Europe’s prestigious soccer tournament begins today in the French city of Saint-Denis as France hosts all of Europe’s best for the 2016 Euro Cup.
It’s not quite the World Cup, but the anticipation is still quite high. For the first time ever, 24 teams will be competing for not only the European Cup but also a qualification for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia next June.
As of last week, Portugal held out as 20-1 odds to win the Euro Cup. But there’s a handful of other contenders in the mix as well. Germany is a growing favorite after their stunning play last month. Also, don’t forget about Spain, who always has a chance to win and wouldn’t surprise anyone if they came out on top. The last time France came out on top in the Euro Cup was back in 1998, two days before France’s annual Independence Day. It would be a fairytale ending if France recreated that magic again 18 years later in the final on July 10th.
Sweden is entering the Euro Cup undervalued and undermanned this year. After almost missing the event for the first time since England hosted the Euros in 1996. Sweden isn’t expected to fair strongly this time around, as the instrumental Zlatan Ibrahimović doesn’t have the experience around him to make a deep run to the quarterfinals. Ibrahimović’s last go around won’t be the only storyline in this year’s Euro Cup, however. With the tournament expanding to 24 teams, this opens the door for countries like Albania, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Slovakia and Wales whom will all be making their European Cup debut, earn a chance to impress.
That’s not all. France in 2016 will be the last Euro Cup for any host city. After the 2018 World Cup in Russia, UEFA will have a massive overhaul in their completion that will change the Qualifying process for the revamped 2020 Euro.
All this considered, there is a lot to look for at the Euro Cup. Given the strength of UEFA, in some ways it is harder to win the Euro’s than the World Cup. The gap between the strong and the powerhouse teams is vigorous right now which should make for amazing soccer.