerreiro (Lorient). Midfielders: William Carvalho (Sporting), Danilo Pereira (Porto), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Renato Sanches (Bayern Munich), Adrien Silva (Sporting), Andre Gomes (Valencia), Joao Mario (Sporting). Forwards: Rafa Silva (Braga), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas), Nani (Fenerbahce), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Eder (Lille).

Romania Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Ciprian Tatarusanu (Fiorentina), Costel Pantilimon (Watford, Silviu Lung (Astra Giurgiu). Defenders: Cristian Sapunaru (Pandurii Targu Jiu), Alexandru Matel (Dinamo Zagreb), Vlad Chiriches (Napoli), Valerica Gaman (Astra Giurgiu), Dragos Grigore (Al-Sailiya), Cosmin Moti (Ludogorets Razgrad), Razvan Rat (Rayo Vallecano), Steliano Filip (Dinamo Bucharest). Midfielders: Mihai Pintilii (Steaua Bucharest), Ovidiu Hoban (Hapoel Be’er Sheva), Andrei Prepelita (Ludogorets Razgrad), Adrian Popa (Steaua Bucharest), Gabriel Torje (Osmanlispor), Alexandru Chipciu (Steaua Bucharest), Nicolae Stanciu (Steaua Bucharest), Lucian Sanmartean (Al Ittihad). Forwards: Claudiu Keseru (Ludogorets Razgrad), Bogdan Stancu (Genclerbirligi), Florin Andone (Cordoba), Denis Alibec (Astra Giurgiu).

Russia Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Yuri Lodygin (Zenit St Petersburg), Guilherme (Lokomotiv Moscow). Defenders: Aleksei Berezutski (CSKA Moscow), Vasili Berezutski (CSKA Moscow), Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Dmitri Kombarov (Spartak Moscow), Roman Neustadter (Schalke 04), Georgi Schennikov (CSKA Moscow), Roman Shishkin (Lokomotiv Moscow), Igor Smolnikov (Zenit St Petersburg). Midfielders: Igor Denisov (Dynamo Moscow), Dmitri Torbinski (Krasnodar), Aleksandr Golovin (CSKA Moscow), Denis Glushakov (Spartak Moscow), Oleg Ivanov (Terek Grozny), Pavel Mamaev (Krasnodar), Aleksandr Samedov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Oleg Shatov (Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Shirokov (CSKA Moscow). Forwards: Artem Dzyuba (Zenit), Aleksandr Kokorin (Zenit), Fedor Smolov (Krasnodar).

Slovakia Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Matus Kozacik (Viktoria Plzen), Jan Mucha (Slovan Bratislava), Jan Novota (Rapid Vienna). Defenders: Peter Pekarik (Hertha Berlin), Milan Skriniar (Sampdoria), Martin Skrtel (Liverpool), Norbert Gyomber (Roma), Jan Durica (Lokomotiv Moscow), Kornel Salata (Slovan Bratislava), Tomas Hubocan (Dynamo Moscow), Dusan Svento (Cologne). Midfielders: Viktor Pecovsky (Zilina), Robert Mak (PAOK Thessaloniki), Juraj Kucka (AC Milan), Patrik Hrosovsky (Viktoria Plzen), Jan Gregus (Jablonec), Marek Hamsik (Napoli), Ondrej Duda (Legia Warsaw), Miroslav Stoch (Bursaspor), Vladimir Weiss (Al Gharafa). Forwards: Michal Duris (Viktoria Plzen), Adam Nemec (Willem II), Stanislav Sestak (Ferencvaros).

Spain Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Porto), David de Gea (Man United), Sergio Rico (Sevilla) Defenders: Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Marc Bartra (all Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Mikel San Jose (Athletic Bilbao), Hector Bellerin (Arsenal) Midfielders: Bruno (Villarreal), Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta (both Barcelona), Thiago (Bayern Munich), David Silva (Manchester City), Pedro, Cesc Fabregas (both Chelsea) Forwards: Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Bilbao), Nolito (Celta Vigo), Alvaro Morata (Juventus)

Sweden Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Andreas Isaksson (Kasimpasa), Robin Olsen (Copenhagen), Patrik Carlgren (AIK) Defenders: Ludwig Augustinsson (Copenhagen), Erik Johansson (Copenhagen), Pontus Jansson (Torino), Victor Lindelof (Benfica) Andreas Granqvist (Krasnodar), Mikael Lustig (Celtic), Martin Olsson (Norwich) Midfielders: Jimmy Durmaz (Olympiakos), Albin Ekdal (Hamburg), Oscar Hiljemark (Palermo), Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland), Pontus Wernbloom (CSKA Moscow), Erkan Zengin (Trabzonspor), Oscar Lewicki (Malmo), Emil Forsberg (Leipzig), Kim Kallstrom (Grasshoppers) Forwards: Marcus Berg (Panathinaikos), John Guidetti (Celta Vigo), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris St-Germain), Emir Kujovic (Norrkoping)

Switzerland Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Roman Burki (Borussia Dortmund), Marwin Hitz (Augsburg), Yann Sommer (Monchengladbach) Defenders: Johan Djourou (Hamburg), Nico Elvedi (Monchengladbach), Michael Lang (Basel), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Francois Moubandje (Toulouse), Ricardo Rodríguez (Wolfsburg), Fabian Schar (Hoffenheim), Steve von Bergen (Young Boys) Midfielders: Valon Behrami (Watford), Blerim Dzemaili (Genoa), Gelson Fernandes (Rennes), Fabian Frei (Mainz), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City), Granit Xhaka (Monchengladbach), Denis Zakaria (Young Boys) Forwards: Eren Derdiyok (Kasımpasa), Admir Mehmedi (Leverkusen), Breel Embolo (Basel), Haris Seferovic (Frankfurt), Shani Tarashaj (Everton).

Turkey Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Volkan Babacan (Medipol Basaksehir), Onur Recep Kivrak (Trabzonspor), Harun Tekin (Bursaspor). Defenders: Gokhan Gonul (Fenerbahce), Ahmet Calik (Genclerbirligi), Sener Ozbayrakli (Fenerbahce), Hakan Balta (Galatasaray), Mehmet Topal (Fenerbahce), Semih Kaya (Galatasaray), Ismail Koybasi (Besiktas), Caner Erkin (Fenerbahce). Midfielders: Emre Mor (FC Nordsjaelland), Volkan Sen (Fenerbahce), Hakan Calhanoglu (Leverkusen), Nuri Sahin (Borussia Dortmund), Oguzhan Ozyakup (Besiktas), Ozan Tufan (Fenerbahce), Selcuk Inan (Galatasaray), Arda Turan (Barcelona), Olcay Sahan (Besiktas). Forwards: Burak Yilmaz (Beijing Guoan), Cenk Tosun (Besiktas), Yunus Malli (FSV Mainz 05).

Ukraine Euro 2016 squad

Goalkeepers: Andriy Pyatov (Shakhtar), Denys Boyko (Besiktas), Mykyta Shevchenko (Shakhtar) Defenders: Yevhen Khacheridi (Dynamo Kiev), Bohdan Butko (Shakhtar), Artem Fedetskyi (Dnipro), Oleksandr Karavaev (Shakhtar), Oleksandr Kucher (Shakhtar), Yaroslav Rakytskiy (Shakhtar), Vyacheslav Shevchuk (Shakhtar) Midfielders: Serhiy Rybalka (Dynamo Kiev), Denys Garmash (Dynamo Kiev), Serhiy Sydorchuk (Dynamo Kiev), Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kiev), Yevhen Konoplyanka (Sevilla), Ruslan Rotan (Dnipro), Taras Stepanenko (Shakhtar), Viktor Kovalenko (Shakhtar), Anatoliy Tumoschuk (Kairat), Oleksandr Zinchenko (UFA) Forwards: Roman Zozulya (Dnipro), Pylyp Budkivskyi (Shakhtar), Yevhen Seleznyov (Shakhtar)

Italy Euro 2016 squad

Italy final squad announcement has Jorginho (Napoli) and Riccardo Montolivo (AC Milan) out of the 23-man squad for Euro 2016, but Pelle (Southampton), Ogbonna (West Ham), and Darmian (Man Utd) are all included, in Conte's final big decision for Italy before he takes over at Chelsea.

Italy Euro 2016

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Federico Marchetti (Lazio), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris St-Germain)

Defenders: Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham)

Wingers: Federico Bernardeschi (Fiorentina), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Matteo Darmian (Manchester United), Mattia de Sciglio (Milan), Stephan El Shaarawy (Roma)

Midfielders: Daniele de Rossi (Roma), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Emanuele Giaccherini (Bologna), Thiago Motta (Paris St-Germain), Marco Parolo (Lazio), Stefano Sturaro (Juventus)

Forwards: Eder (Inter), Ciro Immobile (Torino), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Graziano Pelle (Southampton), Simone Zaza (Juventus)

EURO 2016 - Group A Preview

It is nearly upon us, this Summer's biggest sporting event, the European Championships.

24 teams across 6 groups will vie to become European Champions.

France plays host for the third time, in what will be the 15th renewal of this great tournament. For the first time in the event's history we will see 24 teams compete, which is 8 more participants than we have seen in the last 20 years.

In these previews we will be looking at each sides' qualifying campaign, their respective top scorers in qualifying and who may well be their star performer at this summer's tournament.

Without further ado, let's start in the most obvious place of all.

Euro 2016 - Group A:

France

Qualifying record:

N/A

France are the host country and therefore qualifying was not necessary. Whilst everyone else spent the last year qualifying, France littered their fixtures list with International Friendlies, including home and away ties against teams from Qualifying Group I. This was a new initiative from UEFA to better prepare host nations. They would have won the group with 7 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss, bettering Portugal by 2 points.

Top Scorer:

N/A

Projected top performer:

Dmitri Payet - This could be a bold pick given that he is part of a squad that includes Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba in midfield plus attacking players such as Antoine Griezmann and Anthony Martial, but I believe the West Ham man could really take this tournament by storm if given the chance by coach, Didier Deschamps.

He is very capable in set-piece situations and should he score one of his incredible free-kicks in a vital situation he could be well get the nod as top performer.

It would be easy to pick Paul Pogba or even Antoine Grizemann, however the pair have only managed a combined 12 goals in 55 games for their country and although Payet only has 2 in 16, he showed big signs of improvement this year and that has come at a great time.

Expectations:

The hosts will be looking to win, no question. France enter every major tournament as one of the favourites, due to their constant conveyor belt of talented footballers (despite the weakness of the top domestic league) and this year is no different.

If they play to their full potential, there is no reason they can't win it all. They have a world-class goalkeeper in Hugo Lloris, a capable defence and a plethora of midfield and attacking options.

A mixture of wily veterans and young superstars provides a good balance and this team can definitely win their third European Championship.

Romania

Qualifying record:

5 wins, 5 draws

Top scorer:

Bogdan Stancu, Paul Papp, Constantin Budescu (tied with 2)

Projected top performer:

Ciprian Tătăruşanu - Romania qualified for the their first major tournament finals in eight years and did so undefeated. This was in no small part down to the team's ability to keep a clean sheet.

In 10 games, the side conceded just 2 goals and the man leading that defence is Fiorentina's goalkeeper, Tătăruşanu. If Romania are to enjoy in any way a sucessfull Euro 2016 campaign, they will need to continue to keep it tight at the back and for that to happen, Tătăruşanu will need to be at the top of his game.

If he can do that, he will earn plenty of plaudits along the way and possibly another big summer switch.

Expectations:

Expectations will be low, whilst the Romanian's kept it tight at the back during qualifying (they had the best defensive record), they were not exactly free-scoring. They scored just 11 goals to finish in 2nd place behind Northern Ireland who in contrast scored 18.

There are places up for grabs in the last-16 for the 4 best 3rd-placed teams and this to me looks like the only chance of Romania progressing.

Albania

Qualifying record:

4 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses

Top scorer:

Ermin Lanjani, Bekim Balaj, Armando Sadiku, Merkim Mavraj, Berat Djimsiti (tied with 1)

Projected top performer:

Elseid Hysaj - The right-back plies his trade in Serie A for 2015-16 runners-up, Napoli and he will be relishing the chance to represent his country on the biggest stage in his country's history.

Reports suggest the attacking full-back is attracting interest from top clubs such as La Liga side Atletico Madrid and Premier League side Chelsea, who after the tournament will be led by former Juventus and current Italy coach Antonio Conte.

He tracks back well and can put in a decent cross too (although his side is not blessed with strikers who can get on the end of it) so he will be an important player in both attack and defence.

If he is going to get that summer move I am sure he is dreaming of, good performances against France and Switzerland will thrust him further into the spotlight.

Expectations:

Despite qualifying for their first ever major tournament, expectations must be tempered. This is an inexperienced side at this level and with only a handful of players playing in top leagues, it is hard to see them achieving much in a tough group.

In addition to their inexperience, 3 of the 14 points they garnered in qualifying came courtesy of Serbia abandoning the home game against them, resulting in a 3-0 Albania win. This was due to the Serbian fans storming the field and attacking the Albanian players after a drone carried a pro-Albanian flag over the stadium.

Most importantly though, football-wise this Albania side will struggle to cope against France and Switzerland but if they can somehow pick up a result against Romania and even finish above them in the group they may well consider that an achievement, as they could progress to the last-16 thanks to the new rules.

Switzerland

Qualifying record:

7 wins & 3 losses

Top scorer:

Xherdan Shaqiri (4)

Projected top performer:

Xherdan Shaqiri - Whilst many eyes will be on Arsenal's latest signing, Granit Xhaka, I still think the Stoke City attacker is the focal point of this team.

Shaqiri scored 4 goals in qualifying, 1 more than strikers Josip Drmic and Haris Seferovic and in his last major tournament for his country he starred once again.

At the 2014 World Cup, Shaqiri was named man of the match in the Swiss' group games against both Ecuador and Honduras, scoring a hat-trick against the latter in their third and final group match, sealing qualification to the next round. They lost that game to Argentina in extra time, when Angel Di Maria broke fans' hearts in the 118th minute, but it was a valiant effort by Shaqiri and co.

Of the current squad, Shaqiri leads the way in terms of goals with 17 in 52 games, 7 more than striker Eren Derdiyok who has only managed a modest 10 in 51 games. Whilst Xhaka may be the heartbeat of the team these days, it is Shaqiri's attacking flair that could carry Switzerland through to the latter stages, with the absence of a star striker.

Expectations:

Switzerland will expect to progress from Group A and will look to battle out with France for top spot.

They are also very much capable of beating most teams in this year's competition on their day and depending on their draw in the last-16, I don't see why they cannot go far in this competition. The quarter-finals looks a realistic target and I can imagine they have their eyes on that stage and beyond.

A steady side with two starlets in Xhaka and Shaqiri, there is definitely reason for optimism this summer in the Swiss camp and at the very least they should progress from the group stage for the first time in tournament history.

That concludes part 1 of this 6-part series, be sure to keep an eye out for parts 2-6 in the coming days!