5 Minute Guide to UEFA Euro 2016

June 9, 2016

With the Summer of Soccer already underway in the Americas (Copa América Centenario began last Friday), the rest of the world will play catch up starting tomorrow evening (European time) when the UEFA European Cup kicks off in Saint-Denis.

Starting Saturday, there will be meaningful soccer being played essentially all day for the next week. For fans of the beautiful game, there isn’t much more one could ask for.

Despite the largest field in tournament history (the tournament has expanded from 16 to 24 teams), Around The Corn is going to offer an abbreviated preview for the biggest tournament in Europe save the World Cup.

Call this one a five minute guide to the European Cup. Don’t rush yourself, though.

The Big Shots (Best Chance to Raise The Cup)


The top European country in the FIFA rankings, Belgium’s best players are entering their prime. This Euro Cup and the next World Cup will be two tournaments that the country of just over 11 million will head into feeling confident about.


The defending World Cup champs haven’t lost much of their swagger from two years ago. The champion of this tournament will be a force barring some sort of monumental meltdown in the Group Stage. If another nation is to win this tournament, it’s a decent bet that it will have to take out Germany first.


After a disappointing World Cup performance in 2014, La Furia Roja is back to make amends in France. Defensively Spain has looked the part over the past 12 months, but it remains to be seen how the squad respond in meaningful competition.

The Underdogs

Republic of Ireland

The UK is well represented in this tournament (England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales), but none in the kingdom are ranked lower in the FIFA Rankings than the Irish. Don’t underestimate this team, though. They are scrappy and will be fun to watch, even if only for three games.


Making its first appearance ever in the European Championship, Albania isn’t just green as a country. One of the younger teams in the tournament, only four players on the 23-man roster are over 30 years old.


Iceland is the birthplace of Björk, and the pop singer is one of the few things that the small Nordic country is known for producing. The soccer team will look to become another surprising revelation this summer, but it won’t be easy.

Games to Watch

England vs. Wales (June 16, 3 PM @ Lens)

Imagine that Ohio and Michigan represented themselves separately in sporting events on the world stage. That’s essentially what happens for England and Wales in soccer, so expect more than just a little bit of intensity in this Group Stage match. Playing the role of big brother to the other countries in the UK, England will be under a lot of pressure to avoid an embarrassing result against the Welsh.

Germany vs. Poland (June 16, 10 PM @ Saint-Denis)

Poland is far from a one man show, but it will be interesting to see how Robert Lewandowski is dealt with by many of his teammates on Bayern Munich. The striker has helped out Germany’s most popular club team tremendously over the past two domestic seasons, but he’d likely be just fine putting a few balls past his buddy Manuel Neuer.

Italy vs. Sweden (June 17, 3 PM @ Toulouse)

Both of these countries are known to be wild cards in meaningful tournaments, which is what makes this one so interesting. A crucial game in the Group of Death, losing could be extremely detrimental to the chances of moving on to the Knockout Round. Add in the fact that Italian manager Antonio Conte is taking over Chelsea after this tournament, and you have to wonder about the focus of the Azzurri.

Players to Watch

Paul Pogba, France midfielder

The future of the French national team is the 23-year old Pogba. As important as he is for France’s chances to move on, it may be just as important for him to confirm to the home crowd that their squad is in good hands for years to come.

Eden Hazard, Belgium forward

The Chelsea forward is difficult enough to stop thanks to his speed and ball control, but what will make him so dangerous in this tournament is the players around him who will provide him plenty of chances to show off his skills.

Aleksandr Golovin, Russia midfielder

Nicknamed “the Russian Ronaldo”, Golovin is young (20) and fresh on the senior international scene. Unlike CR7, Golovin will be partially responsible for getting his country through a difficult Group Stage, which includes games against group favorite England and a clash with former USSR member Slovakia.

Knockout Round Participants

Group A

France (Winner), Switzerland (Runner-up), Romania

Group B

England (Winner), Russia (Runner-up)

Group C

Germany (Winner), Poland (Runner-up), Ukraine

Group D

Spain (Winner), Croatia (Runner-up), Czech Republic

Group E

Belgium (Winner), Sweden (Runner-up), Italy

Group F

Portugal (Winner), Austria (Runner-up)

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