Euro 2016: Group A Preview

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Here we'll take a look at Euro 2016 Group A which contains  tournament favourites France.

Europe's Premier International football tournament gets underway on Friday the 10th of June. Football fans will be in for an absolute treat with Europe's finest 16 sides going all out to be crowned champions of the continent.

Our European football scribe has been hard at work composing his preview. After weeks of intense research, he has come up with a full preview for each group.

Below, we'll take a look at Group A which features Albania, France, Romania, and Switzerland.

Group A
Albania | France | Romania | Switzerland

Fixtures
Friday 10 June: France vs Romania
Saturday 11 June: Albania vs Switzerland

Wednesday 15 June: Romania vs Switzerland / France vs Albania
Sunday 19 June: Romania vs Albania / Switzerland vs France

Albania
To Win Outright: 500/1 | To Win Group: 25/1

Gianni de Biasis’ side are one that can be very easily underestimated. They have some European pedigree, having beaten Portugal in 2014 and France in 2015. Their rugged team spirit was epitomized in their crunch qualification tie with Georgia. They managed to come from 2-0 down with three minutes to play, salvaging a last-gasp point that was crucial to their qualification.

Their captain Lorik Cana marshals the midfield admirably while Napoli’s Elseid Hysaj manages to inject pace into the side. Shkelzen Gashi is there to infuse some pace and creativity going forward, which paradoxically takes us to one of Albania’s biggest problems.

Their ability to close the space they vacate when they go forward is poor and they are extremely susceptible to the counterattack. France and Switzerland will exploit these tactical blunders.

Key Player: Lorik Cana
The captain really does anchor this inexperienced side.


Player to Watch: Taulan Xhaka
Taulan is the brother to newly recruited Arsenal midfielder Grant Xhaka and shows similar midfield tenacity.

France
To Win Outright: 33/10 | To Win Group: 36/100
The French football side can never be accused of being dull. Remember the so-called mutiny that took place in South Africa - allegedly instigated by Anelka and co. Now Monsieur Deschamps had to deal with a sex-tape scandal (can you believe it) on top of a list of injury and doping concerns. And yet he still has been able to assemble a fantastic squad, even without Benzema, Valbuena, and Ribery - lest we forget Samir Nasri and his self-imposed exile.

France will be without both Varane and Mathieu through injury, which has seen the exciting talent of Adil Rami added to the squad. Koscielney provides solidity at the back alongside the likes of Sagna and Evra. Sakho will not play following his doping scandal, which will likely see Mangala get more game-time than expected.

Ben Arfa was a slightly surprising omission as was Rabiot. But in Pogba, Kante, and Matuidi you have a triumvirate that could dominate any midfield. Manchester United’s exciting teenage prodigy Martial joins Giroud and Atletico’s Griezmann in the attacking selection.

France has always been a side that seems to thrive under adversity. Yes, they are prone to implosion- but much like the Chelsea football club model, they always seem to find their way back to success. And the events of the last six months will serve as fuel and galvanize the occasionally tempestuous French side.

Key Player: Paul Pogba
The Juventus juggernaut has become one of the most sought-after assets in European football. His athleticism and goal scoring threat have increased tremendously as his ability to dictate the tempo of matches.

Player to Watch: N’Golo Kante
The Leicester City midfielder has seemingly redefined the notion of what an industrious midfielder can accomplish. While not as nuanced as Pogba, Kante’s sheer gusto - especially alongside the similarly indefatigable Matuidi - will make France a formidable unit.
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Romania

To Win Outright: 250/1 | To Win Group: 8/1

Manager Anghel Iordanescu, looking at the draw, must be feeling quietly optimistic about his side’s chances of qualification. Romania, remarkably enough, had the best defensive record in qualifying: they only conceded two goals throughout the entire campaign.

They are draw specialists and may need to open up their style somewhat given the newly expanded format, rewarding the four best third-placed sides with qualification into the last 16.

Nicolae Stanciu provides them with some cutting edge going forward while the vastly experienced Razdan Rat will play a crucial spoiling role in the heart of darkness that is the midfield.

Key Player: Vlad Chiriches
The current Napoli centre-half is the cornerstone of their powerful defensive unit and one of their few players of true European esteem.

Player to Watch: Nicolae Stanciu
The striker will be looking to provide some incision to an occasionally stygian side.

Switzerland
To Win Outright: 75/1 | To Win Group: 7/2


Other than two comprehensive defeats at the hands of Roy Hodgson’s resurgent England, Switzerland enjoyed a fairly comfortable qualification campaign.

Lichsteiner is the propulsive force behind the entire side; his sheer physicality and athleticism a testament to the evolution of this side. They will play in a fairly traditional 4-2-3-1 formation that will look to maximize every shred of talent within the side.

Behrami will sit in front of the back four while Xherdan Shaqiri will look to be their chief attacking catalyst. Arsenal’s latest acquisition, Granit Xhaka, will link up with Sheqiri and give the Swiss slightly more penetration than usual. The Swiss were famously eliminated from the World Cup in South Africa without tasting defeat. They may very well finish second in this group but will find it hard to progress further in an extremely competitive tournament.

Key Player: Xherdan Sheqiri
The Stoke winger is approaching his prime and needs to show slightly more consistency for both club and country. But his mercurial qualities will prove essential in tournament football.

Player to Watch: Granit Xhaka
The Arsenal midfielder is an exciting, dynamic prospect who will look to link up effectively with Sheqiri.

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Who Will Progress
France are one of my pre-tournament favourites and they should be able to top this group with some ease.  The presence of both the Swiss and Romanian sides could render this group one of the lowest scoring ones, which may leave the third-placed team in jeopardy of exiting the comp. The Swiss should finish second courtesy of Sheqiri and Xhaka’s quality. Romania may finish third and exit the competition.

Written by 
Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.


 
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