France Will Give Opponents Les Bleus & Win Euros
Are you excited yet by Euro 2016? I am!
Northern Ireland, Wales, England and the Republic of Ireland in one tournament, a stone’s throw across the channel, yes please!
I was lucky enough to be around to see World Cup 1982 when Norman Whiteside an co. humbled the Spanish on home soil, the great Republic sides that thumbed their noses at the elite in Euros and World Cups under Big Jack, and of course Gazza at Italia 90 and Euro 96.
So apart from not being around in 1958 when the Welsh were breathing fire in Sweden, I’ve pretty much seen some great games played by the home nations and the Republic in my 45 years and let’s hope we get some more!
I’ll be at the biggest games from the opening ceremony to the Final on July 10th, so whether it’s post-match opinion after England games, a comprehensive review of a home nation’s performance or Periscoping from the big games, I’ll be across everything for BoyleSports this summer.
So, to the tricky bit. How are they all going to do, who are the key players and what can we expect?
I’ll get the easy bit out of the way first and that’s looking at a Premier League player who I feel will wow these championships and enhance their name at home and abroad.
Is it Hazard? Rooney? Vardy as he looks to impress Arsene? What about the defensive ability of Toby Alderweireld or the creativity of an Ozil?
All I’m sure will have an impact on their nations this summer but I’m going to pick one player who, if his mind is right, if his agent hasn’t turned his head and if he plays to the peak of his powers, could be massive this summer and in more than one sense.
It’s no secret I’m an admirer of Romelu Lukaku but this tournament could be his breakout into superstardom.
All of the big boys around Europe know about him, his quality, his pace and power and of course an incredible goals return from someone so young.
But he’s never really done it on the biggest stage. Not the Champions League, not the top 4 in the Premier League and not the World Cup or Euros yet. So I know the desire will be burning deep within this man mountain to be the star of a very good Belgium team.
It’s a tough start for the lad. The Red Devils’ group has the Irish, Swedes and Italians of course but speaking as a former striker, if you get goals in that group, come the second phase and beyond he should be absolutely flying. We in the media will be adding a zero to his value for every goal after that.
Like I said, it’s a tough start and in theory anyone from that group could go home early but if the Belgians do well, it invariably means Lukaku will do well. He’s my best bet for top scorer and a big move to a Champions League outfit this summer!
The quality of defending in this tournament will be very interesting to watch indeed. I’ve lost count of how many hours of games I’ve watched of the majority of the nations competing in qualifying and in recent friendlies. I have to admit, in keeping with the standard of defending in the Premier League, I’m not impressed!
Only Italy with the holy (and ageing) Juve trinity of Chellini/Barzagli/Bonucci are what I would call ‘proper’ defenders. So although this isn’t a vintage Italian side I would expect them, should they get out of the group, to keep things tight and grind their way to the latter stages as in 2012.
Having said that, world class creativity and goalscoring will out as they say, so I can only see Germany, France (with a great crop of youth and experience) and of course Spain contesting a final. I’m going to give home territory the advantage and tip France to win.
They have a bit of everything – youth, a world class operator in midfield in Paul Pogba, experienced defenders, a goal threat with Giroud, Griezmann and Martial, and in N’Golo Kante they have a player who can retrieve the ball time after time after time. Add the free kick mastery of Dmitri Payet and I think on any given day they have enough quality to get the job done.
After a tough season with much criticism coming his way…
…Olivier Giroud may well just give a big middle finger to his critics by getting his hands on the Golden Boot.
You may laugh, but there are already signs they are playing to his strengths in friendlies, with crosses and early service. With Payet, Pogba and Martial all busying themselves around him, cheered on by a partisan crowd who were baying for his blood weeks ago, the languid target man may well win the trophy and Golden Boot, giving Arsene some food for thought ahead of a high profile move for Jamie Vardy. An unpopular bet at the minute, but watch this space.
Player of the Tournament
This is going to be a tough call. Pogba, Muller, Ozil, Iniesta, Morata and Hazard all have the ability to light up this tournament and I’d expect all of these players to be involved from the quarters onwards.
If I must stick my neck out then I’ll go for Paul Pogba as I feel the French can and will win the tournament and he, as the driving force of the midfield, will need to be at his brilliant best to ward off some of these top quality players that he’ll face. He has everything though – physicality, clever movement, pace, an eye for a pass and goal, so let’s all hope he stays fit and healthy as seeing him in full flow will be some sight!
So what about the Home Nations Stanley Victor? Check out my special video previews on how the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England will get on this week!