Europe’s top football (soccer) players are heading to France for the 15th edition of the UEFA European Championships. Held every four years since 1960, the 51 game tournament provides European bragging rights for the next four years making every game competitive and hard fought.
The month-long tournament will be played at 10 venues across the country. Play begins on June 10th and the championship game will be played at the 81,000 seat Saint-Denis Stadium near Paris on July 10th.
When the tournament began in 1960, there were eight spots in the field. It was expanded to 16 in 1996 and the 2016 tournament sees another expansion to 24 teams.
In 2012, Spain became the first team to win back-to-back titles and if they can make it three in a row they would pass Germany for the most titles in tournament history with four. As the top team in Group D, Spain will compete with the Czech Republic, Croatia and Turkey for two guaranteed spots in the knockout round. Spain is currently ranked 5th in the World Football Elo rankings.
According to Titanbet.co.uk, the hosts from France are the tournament favorites, with Germany close behind and Spain third. The longest odds belong to Albania and Northern Ireland. Both of those teams are making their first-ever appearance in the tournament, as are Iceland, Slovakia and Wales.
Germany is making their record 12th appearance in the tournament and will be looking to claim the championship for the first time in 20 years. As the defending World Cup Champions, Germany was number one in the Elo rankings before being recently overtaken by Argentina, who of course is not competing in this tournament.
They open the tournament against Ukraine and will also face Poland and Northern Oreland in Group C.
France is ranked 7th in the Elo ratings, but evidently the betting experts believe their role as the Euro 2016 hosts will give them an advantage and makes them the tourney favorite.
The hosts open the tournament against Romania and also face Albania and Switzerland in Group A.
England is the other Elo top 10 team in the tournament as they are currently ranked 8th. Interestingly, the Netherlands are currently 10th in the Elo rankings, but did not earn a spot in the tournament.
Belgium, ranked 12th, Italy (15th), Ukraine (16) and Croatia (18) are also ranked among the Elo top 20.
With eight Elo top 20 teams in the tournament and lots of natural rivals, Euro 2016 promises to provide a month full of riveting action and dramatic performances.