The European Championship is the second-best international event in world soccer, behind the World Cup, of course.
Here are five teams to keep a close eye on during Euro 2016.
France is hosting the European Championships for the first time since 1984 and third time overall. The French won that year, and also when they hosted the World Cup in 1998. Expect Les Bleus to be inspired by their home fans once again and make a deep run in this tournament.
France is hosting the event at the perfect time because this is the best French squad in a decade. It’s come a long way since the disastrous 2010 World Cup squad that revolted against its coach. It has great goalkeeping, a deep midfield and pace and skill up front.
The reigning World Cup champions could field a strong team with its bench, and its starting XI is full of world class players at almost every position. Elite goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is the foundation of a team many expect to win the tournament, or at least make the semifinal for the sixth straight major international tournament. Germany has a great chance to end its 20-year drought in this competition.
England always is under immense pressure, and this tournament is no different. The Three Lions have never won the European Championship, and they last claimed victory in the World Cup in 1966. English manager Roy Hodgson has a tremendous squad with new, young talent, and a starting striker in Harry Kane coming off a fantastic season for Premier League club Tottenham.
England needs its best players to perform at a high level in the knockout stages — a huge problem in recent major competitions. It also hopes to avoid penalties — a nightmare for them in the past — in the knockout round.
Spain has won this tournament two straight times — with a 2010 World Cup triumph in between — but its run of consecutive major international tournaments won ended in Brazil at the 2014 World Cup. Spain has a solid mixture of veterans with plenty of experience and young players who’ve proven themselves at the club level. Don’t be surprised if Spain wins another European crown.
Belgium took its best team ever to the 2014 World Cup and lost 1-0 to eventual runner-up Argentina in the quarterfinal. The Belgians bring a similarly impressive, and quite possibly more talented squad to France in search of their first ever European title. This squad has pace up front, creativity in the midfield and depth on defense.
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