Bumper UEFA EURO 2016 guide

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Want to know which young Iceland player could upset the natural order in Group F? Or who sparks the Czech Republic attack? Or even the young wiz marshalling the Sweden defence while Zlatan struts his stuff up the other end? beIN SPORTS' bumper UEFA EURO 2016 guide is the only piece of literature you'll need to read over the next month.

We've scouted the young players to watch, checked up on the star players and packed it with enough useless trivia to make you a hit around the brunch table after a long night of football consumption. 

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Group A

France

Nickname: Les Bleus

World rank: 17

The star: Paul Pogba - France has yearned for a silky central midfielder to fill Zinedine Zidane’s boots. He’s still only 23 but when on song, the natural born leader can singlehandedly carry Les Bleus.

The Player to watch: Kingsley Coman - He’s already won Ligue 1 (PSG), the Bundesliga (Bayern Munich) and the Serie A (Juventus) titles, all before his 20th birthday. Keep an eye out for his blistering pace, dribbling and flair going down the France flank.

The stat: 86,115 - France is at serious risk of burnout with players racking up a combined 86,115 minutes of football last season - more than any other side.

The Chances in 10 words or less: Can’t we all just get along?

beIN’s tip: Runner up

Albania

Nickname: The Eagles

World ranking: 42

The star: Lorick Cana - the 32 year-old skipper leads the way at the back for Albania and will be cruicial in keeping Europe’s best attackers at bay.

The Player to watch: Ergys Kace - Kace has been an assured figure at the base of PAOK’s midfield, with 101 club appearances and 15 caps for the Albanian national team, he’s not your average 22 year-old.

The stat: Ranked 42nd in the world, Albania is the lowest placed side in the tournament, it would take a Leicester like miracle for this side to make a dent in this tournament.

The chances in 10 words or less: At least they qualified.

beIN’s tip: Group stage

Romania

Nickname: The Tricolours

World ranking: 22

The star: Florin Andone - Born in Romania, Andone moved to Spain at 12 years old and has been a regular for Spanish second division side Cordoba since 2014. He brings plenty of fight to the Romania side and his work rate off the ball will keep defenders on their toes.

The Player to watch: Nicolae Stanciu - The 23 year-old made an explosive start to his international career with four goals in five appearances. The Steau Bucharest midfielder could be on the way out this summer and a strong performance at EURO 2016 may be the start of big things for Stanciu.

The stat: Romania boasts the best defensive record in qualifying than any other side at Euro 2016, conceding just two goals in matches.

The chances in 10 words or less: You can’t win games without scoring

beIN’s tip: Group stage

Switzerland

Nickname: Schweizer pati

World ranking: 15

The star: Xherdan Shaquiri - The stocky Swiss is arguably the most talented player of his generation, with the perfect mix of silk and steel. The former Bayern Munich attacker became Stoke's record signing in 2015 and produced this stunner in his debut season.

The player to watch: Brael Embolo - The Basel striker has caught the eye of Europe’s top clubs, after the Swiss Champion rejected a $44 million by Wolfsburg in January. An all-round centre forward blessed with strength pace and an eye for goal, expect the 20 year-old to be a household name in years to come.

The stat: Switzerland shared the love in qualifying with 14 different players getting on the scoresheet.

The chances in 10 words or less: The dark horse of EURO 2016, expect a few surprises.

beIN’s tip: Round of 16

Group B

Wales

Nickname: The Dragons

World ranking: 26

The star: Gareth Bale - Without doubt the Real Madrid superstar will be Wales’ main man heading into the competition. The 26 year-old was the Dragons’ leading goal-scorer in qualifying (7) and had a hand in nine of his side’s 11 goals.

The player to watch: George Williams - The pacey winger came through the MK Dons youth system along with Dele Alli, scored for the first team at the age of 16 before being snapped up by Fulham. The 20-year-old livewire brings speed, trickery and youthful exuberance to this Wales attack.

The stat: Wales went 10 hours without conceding a goal in EURO 2016 qualification and with seven clean sheets in 10 matches, the Dragons defence is a tough nut to crack.

The Chances in 10 words or less: No Bale, no Wales

beIN’s tip: Group stage

Slovakia

Nickname: The Falcons

World ranking: 24

The star: Marek Hamsik - the Napoli skipper leads the way for Slovakia and as the country’s leading goalscorer in qualification, Slovakia’s hopes rest heavily on the midiflder’s shoulders. With 87 caps for Slovakia, Only Miroslav Karhan (107) has run out for the national team more times than the 28 year-old.

The player to watch: Ondrej Duda - Often described as Hamsik’s potential successor, the 21 year-old managed 34 appearances for Legia last season as the Polish side took out the league and domestic cup. His father, Ondrej snr revealed in an interview that how he used to sleep in his football boots.

The stat: Slovakia’s 22-point haul in qualification was the best points total of any runner up.

The chances in 10 words or less: Could sneak out of a tricky group

beIN’s tip: Round of 16

England

Nickname: The Three Lions

Ranking: 11

The star man: Wayne Rooney - the 30 year-old is often criticised for his performances for the national team, and in a side lacking world class talent to set EURO 2016 alight, England needs it’s skipper now more than ever.

The Player to watch:  Deli Alli - his breakthrough season at Tottenham Hotspur captured everyone’s attention and he was instrumental in Spurs’ title challenge. His composure in big games and knack for scoring spectacular goals makes the 20 year-old midfielder one to watch.

The stat: England showed it's attacking prowess in qualification with 31 goals in 10 matches, expect plenty of goals this time around from the Three Lions.

The Chances in 10 words or less: Things may be different this time around.

beIN’s tip: Semi final

Russia

Nickname: Sbornaya

World ranking: 29

The star: Igor Akinfeev - Despite holding the unenviable record of going 37 Champions League games without a clean sheet, Akinfeev has been Russia's first choice keeper for the past 10 years, and adds much needed experience to this side.

The player to watch: Aleksandr Golovin - the midfielder is an easy choice as Russia’s young gun, as the only player in the squad under 25. He’s not just in there by default - at junior level for Russia, the midfielder reached the U19 European Championships in 2015, losing to Spain and won the 2013 U17 European Championships.

Add in his two goals in five appearances for the Russian senior side and you know this 20 year-old can produce the goods on the international stage.

The stat: Russia has the youngest manager in the tournament – 45 year-old CSKA Moscow coach Leonid Sltsky.

The chances in 10 words or less: If history is anything to go by, it doesn't look good.

beIN’s tip: Group Stage

Group C

Poland

Nickname: The White Eagles

World ranking: 27

The star: Robert Lewandowski - the world took notice when the Bayern Munich striker bagged five goals in nine minutes against Wolfsburg last season, the fastest five goal haul on record. Even the world’s best defences cannot stop this man when on song.

Unsurprisingly, Lewandowski was Poland’s top goal-scorer in qualifying, with 13 goals in 10 matches.

The player to watch: Arkadiusz Milik - whoever takes the mantle from Robert Lewandowski in the Poland national team will have big shoes to fill but Milik stats speak for themselves. 10 goals in 24 appearances for Poland and 21 goals in 31 games for Eredivisie giant Ajax last season.

The stat: Poland have 3 strikers (Lewandowski, Milik and Stepinski) in its EURO 2016 squad, with a combined total of 65 goals scored last season.

The chances in 10 words or less: Poland’s top three players, Lewandowski, Lewandowski, Lewandowski

beIN’s tip: Round of 16

Northern Ireland

Nickname: Green and White Army

World ranking: 25

The star man: Jonny Evans - The former Manchester United defender has seemingly been around for an age, but at 28 years old, Evans is still physically in his prime. Northern Ireland will rely heavily on his experience to steer the ship and ward off the attacking prowess on show at Euro 2016.

The player to watch: Paddy McNair - The 21 year-old is three years younger than any other player in the Northern Ireland squad and has already managed 24 appearances for English powerhouse Manchester United. This tournament will do his development the world of good.

The stat: 30 - Number of years since Norther Ireland last featured in a major international tournament.

The chances in 10 words or less: In desperate need of some Irish luck

beIN’s tip: Group stage

Germany

Nickname: DFB Eleven

World ranking: 4

The star: Thomas Muller - Despite his inconsipuous build and no obvious strength in his game, the quiet achiever has won just about everything there is to win in football and with 32 goals in 71 appearances for the national team, the 26 year-old brings ruthless German efficiency to a surprisingly sparse German forward line.   

The player to watch: Leroy Sane - the 20 year-old Shalke winger has been touted as one of the hottest young prospects in world football with a $75 million price tag with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City looming. A big tournament would all but secure a big money move in the off season.

His close control, flair and explosive pace make him a threat for even the world’s best defenders. Sane will be a future star for the World champion in years to come.

The stat: Germany has won the European Championship three times (1972,1980,1996) - more than any other side.

The chances in 10 words or less: Germany’s tournament to lose

beIN’s tip: Winner

Ukraine

Nickname: Yellow-Blue

World ranking: 19

The star man: Andriy Yarmolenko - Ukraine’s top scorer during qualification, the Dynamo Kyiv winger has proved how prolific he can be for his country with 24 goals in 58 appearances. If Ukraine is to get out of a tricky group, it’s going to need him.

The player to watch: Viktor Kovalenko - the 20 year-old is an experienced campaigner in the national team set-up, representing Ukraine all the way through his junior career. He won the golden boot at last year’s FIFA U20 World Cup with five goals from midfield. Let’s hope Fomenko gives the exciting youngster some game time at EURO 2016.

The stat : 30 - The average age of Ukraine's defence, among the oldest in the competition.

Chances in 10 words or less: Unlikely to get out of Group C

beIN’s tip: Group stage

Group D

Turkey

Nickname: The Crescent-Stars

World rank: 18

The star: Arda Turan – Started to find his best form towards the end of the season for Barcelona and will be primed for a big tournament. Marshals a star-studded Turkey midfield.

The Player to watch: Emre Mor – Danish-born flyer who was linked with a move to Manchester City before signing with Borussia Dortmund recently. Classic two-footed dribbler, capable of operating on the right or left.

The stat: Turkey's biggest international defeat was to England, 8-0 in 1987

The chances, in ten words or less: A tough group could stuff this Turkey

beIN’s tip: Group stage  

Croatia

Nickname: The Blazers

World rank: 27

The Star: Luka Modric – Fresh from winning the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid, the smooth-passing play-maker will link up with Ivan Rakitic, Ivan perisic and Mateo Kovacic in a talent-laden Croatia midfield. Makes the team tick.

The Player to watch: Ante Coric – Look for the teenager to get game time operating just behind the strikers in what is a formidable attacking third for Croatia. Has the full array of skills and a load of experience for his tender years

The stat: Croatia travels to UEFA EURO 2016 after recording its biggest win in history: 10-0 against San Marino.

The chances, in ten words or less: That all star midfield could take them far.

beIN’s tip: Quarter-finals

Spain

Nickname: The Red Fury

World Rank: 6

The Star: Andres Iniesta – Still has the skills to unlock the most rigid of defences and will be the key to igniting what is a surprisingly old squad. 

The Player to watch: Alvaro Morata – Needs to step it up in the national colours having been preferred over Diego Costa and Fernando Torres. With a bucket-load of suitors eyeing him off, Morata must deliver.

The stat: Spain is one of only two teams to have won the European Championships straight after winning the World Cup

The chances, in ten words or less: That loss to Georgia though.

beIN’s tip: Semi-finals

Czech Republic

Nickname: the National Team

World rank: 30

The Star: Petr Cech – Cech is that rare player among a predominantly domestic-based squad - an international star. His shed-loads of experience at the top level with Chelsea and Arsenal will be invaluable on the continent’s biggest stage.

The player to watch: Borek Dockal – A menace on the right flank with his ability to send in pin-point crosses, expect Dockal to provide some headaches among a Czech team that is conditioned to attack.

The stat: Substitutes scored more than 26 percent of Czech Republic's goals in qualifying - the second-most of any team.

beIN’s tip: Group stage

The chances, in ten words or less: Thomas Rosicky is how old, now?

GROUP E

Republic of Ireland

Nickname: The Boys in Green

World rank: 33

The Star: Robbie Keane – the evergreen striker has added years to his football life in the relative comfort of the MLS.  Scored 20 goals from 24 matches last season, showing he’s still the business when it comes to finishing them off.

Player to watch: James McCarthy -  Claims to be over the niggling injuries he sustained in Everton’s final match of the Premier League season. The 25 year-old’s tackling, interceptions and quality on the ball make him a focal point in midfield.  

The stat: Robbie Keane is Republic of Ireland's most capped player.

The chances, in 10 words or less: Sweden, Belgium and Italy? Tough group.   

beIN’s tip:  Group stage

Sweden

Nickname: The Blue-Yellow

World rank: 35

The Star: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Does what he does at club level on the international stage. Enough said.  

Player to watch: Victor Lindelof – Nicknamed ‘the Iceman’, the Benfica defender cites Mats Hummels as his idol and has already caught the eye of Real Madrid and Barcelona. Named in the Team of the Tournament at the U-21 European Championships last year.

The stat: Sweden's last 10 goals have been scored by 10 different players.

The chances, in 10 words or less: Better men have written off Zlatan and been embarrassed

beIN’s tip: Group stage

Belgium

Nickname: The Red Devils

World rank: 2

The Star: Eden Hazard – Don the blindfold and pin a tail on the Belgium squad and chances are you will hit a star, such is the talent at the Red Devils’ disposal. On his day, the Chelsea midfielder is the pick of a very talented bunch.

Player to watch: Yannick Carrasco – Almost single-handedly wrested back the UEFA Champions League final for Atletico Madrid with his unpredictability on the ball and ability to beat his opponent one-on-one.  

The stat: Kevin De Bruyne has been directly involved in 10 goals in his last eight appearances for Belgium (five goals, five assists).

The chances, in 10 words or less: Is the loss of Kompany too big a hazard?

beIN’s tip: Semi-finals

Italy

Nickname: The Azzuri

World rank: 12

The Star: Giorgio Chiellini – the tough, technical defender is one of pep Guardiola’s favourite players. A gun at set pieces and with an eye for an intercept, Chiellini is the boss of the Italy backline.

Player to watch: Lorenzo Insigne – he’s been around for a few years but enjoyed his breakthrough season at Napoli in 2015-2016. Fleet of foot and blessed with pace, Insigne likes to cut in from the left and is as dangerous in front of goal as he is running at defenders and playing in team-mates around him.   

The stat: Italian champion Juventus has supplied 12 players for UEFA EURO 2016, equal with Liverpool for the most of any club.

The chances, in 10 words or less: Age may have wearied this Italy squad. 

beIN’s tip: Quarter-finals

Group F:

Iceland

Nickname: Our Boys

World rank: 34

The Star: Gylfi Sigardsson – Creative midfielder with an eye for goal will be the key attacking fulcrum for Iceland. He’s complemented by Cardiff midfielder Aron Gunarsson, who likes to play a more defensive role, allowing the Swansea star a roaming commission behind the forward line.

Player to watch: Arnor Traustason - the skillful midfielder has scored three goals from his first seven internationals and will be among a host of players being looked at by scouts at the tournament.  

The stat: With 15 players born in Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland is the main provider of UEFA EURO 2016 players.

The chances, in 10 words or less: Lack of firepower may put Our Boys’ hopes on ice. 

beIN’s tip: Group stage

Hungary

Nickname: National Eleven

World rank: 20

The Star: Balazs Dzsudzak – most of Hungary’s attacking play centres around the left-sided Bursaspor midfielder. Deadly from the set piece and with the full array of technical qualities, Dzsudzak will be the key in attack for Hungary.

Player to watch: Adam Nagy – The Ferencvaros defensive midfielder shows maturity beyond his 20 years, often deploying short passes to the more creative players around him in the style of Barcelona star Sergio Busquets.   

The stat: Gabor Kiraly is one of two players in the tournament squads to have earned his first cap before Germany last won a EURO title, 1996. They other is Shay Given. 

The chances, in 10 words or less: Could be a dark horse to get out of the group. 

beIN’s tip: Group stage

Portugal

Nickname: A Seleccao

World rank: 8

The Star: Cristiano Ronaldo – What’s left to write about the Real Madrid superstar, except that if Portugal is to win this thing, it will need more than just Ronaldo to step up. That brings us to…

Player to watch: Renato Sanches – in his cameo appearance in the recent friendly against England, the highly-rated Bayern Munich recruit showed us what a large swathe of the fuss is about. A powerful dribbler who is tough to tackle, Sanches boasts pinpoint accuracy and the ability to split open the defence with his long passing game.

The stat: Portugal's recent 7-0 win over Estonia was its biggest since the 2010 World Cup 7-0 win over DPR Korea.

The chances, in 10 words or less: Estonia is one thing, can Portugal step it up?

beIN’s tip: Semi-finals

Austria

Nickname: Das Team

World rank: 10

The Star: David Alaba – the quintessential Pep guardiola player, able to patrol the backline, roam the flanks and transition seamlessly into the centre of midfield. In fact the Spanish super-coach famously described Alaba as ‘God.’ Conjures up comparisons to his Bayern team-mate Philippe Lahm.

Player to watch: Alessandro Schopf – the left-sided Schalke midfielder is unlikely to start for Austria, but look for him to be used off the bench for impact. Skillful, quick and with an eye for goal, he’s one of the great hopes for Das Team.

The stat: Austria has never lost to Iceland, although they've only played each other three times.

The chances, in 10 words or less: Could rollick into the quarters if the big guns fire.

beIN’s tip: Round of 16

 


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