EURO 2016: Experience is the key

To me, Germany and France are the favourites for EURO 2016. I expect both teams to reach the semi-finals at least. They have a wealth of experience, and that is vital in any major tournament. As for the dark horses in the tournament, they should be Austria and Belgium. Both possess two interesting up and coming young sides.

Some members of the Wales team celebrate after qualifying for EURO 2016. They defeated Andorra 2-0.   -  REUTERS

The UEFA EURO 2016, scheduled to kick off in France on June 10, should be bigger and better than ever! It is for the first time that 24 teams are involved in the month-long tournament, which is wide open and there for the taking. It will be a great event!

Looking ahead to EURO 2016, I expect teams to be very cautious in the group stage, but once the knockout stage presents itself, the style of play will be more attacking and you will see many more goals being scored, which is always exciting to watch.

However, it is disappointing that the Netherlands, who reached the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup, failed to qualify. I think, in the qualifiers, the Dutch played as complete individuals and not as a team. This has been their major problem. They are a very impressive side, but their confidence was running low.

Age has been one of the factors for the Dutch team’s poor performances. True, they are very talented and have brought in some impressive young talent. However, the Dutch need to get back to the basics and position a leader on and off the pitch.

To me, Germany and France are the favourites. I expect both teams to reach the semi-finals at least. They have a wealth of experience, and that is vital in any major tournament. As for the dark horses in the tournament, they should be Austria and Belgium. Both possess two interesting up and coming young sides. And Bosnia too. They have a new manager, and I watched them recently when they played Wales – they looked very impressive. I think they could be dangerous!

For the World champions, Germany, the absence of Philip Lahm, who has since retired from international football, will be a big loss. However, I think he is replaceable. Germany know exactly what to do when it comes to defence; it would be a lot tougher if they had lost a top striker.

We will see an overhauled Spain at EURO 2016. Spain, the defending European champions and World champions in 2010, have some great new younger players. However, their tactics will fundamentally remain the same, which is their strength, and there will be a huge improvement in experience thereafter and you cannot buy that.

Belgium, who have leapfrogged Germany to lead the FIFA rankings, have stars in their line-up. In my opinion, this is probably the best Belgium squad. They have learned a lot and you can expect a bold show from this side. They were in the same group as Wales in the qualifiers, and Wales did beat them, so sometimes they too can leave room for mistakes.

England have always underachieved in international competitions. In the qualifiers, though, they had a 100% record. England, however, tend to play below potential and I can see the same happening again because the English Premier League is very demanding. So, to go to a tournament after the season is very difficult for the players.

Wayne Rooney should definitely be leading them; he has been one of the best players in the last 10 years. He also has a quality in helping other players. He can do this with Rahim Sterling, and this will be a major factor in how well England do in the tournament!

Wales were phenomenal during the qualifiers. One of the major reasons for the side’s success was their team spirit! They have world-class players such as Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, and their defence will do anything to not let goals in. This is Wales’ huge strength. It is a new experience for Wales and they will do well to progress beyond the group stage, as they have been drawn in the bottom pot. I really think that nobody would like to be drawn against them because Wales, on their day, can beat anyone. They proved that when they beat Belgium.

Now, coming to the players, Anthony Martial of France, Bale and Ramsey of Wales, Sterling and Rooney of England, Thomas Muller of Germany and Robert Lewandowski of Poland are the ones to watch out for.