As Euro 2016 gets underway in France for a month of nail-biting games and ultimately, disappointment for 23 countries, Ben Barlow of Wrexham pop punks Neck Deep looks at the ones to watch and why you shouldn’t write off Wales just yet…
THIS WILL BE WALES’ FIRST MAJOR COMPETITION IN OVER FOUR DECADES
“This is such a big deal. We’re proud of our rugby, but football’s always been huge in Wales. Lots of great footballers have come from Wales, from Mark Hughes to Ryan Giggs. Lots of pride there. Now we’ve got Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen, Ashley Williams. I think we’ve got a good chance. I feel Bale could qualify as two or three players; he’s the most expensive player ever and think he’s really learned to cope with that pressure at Real Madrid. He’s got a lot on his shoulders, but I really think we’re ones to watch. We’re the potential dark horses of the competition. We could do really well.”
FRANCE’S PAUL POGBA WILL DOMINATE THE COMPETITION
“Paul Pogba will be the talk of the Euros. I watched the France–Romania game and even though Pogba didn’t score, I think that’ll spur him on to do well in the other games. His value at the end of the competition is going to go through the roof. After this, if Dimitri Payet doesn’t stay at West Ham, he’s going to go to Barcelona or Real Madrid.”
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE SMALLER TEAMS
“Just look at the teams who have some solid Premiership players. Serbia have Nemanja Matic, who plays for Chelsea. Obviously, I’d say Wales are the underdogs but Greece could win again. They’ve always had solid defences. Turkey, too. They’ve got a lot of good young players coming through at the minute, they’ve got Harun Tekin and Hakan Calhanoglu. They could be ones to watch as well.”
ENGLAND COULD DO WELL THIS TIME
“For once, England have chosen a good squad: Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford. It’s really solid but they could have done with a couple more experienced players. There’s a lot of young, quick creative players. I think they could get to the quarter finals or the semi finals. But I think if Wales beat England, that would be enough. But we’ll be really stoked if we get past the group stages.”
SO WHO’LL BE IN THE FINAL?
“I think France will to get to the final. I’d love to say England too, but I think it’ll be France-Germany in the end. I’d even put money on that.”
To keep up to date with all the latest Euro 2016 scores and fixtures, visit the official site. Alternatively, go to your local pub.