Winner: Germany – Despite being without talents such as İlkay Gundogan and Marco Reus, the World Champions still have one of the best squads going into the Euros. Much will depend on Thomas Muller to score goals and with Mesut Ozil’s and Mario Gotze’s creativity, he won’t be short of chances.
Surprise: England – With England going into this tournament with very little hype, that may just be the kind of low pressure environment Roy Hodgson’s team could thrive in. It was under exactly those circumstances that Tottenham’s players thrived for much of the season before their collapse at the end. To that end, don’t expect England to win the Euros, but upsetting a few should not be out of their reach.
Flop: Italy – Be it down to injury or lack of form, Italy’s squad looks bereft of quality. Marco Verratti, Claudio Marchisio, Mario Balotelli, and Andrea Pirlo are among some of the big names missing from the Azzurri, all players who could make a difference to the squad. That fundamental lack of quality throughout their squad could see the beaten finalists from 2012 struggle to make it further than the Round of 16.
Winner: Belgium – As a team filled with young players, Belgium has always had potential. However, they have failed to fulfill it in the past and this is the tournament where they’ll prove why they belong at FIFA’s top rank.
Surprise: Poland – They are expected to make it deep into the tournament and then exiting at the semi-final stage. Their attack is deadly, and they are a cohesive and organised unit. Their manager is also an astute tactician who should get the best out of his team slaying a giant or two along the way.
Flop: Italy – They are on a poor run of form and that is likely to carry over into the tournament. They are missing a few key players and they do not possess the usual quality in their squad that they have enjoyed over the years.
Winner: France – The French possesses a knack of winning tournaments that they are hosts of. They did so in Euro 1984 and World Cup 1998. They will be three times lucky as they possess a well-rounded squad to do it.
Surprise: Italy – Some teams, regardless of personnel will do well when it comes to tournaments. Italy generally does well in tournaments. Beset by injuries and generally a squad in transition, Italy is not seen as a side to go deep this time around. With an outgoing Antonio Conte at helm and at his first tournament, he will drag this Italy team kicking and screaming to possibly a semifinal.
Flop: Portugal – England is generally the big team that comes to tournaments with this huge expectation and flops. This time around expectations are in check, this Portugal team is mismatched and will flounder this time around. Cristiano Ronaldo will not be able to carry them to an acceptable finish.
Winner: Germany – A few players will be m.i.a but Germany still possess the best squad in the world. When on song there are few who match up so look to Germany completing the job of winning the Euros after the World Cup.
Surprise: Portugal – With a host of talented young players Portugal will believe they have the supporting cast for Cristiano Ronaldo they did not have at the World Cup two years ago. The lack of expectation on the team has them flying under the radar but look out for a few surprises.
Flop: Italy – Italy have a weird relationship with tournament football. They are either brilliant or terrible. Based on Antonio Conte’s mystifying squad selections this looks set to be another instance of Italy disappointing. Marco Verratti’s absence is a huge miss.
Winner: Germany – Tough call as traditional powerhouses aren’t at the level of previous years and all have deficiencies that usually prevent winning such a tournament. This will be a toss-up between Germany and France in a semifinal to decide all but France are a back four short of a title with German experience in major tournaments winning out.
Surprise: Italy – Slovakia will also do better than expected after qualifying from a group including a Spain team that just lost to Georgia. Italy, though, are being picked by everyone to flop. Depleted squad, poor squad, and strange squad (and possibly team) selections make this a seeming no-brainer. The terrible or great in tournaments trend continues with Antonio Conte attacking and the Juventus core pushing a good run on a potentially weaker side of the draw.
Flop: Spain – Spain are still seen as title contenders but face a possible banana skin group. If their thirst for goals continues then Spain will be the new Italy, at least this time around.
Herbert Gordon Jr.
Winner: France – Despite the pressure of being host nation, Les Bleus has what is arguably the most potent midfield this side of Spain and Germany with enough interchangeable pieces to go into any match with a sound chance of dominating the middle and dictating tempo. Doesn’t hurt having Giroud up top who seems to be on a positive rampage of late.
Surprise: Spain – After having disappointed on so many levels in Brasil, a revamped Spain squad will be looking to make things right in the football world, from their perspective at least. With the likes of relative newcomers such as Alvaro Morata, Lucas Vazquez, Hector Bellerin as well as what will certainly be an absolute force to be reckoned with in Thiago Alcantara, la furia roja should blaze through the group stage. We all know what they do once they find a rhythm.
Flop: Belgium – A case can always be made for Belgium it seems, both for and against them. Enthusiasm will have some pointing to just how talented they are at nearly every position. Those in the know, however, inquire as to who is the exception that allows for the ‘nearly’ in those sentiments. That’d be their strike force, who have been anything but spectacular. They certainly have the ability but all that power from midfield means close to nothing if the strikers aren’t on the same wavelength, look for mind boggling missed chances to once again be the story of why Belgium will be more than a Hazard to themselves.