TCT’s Euro 2016 Preview
“It’s More Than Football.” That’s how ESPN describes it anyway. With the countless star players, storylines, and examples of national pride that will surely be on display during the month-long tournament, it will be just that: more than football. It’s the 2016 European Championship. With a series of amazing promotional posters which were released by ESPN, and a promo video that will give you chills, Europe’s biggest international tournament is set to start. Before the tournament begins on June 10, however, The College Tailgate’s own Jamey Schilling breaks down every thing you need to know about the quadrennial tournament.
Dark Horse: While Belgium is certainly not bursting on to the scene (they made the quarterfinals in the 2014 World Cup), they aren’t the team that immediately comes to mind when you think national powerhouse. All that might change though. Coming in at second in the world according to the newest FIFA Rankings from June, they are the best team in Europe. They have world class goalkeeping in Thibaut Courtois, strong midfielders in Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, as well as dangerous attackers such as Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke. They had an impressive 2014 World Cup, and are looking to build on the momentum. They’ll have to get through Germany, Spain and France, but a Belgian championship certainly isn’t out of the question. Their push for a championship begins in a difficult group stage that includes Italy, Sweden and a scrappy Ireland.
Champion: Why is Germany winning it all? Because they have it all. They have the world’s best goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer. They have amazing midfielders in Toni Kroos, Mesut Özil, and Bastian Schweinsteiger (who should be back from injury by Germany’s first game). To make things worse for opponents, their daunting lineup of forwards includes Mario Götze, Thomas Müller, and André Schürrle. Even their defense is formidable, as it features Benedikt Höwedes, Mats Hummels and Jérôme Boateng. Though they’ll be without the all-time leader in World Cup goals, Miroslav Klose, the German Machine will be just as good as ever. As far as group placing is concerned, they got pretty lucky. Poland and Ukraine appear to be the biggest challengers, but advancing to the knockout round is almost guaranteed for Germany.
(Group stage and knockout stage images courtesy of http://euro2016.eurosport.co.uk)
Jamey’s Electrifying Eleven: Here are the eleven players that are going to make this Euro Cup a tournament to remember.
Robert Lewandowski, striker, Poland
Why he’s awesome: Remember earlier this season when he scored 5 goals in nine minutes? I do…
He also tallied a career high 42 goals for Bayern Munich this year. He’s a constant scoring threat, and is primed for a great campaign at Euro 2016.
Manuel Neuer, goalkeeper, Germany
Why he’s awesome: Neuer is one of the main reasons why Germany won the 2014 World Cup. The Gelsenkirchen, (try saying that three times fast) West Germany product is redefining the goalie position through his way of play. By coming out of the goal, and at times acting like another defender for Germany, he’s skilled as both a field player and a goalkeeper. Despite playing an unorthodox style of goalkeeping, that doesn’t prevent him from making remarkable saves like the one below.
Did we mention he also acts? …kind of. He was a voiceover for the character Frank McCay in the German version of Monsters University. Is there anything Neuer can’t do?
Marc Janko, striker, Austria
Why he’s awesome: Okay, I’m willing to admit it, Janko is pretty old in regard to soccer (32). But this striker is ready to have a great Euro Cup. He scored 20 goals in 29 matches this season for FC Basel. At 6’5, Janko is an intimidating figure.
Romelu Lukaku, striker, Belgium
Why he’s awesome: The Belgian striker scored a career best 25 goals for Everton in the Premier League this year. And his dance moves aren’t that shabby either…
He also scored what would end up being the game winning goal against the U.S. in the 2014 World Cup. I’m still slightly upset about that…
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, striker, Sweden
Why he’s awesome: He’s cocky, he’s arrogant, he’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Don’t mess with Zlatan; Denmark found out the hard way. After he helped Sweden clinch a spot in the Euros by beating rivals Denmark, he said, “They said they were going to send me into retirement. I sent their whole nation into retirement.” Long live Zlatan. He’s known as a dangerous scorer, and he averaged just under one goal scored per game at 50 scores with Paris Saint-Germain this season. It’s not just the quantity of goals that’s amazing, it’s the way in which he scores. Although slightly dated, take the below video for instance. Zlatan scores on a bicycle kick from well beyond the box. Even in a video game you couldn’t score a goal like that, but Ibrahimovic did.
While he’s a prolific scorer, he also has a habit for generating a lot of buzz off the pitch as well. In one particular instance he was asked what he got his wife for her birthday. Zlatan famously replied “Nothing, she already has Zlatan.” Check out some of the other funny, unforgettable, and downright cocky things Zlatan has said over the years in the video below.
Thomas Muller, forward/attacking midfielder/winger, Germany:
Why he’s awesome: The young German had an incredible World Cup in 2014, and is poised for an even bigger Euro Cup. Had a career high 32 goals in 49 appearances with Bayern Munich. Like Zlatan, he has a habit of scoring some unbelievable goals.
He also knows how to party, apparently. What girl could say no to that combination of lederhosen and dancing? #hideYourGirlfriend
Paul Pogba, midfielder, France:
Why he’s awesome: His skill moves with a soccer ball alone are enough to cause you to salivate. He’s no stranger to the international stage, as he was a big part of France’s 2014 World Cup campaign which ended in an appearance in the quarterfinals. He was named the Best Young Player of the tournament, an award given to the best player who’s under 21.
At 10 goals on the year for his club team Juventus, he doesn’t score frequently, but when he does, they’re goals to remember. Example A:
David Silva, attacking midfielder/winger, Spain
Why he’s awesome: Although he’s getting up there in age (he’s 30), the experienced Spaniard has been a key part of a dominant Spanish team. Before the embarrassing showing at the 2014 World Cup, he helped the Spanish win three straight international tournaments (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, and Euro 2012). Though he struggled with injuries for the 2015-2016 campaign for Manchester City, look for Silva to be ready to compete. Don’t buy it? Just take a look what he did to Korea June 1st. Is David Silva really good, or is Korea just really bad? You be the judge.
Stephan El Shaarawy, striker, Italy
Why he’s awesome: Just take one look at this guy’s hair. Try and tell me you don’t like him. Can’t be done. This year he was on loan to Roma and scored six goals in ten appearances. His speed is the most dangerous aspect of the game, and while the 23-year-old is somewhat inexperienced with the international stage, he is in a good position to make an impact for Italy.
Plus he scores goals like this, is Euro 2016 the year of El Shaarawy??
Gareth Bale, winger, Wales
Why he’s awesome: You may be saying to yourself, “self, isn’t Gareth Bale Wales’ only good player?” And you’d be correct. For the most part, Bale is the only superstar talent they have, but he is a major difference maker. The Real Madrid Winger tallied 19 goals in 30 appearances for the Spanish Juggernaut. He’s renowned for his speed and striking ability, and is an ever present offensive threat.
Cristiano Ronaldo, forward, Portugal
Why he’s awesome: Would this list really be complete without Cristiano Ronaldo? No. That’s why he’s here. With 56 goals in 125 international appearances with Portugal, he’s Portugal’s all-time leading goal scorer. And after scoring an impressive 51 goals this season with Real Madrid, Ronaldo looks take momentum into the Euro Cup. Portugal’s results will largely be influenced by Ronaldo, as he is one of the best players in the world.