Euro 2016 team-by-team guide

2015-12-10 21:57
Euro 2016 (AP Photo)

Paris - Ahead of Saturday's draw for Euro 2016 in France, cast a glance over all 24 qualified nations.


World ranking: 38

Coach: Gianni De Biasi

Albania qualified for their first major tournament after edging out Denmark to second place in the five-team Group I. Italian coach Gianni De Biasi has masterminded the Balkan nation's rise, with a 1-0 win in Portugal providing the initial spark before a 3-0 over Armenia sparked wild celebrations back home. In between came a 1-0 friendly win over France that served as further proof of the strides made by Albania since De Biasi's arrival four years ago. Veteran captain Lorik Cana, formerly of Marseille, Sunderland and Lazio, has plenty of top-level experience, while Basel-born Taulant Xhana could come up against brother Granit who plays for Switzerland.


World ranking: 10

Coach: Marcel Koller

Austria were a revelation in qualifying, dropping just two points in a group that featured Russia, Sweden and Montenegro to make the European Championship finals for just the second time, having co-hosted the 2008 edition. Swiss coach Marcel Koller was a low-profile appointment in 2011, following a failed bid to reach Euro 2012, but has worked wonders to turn around Austrian fortunes as they cracked the top 10 of the world rankings for the first time last month. Bayern Munich's David Alaba is the biggest name in an Austria squad that also includes a revitalised Marko Arnautovic and Christian Fuchs at left-back.


World ranking: 1

Coach: Marc Wilmots

Belgium were rarely forced to perform at the levels expected of the world's top-ranked side during qualifying, but Marc Wilmots' men will face a tougher test of their credentials next summer. Making their first European Championship appearance since they co-hosted the 2000 event, Belgium will be aiming to build on their quarter-final showing at last year's World Cup. With Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku to name but a few, Wilmots has an abundance of options at seemingly every position and the large majority of his squad in their prime, but the weight of expectations has never been higher for the 1980 runners-up. Consistent but not spectacular during the qualifiers, Belgium will hope to hit unprecedented heights in neighbouring France.


World ranking: 18

Coach: Ante Cacic

Ante Cacic replaced Niko Kovac in September with the task of guiding Croatia across the finish line after a goalless draw in Azerbaijan and 2-0 defeat to Norway had left the nation's qualifying hopes in jeopardy. Any fears of missing out on the 24-team-finals were assuaged as victories over Bulgaria and Malta enabled the Croats to finish runners-up in their group behind Italy. Captain Darijo Srna, the country's record cap-holder with 127, is set to appear at his fourth European Championship, while Croatia, who have never been beyond the quarters in four previous tournament, also boast two of the game's best midfielders in Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric.


World ranking: 26 equal

Coach: Pavel Vrba

The Czechs qualified for a sixth consecutive European Championship by finishing top of Group A, ahead of Iceland, Turkey and the Netherlands. While their World Cup record has been poor since the break up of Czechoslovakia, the Czechs have done well at the Euros, reaching the final in 1996, the semi-finals in 2004 and the quarter-finals in 2012. Coach Vrba, 52, has won titles at club level at home and over the border in Slovakia. He took over the national team after the failure to reach the 2014 World Cup and has done well with a squad whose biggest stars remain veterans such as Arsenal duo Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky. Among the other players to look out for are right-back Pavel Kaderabek of Hoffenheim and Sparta Prague midfielder Borek Dockal, who top-scored in qualifying with four goals.


World ranking: 9

Coach: Roy Hodgson

England were the first nation to qualify for next year's finals as they cruised through their group with a perfect record, becoming just the sixth team to win all of their matches in a European Championship qualifying campaign. However, sterner tests await Roy Hodgson's side and the England boss faces an interesting decision with captain Wayne Rooney, the country's record goalscorer, whose claim for an automatic starting place has been called into question amid sluggish displays at both club and international level. Ongoing fitness concerns surround the talented trio of Daniel Sturridge, Jack Wilshere and Luke Shaw and expectations will be fairly limited for what promises to be a youthful Three Lions side.


World ranking: 25

Coach: Didier Deschamps

France's status as hosts combined with the talent at the disposal of coach Didier Deschamps means Les Bleus should be among the favourites as they look to repeat their achievements in winning the 1984 European Championship and the 1998 World Cup on home soil. However, their preparations are sure to be overshadowed by the affair that has seen their leading striker Karim Benzema charged with complicity to blackmail and conspiring to commit a criminal act in relation to a sex tape involving his international colleague Mathieu Valbuena. Real Madrid striker Benzema is currently not allowed to contact Valbuena and risks a prison sentence on top of being sidelined from the national set-up. On the field, there is the concern faced by all host nations that France have not played a competitive game since their 1-0 defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals -- since then they have lost in friendlies to Brazil, Belgium and England but have notably beaten Spain, Germany and Portugal twice.


World ranking: 4

Coach: Joachim Loew

The world champions are widely seen as the favourites along with hosts France to lift the Henri Delaunay trophy with coach Joachim Loew retaining the majority of the squad that won the World Cup in Brazil 18 months ago. Philipp Lahm and veteran striker Miroslav Klose are no longer there, but a fit Marco Reus can make a huge difference, younger players like Julian Draxler will have two years' more experience and other youngsters such as Leroy Sane of Schalke 04 continue to emerge. Germany were laboured in qualifying, losing in Poland and taking just one point from two games against the Republic of Ireland only to eventually win the section. They will surely be a different proposition by the finals, as long as their presence at the Stade de France when it was targeted by terrorists during a friendly game last month does not leave any psychological scars.


World ranking: 20

Coach: Bernd Storck

Hungary are back at a major tournament for the first time since the 1986 World Cup, and their first European Championship finals since 1972, after coming through a play-off against Norway. Bernd Storck's side defeated the Norwegians 3-1 having been moments away from qualifying automatically for the finals. They were set to progress as the best third-placed nation before a late, late goal on the final night of qualifying took Turkey through instead and left the two-time World Cup runners-up to negotiate the play-offs. Storck, a German who played for Borussia Dortmund and has coached Kazakhstan, took over as temporary coach in July after Pal Dardai left for Hertha Berlin. He agreed to remain in charge until the finals after the play-off win. Their most notable player is probably the captain Balazs Dzsudzsak, once of PSV Eindhoven and now with Bursaspor in Turkey.


World ranking: 36

Coaches: Lars Lagerback (SWE) and Heimir Hallgrimsson

Iceland made history as the island nation, with its populations of barely 330,000, became the least populated country to qualify for a European Championship, finishing an impressive second in their group, ahead of Turkey and the Netherlands to reach their first major tournament. Coached jointly by Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson, Iceland have Swansea midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson and 37-year-old striker Eidur Gudjohnsen in their ranks but this is a team that is greater than the sum of its fairly modest parts.


World ranking: 15

Coach: Antonio Conte

Italy eased through qualifying without losing a game, although they were held twice by Croatia and were never particularly convincing. Former Juventus coach Antonio Conte took over in the wake of Italy's disappointing exit from last year's World Cup at the group stage under Cesare Prandelli. Conte will hope the Azzurri can perform more like the team that reached the final of Euro 2012 before losing comprehensively to Spain. Captain Gianluigi Buffon remains from the side that won the World Cup a decade ago, and there is a strong Juventus presence elsewhere, while the likes of supremely gifted Paris Saint-Germain playmaker Marco Verratti and the Southampton striker Graziano Pelle could have key roles to play.


World ranking: 30

Coach: Michael O'Neill

Northern Ireland's remarkable achievement in reaching the finals could be put down to the expansion of the finals to 24 teams. However, Michael O'Neill's side would have qualified even under the old system -- they finished top of their qualifying group ahead of Romania and Hungary. Their only defeat came away in Romania and Norwich City striker Kyle Lafferty was their star man, scoring seven goals. The tiny province of fewer than two million people has never before appeared at a European Championship and has not been to a major tournament since the 1986 World Cup. O'Neill, a former Northern Ireland midfielder whose only previous managerial experience was with Brechin City and Shamrock Rovers, has done superbly well just by taking the team this far and they can go to France with the pressure off.


World ranking: 34

Coach: Adam Nawalka

Poland prevailed in a final-day showdown with the Republic of Ireland to go through in second behind world champions Germany in a challenging Group D. The Poles are making their third straight finals appearance having hosted the previous competition along with Ukraine. The fate of Adam Nawalka's side rests largely on the shoulders of Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski who racked up 13 goals in qualifying to equal the mark set by Northern Ireland striker David Healy ahead of Euro 2008. A 2-0 victory over the Germans in Warsaw demonstrated Poland are capable of trading blows with the heavyweights, and they'll be keen to atone for a disappointing group-stage exit on home soil four years ago.


World ranking: 7

Coach: Fernando Santos

Portugal reeled off seven consecutive one-goal wins in qualifying to top a straightforward Group I, but the concern for the 2004 finalists remains the lack of a supporting cast for Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. The Iberian nation appear to have a promising crop of young players emerging, as evidenced by Portugal's Under-21 side reaching the final of June's European Championship, but the likes of William Carvalho, Bernardo Silva and 18-year-old Porto prodigy Ruben Neves are still learning their craft and relatively untested at the highest level. Semi-finalists four years ago, a repeat of that run would represent a noteworthy achievement.


World ranking: 31

Coach: Martin O'Neill

Ireland made it to a second consecutive European Championship finals by defeating Bosnia-Herzegovina 3-1 in a play-off. Martin O'Neill's side previously finished third in qualifying Group D behind Germany and Poland. However, it was a memorable campaign that featured a draw in Germany and a win at home to the world champions thanks to a brilliant Shane Long strike. Those results saw them finish above Scotland despite the Irish collecting just one point from two games with the Scots. O'Neill, who played for Northern Ireland at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, has been ably assisted by Roy Keane and will hope a solid squad comprised of players plying their trade in the top two divisions in England can do better than at Euro 2012. Then, in a tough group with Spain, Italy and Croatia, they came home without a point.


World ranking: 16

Coach: Anghel Iordanescu

Romania clinched their return to the big stage for the first time since Euro 2008 after advancing as runners-up of a weak Group F behind Northern Ireland. The days of the Romanian national side supplying players for the world's top clubs are a distant memory, with just a handful of the current squad playing in Europe's top five leagues. Coach Anghel Ioardanescu, a member of Steaua Bucharest's 1986 European Cup-winning side, hasn't selected injury-ravaged striker Ciprian Marica since September 2014 when he was sent off after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Greece, and the ex-Stuttgart and Schalke man is now without a club.


World ranking: 24

Coach: Leonid Slutsky

Russia qualified automatically from Group G behind Austria, but ahead of Sweden, despite an unconvincing campaign and the departure of coach Fabio Capello. The veteran Italian was sacked in the summer with Russia at risk of missing out on the finals having won just two and lost two of their opening six qualifiers. However, CSKA Moscow coach Leonid Slutsky was brought in and oversaw four wins in the last four games to take Russia to a fourth straight European Championship. Slutsky will hope for a performance more like that of 2008, when Russia reached the semi-finals, than of 2012 or the last World Cup, when they went out at the group stage. Zenit St Petersburg striker Artem Dzyuba, who got eight goals in qualifying, is the danger man.


World ranking: 26 equal

Coach: Jan Kozak

Slovakia reached the finals of the European Championship for the first time as opening wins over Ukraine and defending champions Spain set the tone for a successful Group C qualifying campaign, in which they finished second. Captain Martin Skrtel and his deputy Marek Hamsik, holdovers from the side that reached the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup after stunning defending champions Italy 3-2 in their final group game, remain the central figures in Jan Kozak's squad that otherwise has few notable names. One-time Manchester City midfielder Vladimir Weiss also played an integral role in qualifying, with a joint-best six assists.


World ranking: 3

Coach: Vicente Del Bosque

Spain are still reeling from their exit at the group stage of the 2014 World Cup, but what better way to bounce back from that than by winning an unprecedented third consecutive European Championship. La Roja lost in Slovakia early in their qualifying campaign, but hit back to register eight successive wins, all without conceding a goal as they topped their section by a margin of five points. This is likely to be Vicente Del Bosque's last tournament as coach, and while he has an array of talent at his disposal, he must decide who is his first choice in goal between David de Gea and the veteran Iker Casillas. He also has a decision to make up front, where Diego Costa has disappointed and Alvaro Morata of Juventus is still to prove himself.


World ranking: 35

Coach: Erik Hamren

Sweden finished third in qualifying Group G behind Austria and Russia, notably losing 4-1 at home to the Austrians. However, they secured their presence at a fifth consecutive European Championship finals by beating Scandinavian rivals Denmark 4-3 in a play-off. Erik Hamren's squad contains only one truly outstanding player in Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The 34-year-old Paris Saint-Germain striker will appear at possibly his last major international tournament in his adopted country after scoring 11 goals during the qualifying campaign. Behind him, Hamren will hope some of those who helped Sweden win this year's European under-21 title, such as he Celta Vigo striker John Guidetti, can have an impact and help the Swedes get beyond the group stage, something they failed to do in 2008 or in 2012.


World ranking: 12

Coach: Vladimir Petkovic

Switzerland recovered from a poor start to qualify a distant second behind England and reach the finals for the fourth time. However, the alpine nation have never advanced beyond the group stage, collecting just one win in nine attempts. Kosovo-born Stoke winger Xherdan Shaqiri is the most recognisable face in the squad but Bosnian coach Vladimir Petkovic, who spent much of his playing career in the Swiss lower leagues, has plenty of experienced campaigners to call upon, particularly in midfield with skipper Gokhan Inler, Valon Behrami and Gelson Fernandes, whose goal saw the Nati beat eventual champions Spain in the group stage of the 2010 World Cup, available to him.


World ranking: 21

Coach: Fatih Terim

Turkey recovered from a woeful start to their qualifying campaign to make it to the finals. They collected just one point from their first three matches but benefited from the Netherlands' troubles as they won their last three games to take third spot in Group A. A late Selcuk Inan free-kick secured a 1-0 win over Iceland in their final game and allowed Fatih Terim's team to go through to the finals as the best third-placed side. A largely home-based squad is boosted by the presence of Bayer Leverkusen star Hakan Calhanoglu and the captain Arda Turan of Barcelona. Coach Terim is in his third spell in charge having taken the team to Euro '96 and Euro 2008, when they got to the semi-finals. This is their first major tournament appearance since then.


World ranking: 29

Coach: Mykhailo Fomenko

Ukraine will be in France after qualifying for the European Championship in their own right for the first time -- they were co-hosts when they were knocked out of Euro 2012 at the group stage. It was a close-run thing, though, with Fomenko's team beating Slovenia 3-1 on aggregate in a play-off. That was a huge boost to a team that missed out on a berth at the 2014 World Cup after an agonising play-off loss to France. They had finished third in qualifying Group C behind Spain and Slovakia, despite conceding only four goals in 10 games. Among the outstanding players in Fomenko's squad are the Sevilla winger Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko of Dynamo Kiev.


World ranking: 17

Coach: Chris Coleman

Wales ended a 57-year wait to qualify for a major tournament as they reached the European Championship for the first time. Gareth Bale was central to his country's successful qualifying campaign, netting seven of Wales' 11 goals as they negotiated a tricky group to finish runners-up to Belgium. Labelled as the Welsh 'golden generation', coach Chris Coleman said his players were indeed worthy of that tag as they punched their tickets to France with a game to spare. Skipper Ashley Williams anchored a solid defence which conceded just four times in 10 matches, but aside from Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey there are few other exceptional talents as Coleman's disposal.

Read more on:    euro 2016  |  soccer

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