The Way too Early 2016 European Championship Predictions


EURO 2016 Predictions

With the upcoming round of UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying matches on the way, its time for the Way too Early qualifying predictions. For most nations, only one qualifying match has been played and for some of those, it was a major disappointment. Looking at you Portugal. With the expansion of the European Championship to 24 nations for the 2016 edition most of the top nations are all but guaranteed entry.

Many of the European powers such as Spain, Germany and Italy should make the finals without breaking much of a sweat. Breaking down the qualifying groups one at a time. We take a look at the leaders. The top nations in each group with utmost certainty of qualifying. The Contenders that have a chance at qualifying or making the playoff. Finally, at the Pretenders, the nations that without vast amounts of luck will not have a hope at going anywhere.

Group A

Contenders: Netherlands, Czech Republic, Turkey and Iceland

Pretenders: Latvia and Kazakhstan

As with many groups under the new format, their is a clear cut “top” nation. In Group A, that club is the Netherlands. The Dutch are led by former Russia and Turkey manager Guus Hiddink who takes over for the outgoing Louis Van Gaal. The Dutch had a great World Cup, finishing third with the sides only loss being to the World Cup runner ups Argentina. Also joining the Dutch is the Czech Republic, Turkey, Iceland, Latvia and Kazakstan. The ladder two will have almost no chance of qualifying from the group and can only hope to play spoiler for the others.

The real question from the group comes in the two through four slots. The Czech’s, Turkey and Iceland can all be considered for possible qualifying spots out of the group. With the top two qualifying for the European Championship automatically and the third place side making it to a playoff, one of these clubs will have no chance at the finals. The Czech Republic and Turkey will be considered favorites for these spots based on their past experience.

Iceland though, are the wildcard of the group. A side that has had no international success including never making a major international tournament. The side narrowly missed out on 2014 World Cup qualification, losing in the playoff to Croatia 2-0 aggregate. Iceland did though have a young striker named Aron Johannsson. Following Aron’s nationality change to the United States, Iceland has struggled. Depending on the start and how Iceland manages against Turkey and the Czech’s they could find their way into their first ever European Championship.

Prediction: 1. Netherlands 2. Turkey 3. Czech Republic 4. Iceland 5. Latvia 6. Kazakhstan

Group B

Contenders: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium and Israel

Pretenders: Wales, Cyprus, and Andorra

In Group B, it is the second seed that will take the group. Bosnia-Herzegovina are, by UEFA calculations, the number one seed,while Belgium with the likes of Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku  are number two. Belgium should have the talent to be the “leaders” of Group B. Group B is also pretty clear cut on who will have a shot at the qualifying spots with Israel joining Bosnia and Belgium in that discussion. Cyprus and Andorra are like the others, the bottom feeders of the group. Unlike Group A though, they are joined by a third side with Wales.

Though Wales can boast that they have arguably the best player in the world in Gareth Bale, one man does not make a team. Wales will struggle even with Bale as the nations leader. The main battle in the group will be between Bosnia and Israel for who will win the second placed spot in the group. The loser should, as long as they defeat the bottom feeders, take the playoff spot from the group.

Should Belgium struggle though, Bosnia and Israel could easily find themselves in a top of the table battle between the three. In Group B, every match will be important, even more so than in most of the other groups. Should either of the three slip-up, they could find themselves from an automatic qualifying position to a playoff spot, and even out of the competition entirely.

Prediction: 1. Belgium 2. Bosnia-Herzegovina 3. Israel 4. Wales 5. Andorra 6. Cyprus

Group C

Contenders: Spain, Ukraine and Slovakia

Pretenders: Belarus, Macedonia and Luxembourg

Spain. Must more be said. They did have a torrid World Cup but the defending European Champions are set for a revival of sorts. Under the leadership of Vicente del Bosque, Spain will easily take the group. The main question for the group is who will take the second automatic qualifying spot. A major shocker could also happen if a bottom dweller can make the playoff in what may be the weakest group in qualifying.

Both Ukraine and Slovakia have experience in these types of tournaments. Ukraine as host of the 2012 European Championship as well as qualifying for the 2014 World Cup playoff where they blew a 2-0 aggregate lead after the first leg, losing to France 3-2 aggregate. Slovakia comes into qualifying after having two terrible qualifying campaigns for both the 2012 European Championship and the 2014 World Cup. Qualifying for the 2010 World Cup stands as the crowning achievement for the nation and they will be hoping to add 2016 to that list.

The bottom dwellers of this group are not as far behind as in other groups. Belarus, Macedonia and Luxembourg will in all likelihood not qualify for the European Championships any time soon, but it would appear that this could be their best shot. A weak Slovakia could open the door for one of these nations to make a run at the playoff spot. Should Belarus or Macedonia string a few results together, Slovakia will be in danger of missing out on their third successive major tournament. Though Luxembourg are seen as the worst team in the group, the overall weakness in the mid to bottom of the group could help them to their best ever campaign.

Prediction: 1. Spain 2. Ukraine 3. Slovakia 4. Macedonia 5. Belarus 6. Luxembourg

Group D

Contenders: Germany, Ireland, Poland and Scotland

Pretenders: Georgia and Gibraltar

Home of the defending World Cup Champions. Germany should be able to cruise through the group and into the European Championships with the group they have. The group will not be without drama though. Ireland who qualified for their first European Championship since 1988 in 2012 will be looking to make successive trips to the EURO’s. The tough task for the Irish however will come in the form of both Poland and former British counterpart Scotland. Ireland who was once part of the United Kingdom will face off against the still British territory, Scotland.

Scotland who have not qualified for a major international tournament since the 1998 World Cup will be looking to make a return in the country that last saw them play in a final

Scotland who have not qualified for a major international tournament since the 1998 World Cup will be looking to make a return in the country that last saw them play in a finals. Also involved in the party for the final automatic qualifying spot and playoff spot will be Poland who co-hosted the 2012 European Championship with Ukraine. In what could be the most dramatic final group match day, all three nations could have a chance at qualifying for EURO 2016. Ireland, Scotland and Poland will need result against each other to make a run at either spot as well as keeping their guard up against the groups bottom dwellers.

Georgia sits near the bottom of the group, but for once does not sit last. That honor belongs to the first time qualifier Gibraltar. The nation who recently gained UEFA recognition will attempt to get its first major win. With its home matches being played in nearby Portugal, Gibraltar is a club that will be the ultimate underdog that everyone loves to cheer for. The sides “home” match on June 13th, 2015 against Germany will be one to watch much like Tahiti’s matches at the 2013 Confederations Cup.

Prediction: 1. Germany 2. Scotland 3. Poland 4. Ireland 5. Georgia 6. Gibraltar

Group E

Contenders: England, Switzerland and Slovenia

Pretenders: Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino

With two 2014 World Cup nations in England and Switzerland, the battle for the top spot in the group will be hard fought. The defensive wall that is Switzerland and the three lions of England. Though England struggled mightily this past summer in Brazil, they are off to a great start in qualifying after their 2-0 win at Switzerland. Also joining them in the talk for qualification will be the 2010 World Cup qualifier Slovenia.

Slovenia since qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, have suffered in form. Finishing fourth in their 2012 European Qualifying group and third, two points behind the playoff position taken by Iceland, in 2014 World Cup qualifying. Slovenia should expect a tough fight from Estonia for the groups playoff spot. Losing to Estonia in their first group match will put Slovenia in a tough position. Should their current run of form continue, expect Estonia to take the groups playoff spot. Slovenia has the talent for finishing third in the group, but will need to turn their current form around to do so.

Also joining the four in the group is Lithuania and San Marino. Both are easily below in quality to the groups other four nations. Lithuania should defeat San Marino for the fifth spot in the group while San Marino will have a good qualifying campaign with a win or a draw against one of the big nations in the group.

Prediction: 1. England 2. Switzerland 3. Slovenia 4. Estonia 5. Lithuania 6. San Marino

Group F

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  • Contenders: Greece, Hungary, Romania and Finland

    Pretenders: Northern Ireland and Faroe Islands

    The group home to the mighty Greeks. Ok, maybe not so mighty. However, after qualifying for the past two World Cups and the winner of the 2004 European Championship, the Greeks are in prime position to take the group. For the second and third place positions however, it will be a dogfight. Former world power Hungary joins Romania and Finland in the battle for the final two qualifying spots in Group F.

    Hungary who finished runner up twice in the World Cup has not qualified for a major tournament since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. The country has the ability to make the European Championship this time around thanks to the expanded field but will face a battle for the spots with Romania and Finland. Romania who last qualified for a major tournament in 2008, will hope to avenge their 2014 World Cup playoff loss to Greece. Finland will also be looking to throw their hats in the ring. Though never having qualified for a European Championship or World Cup, Finland will have a chance this time round should Hungary or Romania suffer a slip up.

    Also in the group is Northern Ireland and the Faroe Islands. Like the groups before them, both will be hoping for some good results in qualifying. With the likely chance of them not having a shot at qualification, look for some possible upsets as both nations try to play spoiler in this super tight group.

    Prediction: 1. Greece 2. Romania 3. Hungary 4. Finland 5. Northern Ireland 6. Faroe Islands

    Group G

    Contenders: Russia, Sweden and Montenegro

    Pretenders: Austria, Moldova and Liechtenstein

    Group G should be renamed to Group Z. The Z standing for Group of Zlatan. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the helm of Sweden, the Swedes should take the group. Maybe not in the prettiest fashion, but with the scoring ability up front, Sweden will take the top spot. Their will be at least one nation that will argue this claim though.

    Group G should be renamed to Group Z. The Z standing for Group of Zlatan

    The 2014 World Cup participants Russia bring a good argument to the debate, having not missed a European Championship since 2000 including a semi-final run in 2008. Russia will be looking to overtake the Swedes in the group and continue to build on it success at the 2014 World Cup as it prepares to host the 2018 World Cup. Joining both nations in the group are Austria, Moldova, Liechtenstein along with the groups wildcard, Montenegro.

    The nation of Montenegro does not have much international soccer experience, just gaining a FIFA and UEFA license in 2007 following their 2006 independence from Serbia. The sides first qualifying attempt being for the 2010 World Cup. In the 2012 European Championship qualifying, the nation made the qualifying playoff, eventually losing out to the Czech Republic. Montenegro was also a win away against England from potentially qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Look for the nation to make a run at automatic qualification with the minimum being a second straight playoff appearance.

    Prediction: 1. Sweden 2. Russia 3. Montenegro 4. Austria 5. Moldova 6. Liechtenstein

    Group H

    Contenders: Italy, Croatia, Norway and Bulgaria

    Pretenders:Azerbaijan and Malta

    Possibly tied with Group B for the best first place battle in Qualifying. Two 2014 World Cup participants in Italy and Croatia lead the group. Both have a mighty advantage over the other nations in the group. Italy will be looking to some younger stars compared to what the side is used too. Relying on Mario Balotelli, Stephan El Shaarawy and veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon will be important if the club wishes to win the group.

    Croatia on the other hand will be looking for improvement from their players after the nations torrid group stage in Brazil that resulted in Croatia’s early exit. With Croatia likely to automatically qualify for the 2016 European Championships, the side, like Italy, will be targeting the top of the group. Croatia will look for better form from it stars to succeed and bring the nation back to the height of its third place finish in the 1998 World Cup.

    The playoff position in the group will just as much of a battle as for the top spot. Norway, who’s only appearance in a European Championship was in 2000, will look to battle Bulgaria, who has also struggled in recent years to qualify for major tournaments, for the playoff spot in the group. With the nations of Azerbaijan and Malta in the group, any slip up by Norway or Bulgaria could cause the other to take the position.

    Prediction: 1. Croatia 2. Italy 3. Bulgaria 4. Norway 5. Malta 6. Azerbaijan

    Group I

    Contenders: Portugal, Serbia and Denmark

    Pretenders: Armenia and Albania

    The only group with less than six nations. Overall the qualifying for this group will be pretty straight forward on the who. Where each nation will qualify remains to be seen after Portugal’s struggles in their opening match at home against the lowly Albania. Portugal will recover, its just a matter of how much. With Serbia and Denmark ready to pounce should Portugal continue to struggle, the positions in the end are still up in the air. Also joining in the fun is Albania and Armenia, two low quality soccer nations who should pose no threat for qualification.

    As mentioned, Serbia and Denmark will be battling for the final automatic qualifying spot should Portugal return to normal. With Serbia missing out on the 2014 World Cup, the nation will be looking to bounce back and qualify for their first European Championship since 2000. Denmark who also missed out on World Cup qualification will be looking to continue their current European Championship run, qualifying for all the tournaments since 1984, except for 2008, including winning the 1992 European Championship. Using past records, the odds shift to Denmark for the automatic qualifying spot, but should Serbia find some good form, anything can and will happen in the group.

    Prediction: 1. Portugal 2. Denmark 3. Serbia 4. Albania 5. Armenia