Euro 2016 – Preview

We are now just weeks away from another tournament that will take a strong hold on football fans in Europe and maybe globally: Euro 2016 in France. For the second time the tournament will be hosted by France; the last edition in 1984 saw Michel Platini guide his team to overall victory. On their way to the final, the French beat their nemesis from the previous World Cup, West Germany.

Only once before has the western hemisphere experienced a major sporting event in the wake of terrorist attacks: The Olympic Games of Salt Lake City in 2002. The mood in France after that annus horribilis 2015 is certainly one of concern, at least from the point of view of the organizers and security services. What to do if November 13 was just a test run for a much larger operation? The idea alone is terrifying.

These concerns notwithstanding, there are more than 60 games of football to be played before we have another European champion. Will it be Spain for a third consecutive time? Germany, the world champion? France, the hosts? Or will we see a dark horse running away with the title? Here is a brief look at the teams that are deemed favourites and dark horses. For convenience the limit is set at 6 teams altogether, 4 favourites and 2 dark horses, based on the Euro 2016 odds.

The Holders: Spain

Despite having suffered an abysmal World Cup, including a 5-1 defeat against Holland, Spain had 2 years to prepare during which most people switched their attention onto Germany or England and saw that Holland have not qualified at all for the tournament. This period of calm could have proved to be a vital lifeline and it should not surprise anyone if Spain will make the latter stages of the tournament or even another final.

The World Champions: Germany

Of course they are among the favourites; the Germans always are. Perhaps the defeat against Italy in the semi-final in the previous edition 2012 was THE crucial eye opener for Jogi Löw to turn this immensely talented squad into World Cup winners. Their qualification was a rocky road suggesting that all might not be well. A surprising defeat against England in March added fuel to the worst fears among German fans. However, this was rectified by a magnificent victory against Italy only a few days later. It is important to keep things in perspective. Both were friendlies and while one suggests that Germany switched off after 60 minutes, the other points that the team in fact can turn it on if they have to.

The Hosts: France

They are playing at home and their record under such circumstances speaks for itself: 1984 they won the European Championship in France and added a World Cup in 1998 also in France. They at their best when they play on home soil or nearby. A strong display in 2014 in Brazil saw them go out to Germany, who went on to win the tournament. Without any competitive match for two years, no one knows what could happen to France: will they rise to the occasion or will they crumble? Or something in between? There was unrest surrounding Karim Benzema but national coach Didier Deschamps has made it clear that such a personality has no place within the French squad. Who will be Zizou’s successor and lift another trophy?

Italy

Yes, Italy. The state of Italian football currently is not the best, but so it was in 2012 and they still managed to beat Germany comprehensively in the semis without giving them a chance to get into the game at all. The masters of minimalism could be the team no one has on their notebooks. Remember 2006 when everything seemed to be against them. They created a siege mentality that carried them through the tournament, gave them the edge over Germany in the semi-final and even held out against a superb France team that destroyed itself.

England

For a long time England look like a team again that actually knows what team play means. Previous England managers did not put the best team together but assembled the biggest names in English football and hoped for the best. Where this went, everyone is familiar with. The quarter-final stage has become the glass ceiling for England in recent years. If Jamie Vardy can use his speed to the team’s advantage and can pair up with Harry Kane, England possess the best attacking duo in Europe and should not fear anyone. This is the achievement of Roy Hodgson who has not been popular with the English press but who kept his head and could be in for a surprise in France.

Belgium

There is a stir about Belgium; the team is young and they play very good football. If the axis Hazard-Fellaini-de Bruyne works well, no one knows what could happen in France during the tournament. Yes, qualification is one thing and a tournament another, especially with games every three to four days. Since Hazard et.al. play in England they are used to this rhythm and surely can perform at this level. However, league football is a different matter to a tournament where every game is important.

Whatever happens in France we will see while it happens. Surely, this will be an interesting tournament, the last in the traditional format before the 2020 edition will become a flying circus.

Then Came Malone: Magdeburg – Großaspach

Promotion might not be on the cards any more for FC Magdeburg but place 4 is still possible which would mean direct qualification for the DFB Cup next season. Opponent was Großaspach, a direct rival for said 4th. spot in the table. Read more →

The Dryborough Cup

Pre-season tournaments have their benefits. Even more so when they try to be innovative and tread on new ground. Read more →

When the Germans Invaded Derbyshire

Once more I have contributed to the Football Pink. Here is an extract from the article.

There is little about the World Cup final of 1966 that has not been said or written already. Coverage of the tournament in England has largely been dominated by fact that one of the most contentious decisions in world football gave the host nation the title. Little is known however, about the relations the Germans have had with the inhabitants of a little village where they stayed during the competition: Ashbourne, Derbyshire. It turns out that the Germans were rather liked by their temporary hosts.

The issue, the twelfth already is available in print and can be purchased from the magazine’s website. It is only £3.00 and packed to the rafters with good content. So what are you waiting for?

Magazine Review: Mundial

The current fifth issue of Mundial offers writings about the career of Francesco Totti at Roma, tells us why Zidane and Ronaldhino were better than CR7 and Messi today and informs us what is so good about Hull. Yes, you’ve read that correctly, Hull. Read more →

If this is football: Magdeburg – Dresden

If this is football, let it die was a popular slogan in the 1980s in Britain that was suffering under the stranglehold of violated. It seems, many people in Germany will think the same when seeing the images from Magdeburg on Saturday. Read more →

Grafters vs Artists: Magdeburg – Dresden

This is the game every one has been waiting for in Magdeburg: The Greatest of the World host their long standing rivals from Saxony’s capital Dynamo Dresden. In terms of marketing value, this game is surely among the top ten in Germany and pretty high up in the rankings in Europe, too. It is not only that the history of this fixture is putting weight on the match; current developments add to the importance and the outreach of this match. Read more →

Reinhard ‘Stan’ Libuda vs. Liverpool 1966

When Liverpool play Borussia Dortmund tonight, there will be the odd mention of 1966 when both teams met in the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup at Hampden Park, Glasgow. The game 50 years ago was played under entirely different signs. Liverpool were favourites and Dortmund had nothing but the role as outsider to play. Originally, it was thought that West Ham would play Liverpool in the final but the Germans had other ideas.

The final of 1699 was decided by Stan Libuda’s long range kick from roughly 25 metres. Normally, this was not his habit. He was a dribbler and a fine technical player. If he got past one defender, he waited until the opponent got up to his feet again, only to fool him again before he passed to his team mates. The goal in extra time secured Dortmund’s win and the first European trophy for a German club at the third attempt after Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960 and 1860 Munich in 1965 lost their respective final matches.

The game today sees Dortmund being the favourite even though they have a new coach, Thomas Tuchel who has replaced Jürgen Klopp, the current Liverpool coach. That makes this match tonight a rather special occasion.

image credit: Nationaal Archief via WikiCommons under CC BY-SA 3.0 NL

Home Away: Red Star FC 93 – Paris FC

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It is spring and it is the time when it becomes clear where the season will go. While Leicester City have underlined that they will surely be English Champions for the first time in the club’s history come May 15, Red Star today underlined their ambitions to push for promotion to Ligue 1. Or at least to stay within reach of second place. Read more →

Germany – England 2016

As England visit Germany tonight it is time to use some material from past match reports to describe the match in 2016 at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. Read more →