EURO 2016 Group Predictions

Group AUEFA-Euro-2016-Group-Stage-Draw

  1. France  2. Switzerland  3. Romania  4. Albania

 

France

Group A should be 3 wins for France. The host nations crowd will be well on their side, which will make them one of the tournament favourites. Remember the 1998 World Cup, granted they did not have the same players especially one Zinadine Zidane but they have a formidable side.

 

France’s defense and midfield are littered with talent and boasts a combination of flair and experience. Veterans Patrice Evra, Bacary Sagna, and Laurent Kocielny are players France’s defense can rely on to create solidarity at the back for the their younger vibrant talents such as Mamadou Sakho, Eliaquim Mangala, and Raphael Varane. They also have the reliable and battle tested Hugo Loris between the posts.

 

Their midfield will be orchestrated by the play of Paul Pogba who could turn out to be the player of this tournament. He will be backed by veterans Blaise Matuidi and a host of other talent that management can choose from.

 

Even with the loss of Karim Benzema due to a sex tape scandal France still have Antoine Griezmann, Anthony Martial, and Oliveir Giroud up front to get the goals. The three strikers are capable of getting the job done in this group but they will be required to step up their game once the knock out stages begin.

 

 

Switzerland

 

The Swiss has probably the best chance of shocking the French in this group. They are well equipped to create a solid defense and midfield players to support a defensive formation that could easily break into quick counterattacks. They will also be much more cautious this time against the French after the drubbing they took in last World Cup.

 

The Swiss back four has usually been made up of Fabian Schar, Johan Djourou, Stephen Lichtsteiner, and Ricardo Rodriguez, which will most likely be backed by midfielders Gokhan Inler and Blerim Dzemaili. A 4-5-1 tight formation has been a staple for the Swiss since the 2014 World Cup and has been a formula that has worked for them against mid-level opponents. Their style has come up short against bigger opponents such as France in the World Cup, England in their qualifying group but they did cause a scare against Argentina in the second round of the last World Cup.

 

Xherdan Shaqiri will provide the creativity and work horse energy that they will need up front but it will be up to their younger and unproven strikers Admir Mehmedi and Haris Seferovic to look for the goals. Unless proven, the Swiss might find scoring goals tough proposition especially against world class opponents like France.

Romania

 

It’s been 8 years since the Romanians reached the final of a major tournament. Unfortunately this team is probably the weakest Romanian squad talent wise coming into a major tournament over the last 25 years.

 

Their qualification was far from smooth. They did not lose a single game but sputtered offensively. They had to wait until the very last week of group play to qualify. The bright spot of the Romanian qualification has been their defence, only conceding 2 goals during the entire qualification. However it is hard to gauge the validity of this defense as their group did not contain any high scoring offense with the likes of Northern Ireland, Hungary, and Finland being their sternest opponents.

 

The Romanian team does have bright spots especially at defense. 34 year old Razvan Rat has been solid at left back during qualification and brings a wealth of experience as he is a member of the Romanian team that reached the last Euros in 2008. Vlad Chiriches has been a pillar at center back during qualification. His partnership Dras Grigore has created a stellar defense during qualification. They snuff out aerial threats well and are solid tacklers.

 

The Romanian attack is really suspect as they have not really played with a lot of quality world class opponents over the past 6 months to test how good their offense or even defense match up. They might have a chance to cause a shock against the Swiss but might find the going really tough against the French.

 

Albania

 

Albania is definitely the surprise team of the tournament and qualifying. They have a feisty hard tackling style to their game. They play a tight 4-5-1 formation that is primarily very defensive with two holding midfielders between the defense and attack.

 

They might provide a  few surprises during games as debut teams usually come in with a gung ho nothing to lose attitude but it’s hard to see them progressing beyond this group.  Lorik Cana who plays with Nantes in France provides great leadership and steadies their defense.  Throughout qualifying he has created a steady partnership with Ansi Agolli in the middle of the defense. They are also backed by the promising young Napoli right back Elseid Hysaj.

 

The Albanian midfield thrives on the energetic play of Odeshi Roshi on the left wing and their holding midfielders Amir Abrashi and Ledian Memushaj. Taulant Xhaka also provides significant pace on the right of Albania’s midfield.

 

Albania’s will find the going tough getting goals against their group opponents who have well organized defenses and might find themselves chasing the entire game and running out of ideas if they go down early to their opponents. It would not be surprising to see Albania crowd the middle of the pitch with hard tackling, limiting space for opponents, which would create opportunities for counter attacks.

 

Reaching these finals will provide a great stepping stone for the future of this young and vibrant football team.

 

Super Bowl 50

Defense is still the winning recipe

 

Never doubtusa-today-9102117.0 a great defense to overcome a team’s nerves on a final game. Denver’s defense set the tone to winning Super Bowl 50. Cam Newton and his offensive line were under duress the entire night sans the drive for their only touchdown of the game.

 

The writing was always on the wall. For all the quarterback stories of this Super Bowl, Peyton Manning’s last ride and Cam Newton’s personality or likability, as well as two former number picks going up against each other the first time, it really came down to the defenses. It truly did. Both defenses played lights out. Both defenses combined for 12 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, and an interception each.

 

The specific difference was Von Miller’s 2 forced fumbles that lead to one strip sack for a touchdown and forced fumble that lead to field position in Carolina’s red zone.

 

Carolina’s turnovers were not as costly to Denver because only Kony Ealy’s forced fumble that lead to a field goal gained any points. Denver’s defense 14, Carolina’s defense 3. That’s what it really came down to. That’s an 11 point difference to a 14 point win.

 

The Denver pass rush was truly amazing and Von Miller’s 5 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 2 key forced fumbles that led to 14 points has to go down as one the greatest individual defensive efforts of the Super Bowl. He also had reinforcements from DeMarcus Ware, Malik Jackson, and Derek Wolfe in providing constant pressure and confusion to Cam Newton.

 

The constant pressure they provided throughout the course of the game made Newton quicken his decisions and releases of the ball, which caused balls to be overthrown and increased the velocity on his release, which led to a costly interception in the second half.

 

Newton did manage to move the ball by passing, particularly in the second half. Carolina’s offense did manage 21 first downs to Denver’s 11. What Carolina’s offense and the coaching staff failed recognize was that the window to throw the ball shrunk as they got into Denver territory. The combination of Denver’s established pass rush and the shrinking of throwing lanes in Denver territory caused hesitation on the part of Newton and his receivers didn’t have enough time and space to get open.

 

Where was Cam’s running plays and quarterback read option plays that he had been given freedom to call the entire season and throughout the playoffs? Denver’s ability to contain Carolina’s offensive line left Newton little room to make plays with his feet. There were times throughout the game that Newton attempted to apply the read option but it just caused confusion between him and running back Jonathan Stewart, which almost lead to fumble during one of the handoffs.

 

In all fairness Newton did all he could. He had the better game than Manning in terms of yards and first downs. He managed to get down the field throwing against the Denver secondary but aside for the 9 play 73 yard drive that lead to Panther’s only touchdown Newton was not able to run with the ball, which seemed that Denver was heel bent on containing. Denver’s pass rush and front seven made sure of that.

 

In an age where the NFL has turned into a passing league, this year’s Super Bowl winner has shown that a game managing quarterback and a formidable defense can still provide a winning formula in the Super Bowl. Defense still wins championships.