Category Archives: Euro 2016

Italy can progress in Euro 2016 despite a tough path

The Italian national team has awoken a sense of hope in the country that has been a surprise and certainly was not expected. The nation as a rule, grows slowly into a tournament just like its team and in some sort of bizarre unity, they historically culminate in the knock out rounds as a force on both parts. Now after a smash and grab group stage, where the Italians unusually topped their group after two games, they ironically face champions Spain in the round of 16.  Despite a defeat in their final game to the Republic of Ireland, there is reason to be positive before this titanic clash.

Written off

‘The worst Italian squad in 50 years’ this was the yoke that the Italian national team had around their neck as they travelled to France. The lack of quality in the forward area was obvious and the nation’s media and fans questioned whether GrazianoPelle, Eder and Ciro Immobile could produce the magic that their predecessors had. After all a country that had given birth to Giuseppe Meazza, Paolo Rossi, Christian Vieri and ‘Pippo’ Inzaghi could perhaps feel as though they had been put on a crash diet when it came to forward quality. Italy’s midfield to had been decimated, as injuries to Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti had meant that the team was now reliant on its three man Juventus defence backed up by the ever young ‘Gigi’ Buffon.

Belgium, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland stood in their way and as the Azzurri went into their opening game against the Red Devils ‘Golden generation’ there was not much hope given. Despite the prediction that Antonio Conte would play a very defensive game that operated solely on counter attacks, the team instead started with pace and a direct style that shocked their opponents. Despite commentators talking about Italy being a defensive unit they were ambitious and got their rewards for this.


The way that Conte had his team drilled was impressive and his team transformed from a 3-5-2 to a 3-3-4 when in attack and then a 5-3-2 when defending. Buffon was the antithesis of this as he played almost as a sweeper when the team was attacking, similar to Manuel Neuer. When the team defended as a five the veteran goalkeeper did not move out of his six-yard box but the understanding of when he would come for the ball was understood well by his Juventus team mates.

This was also evident against Sweden but despite Eder’s killer goal the team still do look a little bit lightweight up front. The rest of the team however, operate as a cohesive unit that arguably is the most fluid yet structured in the competition. Conte looks to operate with a ‘freedom within structure’ mentality and it has proved effective. He knows he hasn’t got the best tool in his tool box but he knows what kit he needs to do the job well.

It was the realisation of this that enthused the Italian public and media and even saw the GazzettaDello Sport say that ‘We want our Italy back’ after they lost their final group game to the Republic of Ireland. Conte made eight changes in this game and two if those were enforced as Buffon had the flu and Antonio Candreva had pulled his hamstring against Sweden. The rest simply were experimental and whilst the team came in for criticism, it did allow the coach to see what options he could call upon. Lorenzo Insigne was one of these players who, whilst given only a few minutes, showed that he could replicate his club form for Napoli on the national stage.

Italy have to face Spain and then if they progress they will face Germany but they should not be worried. The team has already impressed her apathetic fans and there is little expectation but yet there is room for optimism. Defensively the team are arguably the best in the tournament and if Lorenzo Insigne is given licence to roam then the Azzurri may be the may turn heads even if for cohesion rather than style.



The 24 Best Euro 2016 Fantasy Football Team Names

Love a good pun?  Fantasy football is a very popular part of every major international football tournament, and some of you spend more time on your team name than you do picking the players.

With help from Paddy Power we have come up with a team name for each of the 24 nations participating in France this summer to help you decide what to call yours.

Whether you’re supporting England, Wales, Ireland or whoever this summer, here’s an idea for your Euro 2016 fantasy football team name:

Albania: Dude, Where’s My Cana?

The former Sunderland midfielder now plays for Nantes in Ligue 1 and captained his nation to qualifying for their first-ever major international tournament.  Albania’s previous best qualifying was fifth in a group of seven in a failed effort to make Euro 2008.

Austria: For Fuchs Sake

Many may have thought Christian Fuchs was taking a step down when he left Schalke 04 to join Leicester City last summer.  However, the Austrian left-back is now a Premier League winner, whilst his former club have still never won the German Bundesliga.

Belgium: Benteke Fried Chicken

Christian Benteke faces stiff competition from the likes of Divock Origi and Romelu Lukaku to start for Belgium this summer.  His £32.5 million move to Liverpool this summer backfired after being ditched by Jürgen Klopp for the majority of the 2015-16 season.

Croatia: Fun Lovren Criminals

The Liverpool centre-back has found his form this season playing alongside Mamadou Sakho and under Jürgen Klopp.  Croatia are in a group with Spain, Czech Republic and Turkey so the former-Southampton man can expect a busy tournament.

Czech Republic: Martin Frýdek and Rice

The Czech Republic defender is no certainty to be selected by Pavel Vrba for the tournament but with a name like this he had to make our list.  His father, also named Martin Frýdek, was part of the squad that finished runners-up at Euro 96.

England: Rooney Tunes

The England captain is heading into Euro 2016 off the back of a poor end to the season following a lengthy injury.  Wayne Rooney faces stiff competition from both Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy to start up front, and then from Dele Alli in the number 10 role.  No doubt Roy Hodgson will start him though.

France: Kingsley Coman the Barbarian

19 years old and he has already won the French Ligue 1, Italian Serie A and now the German Bundesliga.  Want to test your ability in the English Premier League, Kingsley Coman?

Germany: Thomas Müller Corner

A key part of Germany’s success two years ago, Thomas Müller will be hoping to add to his large trophy collection this summer as one of the favourites to win the Golden Boot and playing for one of the favourites to win the tournament.

Hungary: The Király Kid

Former-Crystal Palace goalkeeper GáborKirály is still going strong in his homeland at 40.  He has over 100 caps for the Hungarian national team and is expected to be their number 1 in France.

Iceland: Gylfi Pleasures

The Swansea City playmaker heads into Euro 2016 in good club form and will be hoping to make an impression in what will be Iceland’s first-ever major international tournament.  Iceland’s qualification to this tournament included finishing above the Netherlands.

Italy: Balotelli-Tubbies

Whether or not the controversial striker makes the finals or not, we couldn’t ignore a fantasy football team name like this.  Mario Balotelli has really struggled for both game time and goals with AC Milan this season.

Northern Ireland: Grin and Baird It

Derby County backup and Fulham loaneeChris Baird will do well to get in the Northern Ireland squad this summer having not been a big part of Darren Wassall’s plans before getting a couple of games back at Craven Cottage.  But would you have preferred us to suggest The Green Kyleor Debbie Does Stuart Dallas??

Poland: The Big Lewandowski

The Bayern Munich striker is set to face several of his teammates in Saint-Denis in game two when Germany meet Poland.  Much will be expected of Robert Lewandowski after a fantastic qualifying campaign that saw him tie David Healy’s all-time European Championship qualifying record of 13 goals.  He will come up against Northern Ireland and Ukraine in his group too.

Portugal: Million Dollar Bebé

This Manchester United flop has proven to be one of Rayo Vallecano’s top stars in what has been a disappointing campaign for the Madrid side in La Liga.  The 25-year-old has never been capped by the Portuguese national team unfortunately so perhaps you may want to reconsider naming your team after Bebé this summer.

Republic of Ireland: 50 Shades of O’Shea

Republic of Ireland took four points off World Champions Germany to reach Euro 2016 – only their third-ever appearance in this tournament.  Sunderland defender John O’Shea faces a tough task if they’re to progress from the group – facing Sweden, Belgium and Italy.

Romania: Bogdan & Clyde

Qualifying from arguably the weakest group, Romania will be appearing in their fifth European Championship finals this summer.  Like the Republic of Ireland, they have only ever won one match, and like Ireland, that was versus England (Euro 2000).  Gençlerbirliği striker Bogdan Stancu should be leading the line for the Romanians in France who are involved in the tournament’s opening game versus the hosts.

Russia: The Akinfeev Diet

The CSKA Moscow goalkeeper remains Russia’s number one despite a howler in Brazil two years ago.  Igor Akinfeev is closing in on the century mark of caps for his country and will be expecting to make it out of a group that contains England, Wales and Slovakia, despite the country’s poor showing in all but one of the previous seven major tournaments they have qualified for.

Slovakia: Teenage Mutant Ninja Škrtels

Liverpool centre-back Martin Škrtel was part of the Slovakia national team that qualified for their first-ever European Championship finals.  They had previously had moderate records in qualifying, neither here nor there before JánKozák gave them something to cheer about last year, finishing second in a group where they took three points off the current holders, Spain.

Spain: Absolutely Fàbregas

After a dreadful World Cup, Spain are among the favourites once again as they bid to win a record third consecutive European Championships.  Chelsea midfielder CescFàbregas is coming off a very disappointing Premier League campaign but will be hoping to find his form again in France among a very strong squad.

Sweden: How About Zlat?

Zlatan Ibrahimović is set to star in his fourth European Championships having previously played in 2004, 2008 and 2012.  Sweden beat fellow Scandinavians Denmark 4-3 in the playoffs to set them up to face Ireland, Italy and Belgium in the group stage this summer.

Switzerland: Enter Shaqiri

Xherdan Shaqiri’s career hasn’t blossomed since his move to Bayern Munich back in 2009.  A brief stint at Internazionale before joining Stoke City this season where he has delighted fans at the Britannia Stadium.  Switzerland face Albania in the second match at Euro 2016.

Turkey: Turannosaurus Rex

His move to Barcelona hasn’t worked out great in his first season but ArdaTuran has still collected a La Liga winners’ medal.  Unavailable until January and then a bit-part player in Luis Enrique’s side, the Turkish playmaker certainly can’t complain of fatigue during the summer!

Ukraine: Rotan Tomatoes

The experienced Ukrainian midfielder Ruslan Rotan will be hoping to make MykhayloFomenko’s squad this summer having previously participated in both Euro 2012 and the 2006 World Cup – the only previous tournaments Ukraine have qualified for since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Wales: Out on Bale

Gareth Bale was one of the stars as Wales took six points off Belgium in qualifying for their first-ever European Championships finals.  They will be looking to take three points off rivals England in a group they shouldn’t have too much fear in.