15 Jun 2016
The task of choosing the five teams who are out and out favourites to win the Euro 2016 tournament is made slightly trickier than you might think by the fact that there are, according to most experts, pundits and the bookies themselves, really only four clear favourites – going off factors such as current form, tournament prowess and squad depth – followed by a raft of teams who could make it to the latter stages of the competition but then again might not.
The other difficulty in choosing a favourite boils down to the fact that Leicester just won the premier league. In a footballing universe in which that was not only possible but actually really did happen, surely everyone is in with a chance?
That’s what the likes of Croatia and Wales will be telling themselves, and perhaps even England can dare to dream (although, let’s be honest, probably not)?
In terms of out and out favourites it’s difficult to look beyond France, Germany, Spain and maybe Belgium, with perhaps Italy or Portugal being added to the list. France have what looks to be the strongest squad on paper and generally prosper when enjoying home advantage, Germany are the current world champions, on top of which they’re Germany, and we all know what that means (they know quite a bit about winning tournaments), Spain despite the disappointment of the last World Cup still have an undeniable aura and can boast the strongest domestic league in the world and Belgium will surely one day have to live up to their FIFA ranking of Europe’s number one and actually turn all that mouth-watering potential into something tangible. When we talk about this tournament in years to come then it’s the strikers we’ll be remembering, let’s be honest because (cliché alert) it’s goals that win matches, and strikers that score goals, so here is a quick guide to five to watch:
France: Olivier Giroud, with 14 goals in 47 caps, has performed inconsistently for France, going from scoring vital goals to getting booed for misses against Serbia. Anthony Martial may not start too many games, and is likely to be played down the left, so the key France striker seems set to be Antoine Griezmann. He impressed as a replacement for the injured Franck Ribery during the last world cup, and has since been given the responsibility of leading the French line.
Germany: Thomas Muller is generally referred to as not being a natural striker. Whilst this may mean that he doesn’t resemble Andy Carroll, it doesn’t stop him scoring the goals which meant he won the World Cup in 2014 and was awarded the golden boot for top goal scorer at the 2010 World Cup. At the age of just 26, and with 70 caps under his belt (if you can wear caps under your belt), it seems as if he’ll be scoring plenty of goals whilst not looking like a forward for a few years to come.
Spain: Still one of the favourites despite a disappointing last World Cup, Spain tend to play a brand of possession based football which renders the concept of ‘the striker’ all but redundant. That’s not to say they don’t score goals, just that they’re as likely to be scored by a ‘false number nine’ as they are ‘the big fellah up front’. Coming into the Euros, however, they have Álvaro Morata, who moved from Real Madrid to Juventus in 2014, and went on to win the league and cup double twice before proving his big game mettle with goals in both legs of the Champions League semi-final and then the final itself.
Belgium: If this is finally to be the tournament at which the Belgian team live up to the promise and potential they’ve been displaying for years, then at least one of their strikers is going to have to weigh in with the goals. That may be easier said than done, since Romelu Lukaku saw his exciting early season form wane together with the rest of Everton’s season, Christian Benteke has had what might charitably be called a ‘difficult’ season under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and Divock Origi might find his versatility sees him being used in a wide left or right role. The fact that Lukaku is on the record as seeking a move to a ‘bigger’ club might provide the impetus for him to put on the kind of display that will add a few noughts to his price tag and wage bill.
Portugal: They may not quite be amongst the favourites, but there’s no getting away from the fact that Ronaldo is always going to be amongst the strikers to watch. Group matches against the likes of Iceland and Hungary might see the Portuguese goal machine getting his hands on the Golden Boot before most of the competition have even warmed up.