UEFA Euro 2016: Experts' Picks
France or Germany have been tipped to lift the trophy with Muller favoured to win the Golden boot
The UEFA European Championships are set to kick off in a few hours time and boy we've waited a long time since the end of the domestic seasons for some proper football that included European superstars. (See how we dodged the Copa America bullet?)
Hosted in France and without the participation of the teams like Netherlands, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Scotland and many more, we're in for a cracker of a tournament. Germany will look to continue their strong form, Spain will look to defend the title and England will look to put in a few passes together in their games.
Here are our expert’s picks, noting the finalists, the winners and the Golden Boot winner:
These Italian players may not be household names now, but they will be by the time this tournament ends. Like the class of 2006, expect this squad chock full of grizzled veterans to ‘Eddie Guerrero’ their way to the title. Simone Zaza will be the find of the tournament.
France, fueled by Pogba’s imagination and Giroud’s purple patch, will reach the finals only to get swindled at the end. C’est la vie.
Even though the heart says Arkadiuz Millik, he probably won’t get enough game time because of one Robert Lewandowski. So I’m going to keep it as generic as possible - Cristiano Ronaldo. Yes CR7 will win the Golden Boot and they will probably build another statue of him somewhere in Portugal.
I'm going for a France vs Germany final. In terms of the all the squads in the competition this year, these two have the most 'complete' squad. Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Antoine Griezmann have been in excellent form and should prove equal rivals to the likes of Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Mats Hummels.
France's defence is high on experience and so is Germany's but the latter's incredible strength in depth pips them over their French counterparts. France's midfield could cause a few problems but they often overcommit in attack leaving their defence vulnerable on the wings – where Germany have plenty of dangerous players.
Muller has the knack of scoring extremely vital goals and is likely to continue his scintillating form into this European Championships as well. Could possibly score the winning goal of the tourney as well.
France are obvious favourites, given the fact that this is their best young generation in a while and they’re playing at home. However, I’m opting for dark horses Italy to spring a surprise – the wily Antonio Conte has named an underrated squad with bags of experience, which will be the Azzurri’s trump card when they face France in the finals in a repeat of the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
There won’t be any Zidane histrionics to hand Italy the trophy this time around, but I’m banking on Stephan El Shaarawy to prove the wildcard for Italy, coupled with the Juventus backline which will see Italy lift their 2nd European Championships.
Given a rather unconventional choice for the winners of the trophy, I’m going for an obvious choice in Thomas Muller to win the golden boot. The German always racks up the goals in international tournaments, and with Die Mannschaft expected to go far, Muller ought to score a fair few goals
Barring a sequence of shock results in the qualifying rounds, all the big teams should make it through to the next stage. France have been marked down as favourites by many because of home advantage and the fact that they have strength in depth, but with Varane being injured they might face issues at the back.
Spain have been good in qualifying but they just might implode on the big stage given their ability to suffer the occasional slip up like they did against Georgia recently. Conte might have gone with an unfamiliar selection but he knows how to grind out results with that formidable backline of his. Germany, despite a few hiccups in the qualifiers, know how to win tournaments.
The final will be between played between Italy and Germany but the Germans will have too much in the tank for the Italians and will eventually prevail.
I am going to throw a spanner in works here and go with Russian hitman Artem Dzyuba for the Golden Boot. Yes, Ronaldo, Lewandowski and Muller are proven goalscorers but the Russians have built their attacking system around the striker, which has enabled him to score one-third of their total tally in qualifying.