The French side will be hoping for a positive start and repeat the same feat they had in 2000 when they won the event at home.
France is in Group ‘A’ together with Switzerland, Romania and Albania. Being the home side, France is expected to progress as among the top two teams as they are packed with talents in their ranks. Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann are expected to lead the French charge and therefore starting well tonight is key.
Romania could still give the hosts trouble as they also seek a good start in the competition.
Switzerland who play Albania in another Group ‘A’ match is another team tipped to qualify from here.
They have Granit Xhaka of Arsenal and Xherdan Shaqiri of Stoke propelling them in this year’s competition. Here is my take on how things will fare on in other groups.
England, Slovakia, Russia, and Wales make up a tricky Group B. England is expected to top this group with ease barring a major calamity. The 2016 squad is considered by some as the best ever assembled by the Three Lions since 1966 World Cup boasting a mix of experience and proven young talents. The remaining teams will fight out to join England with Wales heavily backed to do so led by Gareth Bale but Slovakia will not be easy pushovers going by their qualification form and are out to upset the form book. This group will, however, be hard to call.
2012 Semi-finalist Germany, Poland, Ukraine, and debutant Northern Ireland prop up this third group. Germany is favoured to go through as winner of the group joined by Robert Lewandowski’s Poland. Ukraine will hope to nip one of the four slots available for third-placed teams if they manage to get points from Germany and Poland and then beat Northern Ireland.
Group D is probably the second toughest group in this tournament after group E. Reigning Champions Spain, dark horse Croatia, experienced Czech Republic and resurgent Turkey will fight it out for two automatic last 16 places in this group. Spain and Croatia, with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in its ranks, are expected to go through but with a stern test by the Czech who at worst may go through as one of the best-placed third teams. After all is said and done, surprises cannot be ruled out from this group.
Finalist in 2012 Italy, Belgium, Sweden and Republic of Ireland make up Group E which is arguably the group of death in this tournament. Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne of Manchester City lead a roster of the most talented Red Devils team into this championship with most pundits expecting the team to storm to at least the Semi-final of the tournament. The opening match between Belgium and Italy will go a long way in deciding who tops the group. Sweden and Republic of Ireland are expected to give the two teams a run for their talent and experience with Italy seen as a likely casualty.
The last group contains Portugal, Austria, Iceland, and Hungary. Portugal takes on Iceland while Austria tackles Hungary in the opening games of the group. Portugal led by mercurial Cristiano Ronaldo and Austria by David Alaba of Bayern Munich are favourites in this group, but you cannot rule out Iceland springing up a surprise going by their qualifying record. Hungary is surely the outsiders in this group.