The UEFA Euro 2016 tournament promises to be intense and full of spectacular soccer. The qualifications group stage is over and the play-offs are approaching to decide the last teams that are going to join the race for Europe’s best national soccer team. The play-offs will be held this year between 12-17 November.
France is the first qualified team. Being the hosts of Euro 2016 they are automatically qualified for the event.
Group A has three qualifying teams that will go directly to the prestigious tournament. The Czech Republic ranked first place by 22 points, a place well deserved after their performance in the group. The second place is occupied by Iceland with 20 points; they have the best goal difference of the group with an amazing +11, deserving the spot they occupy. Last but not least, we have Turkey coming out of the group stage directly in the tournament even though they ranked third. They assured their spot by being the best ranked third place team. They could have lost this advantage to Hungary, but the odds were in their favor as they won in the last match against Iceland while at the same time Kazakhstan defeated Latvia; these events helped and gave Turkey a bump by 7 points, allowing them to end the group stage 1 point ahead of their main rivals, Hungary. The big surprise of this group was Netherlands, a team all soccer fans were used to see in the tournament. They came in fourth and stopped a long line of qualifications.
Group B has Belgium as the winner by 23 points; no surprise there. They have an immense goal difference of +23. It was an easy group for them. Second came Wales in the direct qualification with 21 points. If you were to look at the difference in points between the two qualifiers, it would seem like any of them could have taken first place; but Belgium played soccer at a level that surpassed their opponents in the group.
In group C things went as expected. Spain ranked first by 27 points, far beyond the reach of their opponents. No surprise here, we all know that Spain is one of the best soccer teams in the world; the soccer they play makes fans watch amazed like they are three year old babies watching their favorite cartoon. Slovakia was the other qualifier, ranking second with 22 points, 5 points behind the group leader.
Even though group D has the first ranked team everyone expected, Germany, they didn’t have an easy road to earn the spot. The second place team in this group, Poland, was 1 point behind them at the end and they had a better goal difference than Germany, leading by +23 goals, while the Germans have only +15. Things turned out like the betting houses predicted at the end, but no one thought Germany would have such a small point difference and that they would have a small goal difference.
Group E has the biggest point difference between the leader and the second ranked of all the groups. This is due to the fact that the other were easy opponents for England, the first ranked team, no team being able to defeat them or at least make a tie. They won the group with a perfect score of 30 points and a goal difference of +28. The second placed team from this group is Switzerland by 21 points and a goal difference of +16.
Group F had the winner that was expected of it, Northern Ireland. They finished the group phase with 21 points, being followed close behind in the second place by Romania with 20 points. At the beginning of the group stage betting houses gave the second place a fifty-fifty chance of being occupied either by Romania or Hungary; a long lasting rivalry is between these two soccer teams, but Romania conquered this time.
In group G, Austria finished as leader with 28 points and a goal difference of +17. While the outcome isn’t really surprising, this group was tough and they didn’t win easily. Second in this group came Russia, earning 20 points and assuring themselves that they will fight in the Euro’s.
Although group H didn’t have any surprises in store for us when it came to the rankings, some other interesting things happened here. Italy won the group with 24 points by playing in their typical defensive style, having a small goal difference of +9. The second place holder in this group, Croatia, finished with 20 points and a goal difference of +15. The unpleasant surprise of this group was the fact that the second ranked team was deducted a point after their racist behavior when they played against Italy and for the next two home matches in UEFA they will play without supporters.
The last group, group I, had an expected outcome as well. Portugal won the group by 21 points and a goal difference of only +6; this is surprising because they have in their component one of the best soccer players in the world, Christiano Ronaldo. The second ranked team in this group was a bit of a surprise, everyone expecting Denmark to finish second; that didn’t happen and Albania won the second place. Of course, they had a little help from the Serbian team, the Albanian team being awarded a 3-0 win after Serbia abandoned the home match against them.
The teams that were ranked number three in their group, except for Turkey, qualified for the pay-offs. The matches in the play-offs will determine the last 4 teams to make it in the Euro 2016. We will rank the qualified teams by the number of points they gathered in the group stage. First we have Hungary from group F with 15 points. Second is Ukraine at a tie in points with the third ranked team, Norway, the difference between the two being that Ukraine had a better goal difference. Denmark, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland ranked in this order on the fourth, fifth and sixth place with a tie of 12 points, the difference being made here by the goal differences as well. Seventh on this list is Bosnia and Herzegovina with 11 points, and finally eight is Slovenia with 10 points. The draw for the play-offs is scheduled for 18 October 2015.
Even if the play-offs haven’t been played yet, the predictions can be made for which team will win the Euro 2016. Even if there are some out there that might disagree, the teams that are in the play-offs are not serious competitors for the title, the odds not being in their favor at all. Most probably the Euro 2016 will be won either by Spain or Germany; they have the best soccer teams and strategies of all the national soccer teams, making them betting house favorites everywhere. That doesn’t mean that surprises can’t happen and who knows, maybe this edition because they are hosts, France could win again the title after 16 years; or any of the other teams for that matter. Little time is left and whoever wins the title is certainly going to deserve it and earn it by playing the best soccer Europe has seen.