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    Who will we see at Euro 2016?


    Euro 2016 will see 24 teams competing next summer with some familiar faces combined with a few new ones set to grace the pitches of France. So who did make it, who could still qualify and who missed out?

    France qualify automatically as hosts. They will be a team to fear despite not playing a competitive game since the 2014 World Cup quarter-final defeat to Germany. With Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema providing the goal threat with support from the likes of Mathieu Valbuena, Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi, Didier Deschamps will feel his side have a real chance of winning their own tournament. 

    Czech Republic finished top of Group A and continue their run of qualifying for every European Championship since 1996, where they finished second. They will be relying on the experience of Arsenal duo Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky to help a relatively inexperienced side progress as far as possible. Iceland shocked many by finishing second to Czech Republic ahead of Turkey and Netherlands to reach their first major tournament. Their star player is Swansea City's Gylfi Sigurdsson who scored six goals in qualifying. Turkey also qualified from Group A, scraping through as the best third-placed team with a win in their final game. Barcelona midfielder Arda Turan will be looking to pull the strings for them in France.


    Belgium were tipped as dark horses during the last World Cup where they reached the quarter-finals. They cruised through qualification with Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne scoring five goals apiece, aptly supported by a wealth of Premier League talent in the Belgium set up. Wales followed them through with an excellent defensive record, conceding just four goals in qualification on route to their first European Championship appearance. They also owe a lot to Real Madrid sensation Gareth Bale who scored 77% of their goals.

    Reigning champions Spain blitzed Group C with nine wins from their ten games. They will be regarded as one of the favourites come June with a number of La Liga and Premier League stars making up the squad. It will be three in a row if Vincent del Bosque takes them all the way again. The biggest problem will be selection with the likes of Fabregas, Iniesta, Cazorla, Busquets, Silva, Mata, Thiago, Isco, Vidal and Jesus Navas all fighting for just the midfield positions. Slovakia edged out Ukraine to qualify alongside Spain to reach their first European Championship. Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel will try to keep things together in defence whilst Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik will look to provide a threat.

    World Cup holders Germany topped Group D but didn't look their usual efficient self with defeats to Ireland and Poland. However they normally come good at major tournaments with excellent preparation and with Muller, Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Gotze, Neuer, Kroos, Hummels, Reus and Gundogan you certainly can't write them off. Poland booked their place in France with a final game victory against Ireland and they owe a lot to Robert Lewandoski who can't stop scoring for club and country.


    England were the only side to make it through qualification with a 100% record...favourites? The likes of Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott and Raheem Sterling will have to start stepping up a level if they are to win their first European Championship. Switzerland also made it through from Group E and have a number of good midfield players including Stoke's Xherdan Shaqiri and Leicester's Gokhan Inter. 

    F stood for fairytale as Northern Ireland stunned many by winning the group to reach their first European Championship. Top goalscorer Kyle Lafferty can't even break into the Norwich City team. Romania also made it through in one of the weaker groups, conceding just two goals, but their defence will face stronger competition in France next year.

    Austria topped Group G with 28 points from a possible 30. With 
    Bayern Munich defender David Alaba, top goalscorer Marc Janko and Stoke midfielder Marko Arnautovuc, Marcel Koller's side have a strong spine. Russia are always there or thereabouts in terms of qualification but an ageing squad will rely strongly on Artem Dzyuba who scored eight goals in qualification.


    1968 winners Italy cruised through an easy group but aren't the force they once were. They will look to defend and sneak a goal when they can, but they don't look as strong as the likes of France, Germany and Spain. Croatia also made it through Group H and have an experienced but ageing squad. Inter Milan striker Ivan Perisic is the main man in front of goal netting six times in qualification.

    Group I was won by Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo firing them to the top. The Real Madrid star will need support from somewhere as the Portuguese fans lay a lot of pressure on the great man's shoulders. Albania also made it through at the expense of Denmark. Captain Lorik Cana of Nantes won't expect them to go too far.

    Four more sides will join these twenty, with the draw for the play-offs taking place on Sunday. Bosnia and Herzegovina are one of the seeds, led by former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko. Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden along with Ukraine and Hungary also make up the four seeds. They will each face one of Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Norway and Slovenia.


    Yet there are already two notable absentees from next summer's tournament. Euro 2004 winners Greece put in a dismal campaign finishing bottom of their group behind Faroe Islands. Netherlands would have been tipped as one of the potential overall winners but finished behind Czech Republic, Iceland and Turkey meaning the tournament will be bereft of Daley Blind, Wesley Sneijder, Klass-Jan Huntelaar, Memphis Depay and Robin van Persie. 

    By the end of next month we will know the final 24 who will touch down in France next summer. Who is your money on?

    Article by Chris Lincoln
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