There are a total of 54 teams who are eligible to enter through qualification rounds (exempting the host nations, who qualify automatically), which are filtered down to a number of 24 teams for the final tournament, as per the new format (old format features only a total of 16 teams for the finals). The winner of the tournament earns the opportunity to compete in the FIFA Confederations Cup that follows.
The UEFA Euro 2016 is to be hosted in France (called Championnat d'Europe de football 2016, in French). France won the right to host the championship after a bidding process, beating Italy and Turkey in the process. It is the third time that France hosts this sports competition. The UEFA Euro will be held from the 10th of June to the 10th of July, 2016, across ten different stadiums in ten cities of the country. The Adidas Beau Jeu is the official match ball, unveiled by former France legend and now manager of Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane.
The championship has been won by 14 different teams to date. Spain and Germany have been the most successful, winning three titles to their names each. Spain are the current two time defending champions, a feat no other nation has been able to achieve thus far.
The European powerhouses in this year’s competition are France, England, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Belgium and Germany. It came as a big shock and surprise when Netherlands failed to qualify for the tournament. The nation that finished third at the FIFA World Cup, 2014 were last absent from the European Championships only in 1984, more than two decades ago. Since the Euro 2016 expanded its format to accommodate 24 teams, it was regarded as the easiest major tournament to qualify for, in recent times. This added a bit of extra sting and humiliation for the Dutch.
Belgium, being on top of the FIFA World Rankings currently, will be one of the major teams to look out for. They have surprised and battled their way to the top, with top class players like Kevin De Bruyne, Christian Benteke, Eden Hazard on their side.
England are looking dangerous after a perfect qualifying campaign. We will have to wait and see how Roy Hodgson’s men perform, as major cups have seemed to elude England for the past 50 years. The in-form Harry Kane, Wayne Rooney and Raheem Sterling will be vital to their performance.
Germany are other favourites, going in as the World Cup winners. Thomas Muller and Marco Reus have been top notch for their country.
Spain will also look to upset, but haven’t been in fantastic form lately. A worthy striker is something they possibly lack. David Silva and Juan Mata will be of key importance.
France, being the hosts will have a mental advantage. The youngster Paul Pogba has been in sublime touch for his club. Karim Benzema will possibly be unavailable for his team, following his ban from national football.
Portugal has often been dubbed as the “one man team”. After a disappointing World Cup, they will be out to prove a point. And with a player like Cristiano Ronaldo, regarded as one of the best clinical finishers in the world, they can do just that.
Austria is a team who has surprised many by winning 9 out of their 10 qualifying matches. David Alaba will look to rampage from a central midfield role, as opposed to his general playing position at Bayern.
Italy, not as devastating as one would think in recent times, will want to put their name in the list of winners, especially considering how they made it to the finals in Euro 2012. Graziano Pelle will lead the front for his team.
Robert Lewandowski has been the man who’s all about goals. He proved that yet again by
scoring the most for the qualifiers, netting 13 goals. But his team, Poland lack quality in all other aspects, making it a tough competition for them.
The Euro 2016 promises to be one of the most competitive football tournaments of the year. It promises excitement, exhilaration, curiosity, battle of the big guns and of course, heartbreak for some. All of them being aspects, that football fans cherish.