What are the main weaknesses of each of the traditional favourites for Euro 2016?

Even the best sides have a gap in their armoury

Chris Smalling, England

England's Chris Smalling, left, and Portugal's Rafa Silva challenge for the ball during the International friendly soccer match between England and Portugal at Wembley stadium in London, England, Thursday, June 2, 2016 . (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

The squads are in and now the excitement can begin in earnest.

The exciting thing about Euro 2016 is that there doesn't appear to be a real standout favourite for the competition.

And the traditional powers of European football - as well as a hugely talented Belgium side - all appear to have major or minor weaknesses within their ranks.


Their recent record when hosting tournaments makes them real candidates this summer, having won Euro 84 and World Cup '98 on home soil.

There is pace, power and technical ability in midfield while Antoine Griezmann brings star power as a wide attacker.

But defence is an area that has been beset by a host of injuries.

As France-based commentator and presenter Matt Spiro told us on Team 33, they may end up being a team that has to score a bucketloads of goals to counter-act those that they leak in as Laurent Koscielny will be partnered at centre-back by one of Adil Rami, Eliaquim Mangala or Samuel Umtiti. That is a step-down from the injured and albeit slightly out of form Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane who had emerged as a leader according to Matt.

There may be a slight concern regarding Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud leading the line instead of the exiled Karim Benzema but Matt feels that may well be over-stated.

Eliaquim Mangala soccer player of the French national team, gives a press conference in Biarritz, southwestern France, Thursday, May 19, 2016. The French team are preparing for the Euro 2016 soccer championship that will take place in France from June 10 to July 10. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)


Lest we forget, Spain are still reigning European champions, although their star power was dented by a disastrous World Cup showing in Brazil.

Plus they have had to rebuild parts of a team built-around the ball-hogging ability of the likes of the internationally retired Xavi and Xabi Alonso.

We were joined by Eduardo Alvarez to preview Spain on Team 33 and he spoke of a team that will be hard to score against because they still dominate possession.

But La Furia Roja are less frantic in front of goal and are going to France without their top scorer from qualification, Paco Alcacer.

Of the forwards in the Spain squad (Alvaro Morata, Aritz Aduriz, Nolito and Lucas Vazquez) there are eight international goals in 22 caps.

Goals might arrive from further back but it would be helpful to have a more experienced goal threat further forward.


Before the tournament, Ireland's Group E opponents lost midfielders Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti who would have been key for Antonio Conte.

Instead, the Italians may have to channel their attacks away from central midfield which would been an asset pre-injuries.

The Juventus core in the defence is strong in front of Gianluigi Buffon, but on paper this is one of the weakest Italy squads that has gone to a tournament in generations with Southampton's Graziano Pelle as the lead centre-forward and little star power across the team (star power of course not necessarily being key in a team looking to achieve things). A standout individual can often turn a game and Italy don't seem to have that figure.

Germany's Mario Gomez during a friendly soccer match between Germany and Slovakia in Augsburg, Germany, Sunday, May 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)


We may have been slightly fortunate to defeat the world champions during the qualifiers but the result showed that they can be vulnerable.

Now, of course the cliché and evidence tends to show that Germany come alive during major tournaments than in the intervening years.

But up front might well be an issue since Miroslav Klose retired with Turkey-based Mario Gomez as the only true centre-forward in the squad.

Of course, they have the ability to play a False 9 or striker-less formation instead thanks to the versatility of Mario Gotze or Thomas Muller but it can leave them restricted if they need to change a game from a losing position for example.


The current crop's individual talent is unquestionable but they have yet to really set the world alight as a collective.

The names roll off the tongue... Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois, Jan Vertonghen.

But while Ireland's other Group E opponents might underwhelm, they also have to put up with a defensive injury crisis.

Captain Vincent Kompany was ruled out long ago, while his defensive partner in the qualifiers Nicolas Lombaerts is also injured.

Of course, Marc Wilmots could reunite Tottenham centre-back pair Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld at the heart of defence.

They have been square pegs in round holes at full-back for the national team, but dragging them in-field also then leaves Belgium with inexperience at full-back where they have not had a natural player on either side despite developing this golden generation in other positions.


Roy Hodgson is taking five forwards to France which shows their firepower. But as their recent friendlies have shown, their defence appears to be a liability.

Since the end of a very easy qualifying group, they have only kept one clean sheet and the full-backs and trio of central defendrers Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and John Stones are not a patch on the era of Sol Campbell, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Jamie Carragher and Ledley King.

Like France, they may sizzle up front but could be open to poachers leaving them with eggs on their faces at the other end... too many egg references there but plenty of weaknesses for the highest profiles teams.