The Euro 2016 Draw was today in Paris. One of the side effects of the expanded field is some weaker groups with easy to spot group winners. France, Germany, and Portugal were handed particularly easy routes to the top spot in the respective groups. There will be a lot of fun battles for second place and one of the top four third place finishes as most of the middle European sides that qualified are very tough to separate. Group E will be the one to watch. Belgium and Italy are two elite sides that got boned into a tough group with Sweden.
Here's the draw and my brief analysis of each group:
This is a pretty straightforward draw for France. Their only real challenge will be a tricky Switzerland side, but they should win the group with ease. The Swiss should come in second with their talent level.
I am looking forward to checking out how England will blow this. They are the best team in the group, but you can never overlook Russia. Wales has Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, both capable of powering their side through anyone. Slovakia can even present a challenge. On paper, this should be England's group to lose. I like Russia to take second, but don't count the Welsh out. Look for them to challenge for at least one of the third place advancement spots.
Germany will roll through the group with ease, but the second place battle should be fun. Poland and Ukraine are about equal sides, they co-hosted the last Euro in 2012. Northern Ireland is playing in their first major tournament since 1982, but they can still sneak in.
This should belong to the defending champs. Croatia is probably second best, but this is really unpredictable beyond Germany. The Czechs and Turkey are both under appreciated sides that can make waves in this group.
This is, by far, the most competitive group. Belgium is one of the best in the world and so is Italy. The winner of the group will likely come down to the match between them. Sweden has Zlatan Ibrahimovic, so you can't forget about them. It kind of sucks to be Ireland here. They will be no more than cannon fodder for the superpowers in the group. I say Italy wins, followed by Belgium, and Sweden gets a third place spot in the round of 16,
A pretty simple draw for the Fighting Ronaldos in Portugal. The battle here will be for second place and no one side stands out. I'll throw Hungary out as my prediction, however.
Round of 16 Qualifiers Prediction:
Best Third Place: