As kind as the Euro 2016 draw has been for hosts France, they seem to be intent of making things as difficult as possible for themselves as they lurch from crisis to crisis in the build-up to the tournament.

Manager Didier Deschamps will be without the services of his best striker in Karim Benzema, who has been frozen out from the French set-up while an investigation into his alleged part in a conspiracy to blackmail international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.

The French Football Federation said that the Real Madrid striker was not available for selection, leaving Deschamps light up front and perhaps relying on an out-of-sorts Olivier Giroud.

There are also issues in defence where Liverpool’s centre-back Mamadou Sakho misses out on slection, despite have served a ban for a doping issue. Raphael Varane is absent with a thigh injury.

It’s not all bad news for the French manager, however, as he will be able to call on a young crop of players that have been making big waves in European football. Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial have all impressed for their clubs this season and will all be eager to make a big mark on the international stage.

Qualifying for the tournament automatically as hosts, Deschamps men have been untested over the last couple of years but there’s something about the French in their own back garden. Having won the 1998 World Cup and Euro '84 on home soil, they’ll at least be targetting a semi-final place here and given such a soft group draw, will be able to build up plenty of momentum before the knock-out stages.

Manager - Didier Deschamps

Key player: Paul Pogba

The Juventus midfielder is one of the most coveted players in football and it’s easy to see why.

Still only 22, Pogba is utilised as a classic box-to-box midfielder by Deschamps but with a wonderful touch, great range of passing and a real eye for goal, he offers the French so much more.

10 June France v Romania, Stade de France, 8pm
15 June France v Albania, Stade Vélodrome, 8pm
19 June Switzerland v France, Stade Pierre-Mauroy, 8pm


Romania aren’t going to win any prizes for their attacking football but manager Anghel Iordanescu knows just how to set his team up to frustrate opponents and they showed as they eased through qualification.

Iordanescu’s side had the meanest defence in qualifying for the tournament, finishing second to Northern Ireland in Group F without losing a match and conceding just two goals on the way to France. However, the flip side of their defensive prowess is the fact that they drew five of their ten qualifying games in what was a very weak group, scoring just eleven times.

A classic counter-attacking side, Iordanescu’s men like to get numbers behind the ball and attempt to hit the opposition with pace on the break through to the likes of winger Bogdan Stancu and young Steaua Bucarest midfielder Nicolae Stanciu.

Meanwhile, striker Claudiu Keseru can operate as a target-man with his strength and ability to hold up the ball when the game needs to go long.

Facing France in the opening game of the tournament, Romania will set themselves up to be compact and get numbers behind the ball in order to limit the hosts’ opportunities.

As a recent scoreless draw in an international friendly with Spain proved, Iordanescu’s tactics may not be pretty but they are effective and if Romania can take a point from France, they’ll back themselves to beat Albania and get out of the group.

Manager - Anghel Iordanescu

Key player: Vlad Chiriches

The former Tottenham defender is now plying his trade in Italy with Napoli and is an integral part of Romania’s mean defence.

Iordanescu has stood by Chiriches through some lean periods and is now reaping the rewards as the defender seems to be rediscovering his form at the right time.

10 June France v Romania, Stade de France, 8pm
15 June Romania v Switzerland, Parc des Princes, 5pm
19 June Romania v Albania, Parc Olympique Lyonnais, 8pm


Appearing at their first ever major senior tournament, qualifying for Euro 2016 is the biggest achievement in the country’s soccer history.

Remembered most in qualifying for the ugly scenes that marred their game away to Serbia after a drone carried a pro-Albanian flag flew low over the stadium, Albania slipped under the radar in booking their place in France this summer.

While many will be happy to dismiss Gianni de Biasi’s side as Group A’s whipping boys, the Albanians caused plenty of upsets in their qualifying group, including a stunning 1-0 victory away to Portugal and two draws with Denmark, before they qualified automatically for this summer’s tournament with a second-place finish.

Much like Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland side, de Biasi has cast the net wide to recruit players of Albanian heritage with many members of his squad being born in Germany or Switzerland.

Indeed when Albania take on the Swiss in France it appears that, barring injuries, brothers Granit and Taulant Xhaka will go head-to-head as Taulant opted to play for Albania after representing Switerland at underage level.

De Biasi has taken his limited resources and created a well-drilled team that can frustrate teams when they play deep but one that often struggles to create clear-cut chances. Defensively solid thanks to the likes of former Sunderland’s Lorik Cana and rising Napoli star Elseid Hysaj, it’s at the other end of the pitch that their biggest problems lie and with no obvious solutions.

Manager - Gianni de Biasi

Key player: Etrit Berisha 

Born in Kosovo, Lazio goalkeeper Berisha earned his first international cap under de Biasi in 2012 and has been a mainstay of the Albanian side ever since.

Solid and dependable and with a decent command of his penalty area Berisha featured in every game of Albanian’s qualifying campaign and looks certain to be the number one in France.

11 June Albania v Switzerland, Stade Bollaert-Delelis, 2pm
15 June France v Albania, Stade Vélodrome, 8pm
19 June Romania v Albania, Parc Olympique Lyonnais, 8pm


Qualifying comfortably for Euro 2016 in second place behind England in Group E, another second-place finish for Switzerland would do nicely in France but it does look to be the extent of their abilities this summer.

Beaten twice by England and once by Slovenia in qualifying, the Swiss also suffered a recent friendly defeat to Martin O’Neill’s Ireland side in Dublin and their current FIFA ranking of 12th in the world appears to be very generous.

Manager Vladimir Petkovic has a decent squad from which to draw on, including several experienced campaigners such as Gokhan Inler, Valon Behrami and Stephan Lichtsteiner but the Swiss lack a real cutting edge up front and the recent knee injury to Hamburg striker Josep Drmic will not help their chances. Drmic has been ruled out of this summer’s competition in what is a big blow to both the player and his country.

Bayer Leverkusen’s Admir Mehmedi leads the line for the Swiss more often than not, but his return of just three goals in 40 appearances tells its own tale, particularly when you consider that he’s playing in front of genuine creative players such as Xhaka and Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri, who was their top goalscorer in qualification with four.

Switzerland have never progressed past the group stage at the European Championships and have finished bottom of their group in all three previous appearances. While that’s unlikely this time around thanks to a very kind draw, they will be the team that Albania and Romania target to beat to second place.

Manager - Vladimir Petkovic

Key player: Xherdan Shaqiri

It’s still slightly surprising when you see former Inter Milan and Bayern Munich ace Shaqiri turn out for the unfashionable Stoke City and there’s no doubt that’s he’s the main creative and attacking force in this Switzerland team.

At just 5’ 7” and of a slight build, Shaqiri will be a target for every side the Swiss come up against, but when you consider that he can do it on a wet Wednesday night in Stoke, he should be able to shine in France.

11 June Albania v Switzerland, Stade Bollaert-Delelis, 2pm
15 June Romania v Switzerland, Parc des Princes, 5pm
19 June Switzerland v France, Stade Pierre-Mauroy, 8pm