We’re just a few months away from the soccer tournament of the year: Euro 2016, often touted as a sign of things to come in the World Cup which usually follows two years later, Euro 16 brings together the best of top flight European football for four weeks of excitement and action rarely seen in the continent’s numerous domestic leagues.
This year’s event takes place in France, with current title-holders Spain hotly tipped to lose their crown after a disappointing run in international fixtures over the last few years.
But hey, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before we get into giving our picks for our winners and losers of this summer’s tournament, here’s a brief rundown of everything you need to know about Euro 2016.
A little history
Officially known as the UEFA European Championship, this year’s competition is the fifteenth installment of a tournament which has taken place once every four years since 1960.
Back then, just seventeen European national teams entered the competition, which the Soviet Union getting the better of Yugoslavia in 2-1 final.
The competition underwent numerous changes in format, number of teams, and qualifying rounds over the next several decades, right up to the 2012 event in which the aforementioned Spain thrashed Italy in a 4-0 final in Kiev.
The 2016 competition
This year’s event moves to France, with the country’s national stadium, the Stade de France in Saint-Denis set to host the final on July 10th, and other stadiums including Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon, Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome and the Parc des Princes in Paris seeing both group stage and knock-out round action.
For the first time in recent years, the number of entries into the competition has increased. Back in 2008, UEFA announced that they were revamping the usual 16-side competition to feature games from 24 national clubs, primarily as a means to increase viewership in countries usually left out of the action, and ultimately generate greater profits from selling the media rights to those countries.
Who is likely to win
If you’re the type to start betting on soccer on-line when this summer’s competition kicks off, we’d recommend taking a look at the odds for Antonio Conte’s Italian squad to cross the border back from France with the Euro 2016 securely packed in their luggage.
The team boast an undefeated streak in European championship qualifying matches that no team has managed to successfully replicate, and with Conte at the helm, a number of key players like Stephan El Shaarawy and Marlo Balotelli of Milan are likely to channel their recent winning performances in domestic competition into a star performance in the multi-national tournament.
Our claims elsewhere in this feature that Spain won’t be manage to repeat their past success is based largely on their dire outing at the last World Cup two years ago, when the side were booted out in only their second game and sent home after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Chile.
Despite this, those of you planning to place a wager could do worse than putting a few dollars behind the Spanish squad to at least make the quarter finals. Despite a few miserable shows over the last couple of years, the domestic performances of the team’s big names still gives fans hope that they could go far.
Elsewhere, the likes of Germany and Belgium are expected to do better than average, whilst international also-rans such as England and Portugal can’t be counted out when it comes to giving odds-on favourites like Italy and Spain a run for their money.
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