France and Romania kick off the Euro 2016 tournament in Saint-Denis on Friday night
Host: France Dates: 10 June to 10 July
Euro 2016 kicks off tonight amid unprecedented security for a sporting event, with almost 100,000 French security forces drafted in to protect fans, players and dignitaries.
Euro 2016 will be held from June 10 to July 10 in France. The host nation, France, will take on Romania at the Stade de France in the opening match of the championship.
The UEFA European Championship has long been second only to the World Cup in popularity and revenue. But this year, it is bigger and better.
With 24 teams playing 51 matches at 10 stadiums in 30 days, Euro 2016 will be the biggest in the tournament’s history, with more teams, more games and more host cities.
As the championship begins, here are some of the key details you should know about Euro 2016:
Euro 2016 introduces new format of Football Tournament
The 24 teams are divided into six groups — with the top two advancing to the round of 16 along with four best third-place finishers.
The new format gives a golden chance to theoretical outsiders. At the same time, it grants some leeway to the favourites, who can afford a stumble in the group round.
Albania, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Slovakia and Wales are making their debuts this year at Euro 2016, bringing a freshness that is badly needed on the international stage.
Euro 2016 fixtures
GROUP A: Albania, France, Romania, Switzerland
The host team and Switzerland are everyone’s candidates for the top two spots, but they might struggle against Romania’s defence and against the commitment of the surprising Albania.
France currently have one of their best player generations of recent times, and they have historically proved that they are a lot more dangerous before their own fans. French are rightly one of the tournament’s leading contenders on home soil.
GROUP B: England, Russia, Slovakia, Wales
England will test their new style against three unpredictable rivals: a Russia side still led by the old guard, Slovakia with their reputation for downing football giants, and Gareth Bale’s Wales. England is defensively susceptible but has a plethora of fresh attacking options, including Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford, capable of challenging if not emerging with winners’ medals. Roy Hodgson’s youthful side went through qualifying with a 100 percent record and the team is seeking their first international success since the World Cup of 1966.
An entertaining Russian team has been ravaged by injuries to midfielders. Playmaker Alan Dzagoev and enforcer Igor Denisov have both been replaced in the squad, and replacing their on-field contributions won’t be easy.
Despite some eye-opening friendly results – a 3-1 win over Germany the most notable – Slovakia is a fairly ordinary team.
GROUP C: Germany, Northern Ireland, Poland, Ukraine
World champions Germany can easily dvance to the round of 16 from the top spot in their group. Northern Ireland’s stamina, Robert Lewandowski’s goals for Poland and Ukraine’s pride should keep the group exciting.
There are many reasons to believe Germany can follow up its 2014 World Cup triumph by slicing through a Euro 2016 field that contains no dominant team. The combination of innovation and industry in midfield is still present, as is Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller, the favorite for the tournament’s golden boot despite not playing as a traditional striker. However, there are issues up front and at the back.
On a memorable qualifying campaign that included their maiden defeat of rivals Germany in Warsaw, Poland gained direct qualification as the Group runner-up, just a point behind the World Champions.
GROUP D: Croatia, Czech Republic, Spain, Turkey
Spain lead one of the most balanced, unpredictable groups, but the defending champions are hardly at their best and are unlikely to have any comfortable games. Croatia are expected to come second, but the chaotic Turkey and the well-organized Czechs may well mix things up.
Although Spain’s national team has not collected a trophy since Euro 2012, domestic clubs have swept up continental trophies for the three seasons. The Champions League has been won by Real Madrid (twice) and Barcelona while Sevilla completed a hat trick of Europa League titles in May.
Croatia isn’t the team it used to be. Its golden generation that took it to third place in the 1998 World Cup – and to the rarefied air atop FIFA rankings — is a thing of the past. But this team will make its opponents wary.
Arguably the weakest team of the group, Czech Republic, however, have an attacking game that could make them giant killers.
GROUP E: Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Sweden
The Euro’s so-called “group of death” will bring together stars like Eden Hazard, Gianluigi Buffon and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Belgium and Italy are regarded as having slightly better chances, but they should remain vigilant against Sweden and Ireland.
A golden generation of Belgium players, embodied by Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, has to live up to their promise and start delivering on the international stage for the world’s second-ranked team. Euro 2016 will be a test for Italy, always a force to be reckoned with in events at this level.
Italy has the fourth oldest squad in the tournament, well behind their Group E opponents Ireland at 28.9 years. Despite their stellar qualifying record, however, there is a prevailing sense that a lack of quality in midfield and an absence of a goal machine up front could hamper their chances as the tournament goes on.
Sweden’s squad for Euro 2016 has a good mix of experience and youth.
GROUP F: Austria, Hungary, Iceland, Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo will try to improve his goal-scoring statistics even further in a group where Portugal should advance to the round of 16 with relative ease. The hopeful Austria appear to be one step ahead of Hungary and Iceland.
Portugal tower above their rivals and should ease into the knockout stages at Euro 2016, but the illustrious team cannot underestimate a blossoming Austria side.
Ranked eighth in the world, Portugal cruised towards a sixth straight appearance at the finals — in Group F against Austria, Hungary and Iceland — by reeling off seven straight qualifying wins after an opening defeat to Albania.
At every major tournament, there’s a team or two that, long before the outset, gets labeled “underrated,” then gets talked up by pundits looking for a dark horse, and finally reaches a point that it’s no longer fair to use those designations. That team is Austria.
In the 10 games of Group A in the qualifying round, Iceland won six, drew and lost two each, finishing two points below leaders the Czech Republic. It was 23rd in FIFA’s ranking last year, and is currently 34th. Four years ago, it was 133rd.