The Group-by-Group Euro 2016 Preview – Group A

OK, I really shouldn’t have left this until the last minute. However, being the sports journalist legend I am, I’ve pushed through and belted something out.

This will be the first of six previews for each group at Euro 2016. The first game of Group A will be played overnight, so I have to get the Group A preview done tonight. Group B will have their preview up tomorrow, Groups C and D will be up by Sunday, group E on Monday, and group F on Tuesday, so I’ll be flat out for the next few days.

I’ve already wasted several minutes writing this metajournalistic introduction, so let’s get into it. Would you believe that as I was writing this, Google Chrome crashed?

Managers are from the country they manage unless otherwise indicated.

GROUP A FIXTURE

  • Sat Jun 11, 5am: France v Romania, Saint-Denis
  • Sat Jun 11, 11pm: Albania v Switzerland, Lens
  • Thu Jun 15, 2am: Romania v Switzerland, Paris
  • Thu Jun 15, 5am: France v Albania, Marseille
  • Mon Jun 20, 5am: Romania v Albania, Lyon
  • Mon Jun 20, 5am: Switzerland v France, Lille

FRANCE

  • How they qualified: N/A (hosts)
  • Euro 2012: Quarter-finals
  • Best Euro performance: Champions (1984, 2000)
  • Manager: Didier Deschamps
  • Captain: Hugo Lloris
  • Key player: Patrice Evra. The left-back could likely be competing in his last major tournament, but the 2010 World Cup captain still has unfinished business, having never won a major title at international level. Born in Senegal, Evra will presumably be holding the fort down back with goalkeeper Lloris.
  • Pass mark: At least semi-finals, but you get the feeling some fans will settle for nothing less than a win.

ROMANIA

  • How they qualified: 2nd in Group F
  • Euro 2012: Did not qualify
  • Best Euro performance: Quarter-finals (2000)
  • Manager: Anghel Iordănescu
  • Captain: Vlad Chiricheş
  • Key player: Costel Pantilimon. This giant of a man stands 6’8″, and is the tallest player in the Premier League. Pantilimon has an extraordinary record of clean sheets, and is currently contracted to Watford. He may be one of Romania’s most vital players, saving plenty of goals for them.
  • Pass mark: To not finish last in their group.

ALBANIA

  • How they qualified: 2nd in Group I
  • Euro 2012: Did not qualify
  • Best Euro performance: First tournament
  • Manager: Gianni De Biasi (Italy)
  • Captain: Lorik Cana
  • Key player: Besart Berisha Armando Sadiku. Sadiku is the biggest scorer in the Albanian squad, with 5 international goals. He has made waves in the Swiss Super League, scoring 12 goals in 2015-16 despite being rarely used for the first half of theat season at Zürich. Now plays for Vaduz.
  • Pass mark: Considering Albania has only made the tournament due to an appeal to the CAS, making it’s good enough.

SWITZERLAND

  • How they qualified: 2nd in Group E
  • Euro 2012: Did not qualify
  • Best Euro performance: Group stage (1996, 2004, 2008)
  • Manager: Vladimir Petković (Bosnia-Herzegovina)
  • Captain: Stephen Lichtsteiner (for some reason, all of the captains in this group are goalkeepers or defenders)
  • Key player: Valon Behrami. Born in what is now Kosovo, to Albanian parents, he moved to Switzerland at the age of five. He’s been parceled around a lot at various clubs, currently at his eighth senior club (nine, if you count a loan spell at Verona), Watford. However, he is the most experienced player in the Swiss squad, and has played at three world cups. A defensive general.
  • Pass mark: Qualifying from the group.
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