UEFA Euro 2016 Power Rankings

PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 29: N'Golo Kante of France (
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 29: N'Golo Kante of France ( /

Euro 2016 gets under way Friday. France are favorites at home, but how do the other 23 teams stack up?

24. Albania

Albania qualified for the tournament on a technicality after being awarded victory in an abandoned game against Serbia. Without those three points, they would have finished behind Denmark in their group, and faced a two-legged playoff.

23. Hungary

When people complain about the new 24-team format because it allows weak teams into the tournament, they are talking about teams like Hungary. In a group with Portugal, Austria and Iceland, their days in this competition are surely numbered.

22. Romania

Romania were undefeated in qualifying and conceded only two goals, fewer than any other team. They also scored only 11 goals, the joint fewest per game among qualifying teams. Being in a group with Switzerland and France doesn’t help their chances either.

21. Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland were impressive on the way to winning their qualifying group, but then the second and and third place teams in that group were Romania and Hungary, so maybe Northern Ireland weren’t that impressive on the way to winning their qualifying group.

20. Republic of Ireland

This will be Ireland’s second consecutive Euros after failing to qualify for a singly major tournament between the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2012. They will be looking to improve on their performance in the latter, where they lost all three of their games by a combined score of 9-1.

19. Sweden

Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be the only thing Sweden really have going for them right now. The forward scored three goals in his side’s 4-3 aggregate playoff victory against Denmark, but, in a group containing Italy and Belgium, a 34-year-old Zlatan may not be enough.

18. Wales

Wales got through qualifying with relative comfort, but their 11 goals in 10 games reflects an attack that relies too heavily on Gareth Bale. Bale is superb, and he finished the season in fine form with Real Madrid, but their ranking here suffers thanks to a tough group containing England, Russia and Slovakia.

17. Turkey

Turkey squeaked into the tournament as the best third-place team in qualifying. That they finished third behind Iceland and the Czech Republic does not bode well, but Arda Turan, Hakan Calhanoglu and Nuri Sahin can all be difference makers.

16. Switzerland

It’s hard to know what to make of Switzerland’s qualifying campaign. They scored the same number of goals as Germany and Belgium, but 11 of them were against San Marino, who have won only one game in their entire history.

15. Czech Republic

The Czech Republic finished two points ahead of Iceland in qualifying, but they are one spot behind them here. Petr Cech remains one of the world’s best keeper’s, but 14 goals in 10 qualifying games suggests a defense that will struggle in a group with Spain, Croatia and Turkey.

14. Iceland

Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson and 37-year-old Eidur Gudjohnsen are the only big(ish) names, but the excitement of being the smallest nation ever to qualify for a major tournament could spur this defensively well-organized team to an upset.

13. Ukraine

If results elsewhere are kind to them, Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko have enough talent between them to propel this Ukraine team to the quarterfinals. But they will have their work cut out for them against Germany and Poland in the group stages.

12. Slovakia

Slovakia have missed two major tournaments in a row, but this is an experienced unit with a potential star in Marek Hamsik. If they can get off to a good start against Wales, they could be in for a fun tournament.

11. Russia

Alan Djagoev picked up an injury in the build up to the tournament, which means there will be extra pressure on Artem Dzyuba, who scored eight goals in qualifying, but this Russian side has no obvious weaknesses and plenty of experience.

10. Poland

This ranking might be a little harsh on Poland, who finished only one point behind Germany in qualifying and boast probably the best striker in the tournament in Robert Lewandowski. The 33 goals they scored in qualifying was more than any other team.

9. Portugal

One of the reasons Poland drop to 10th is Portugal. This is, as we all know, a one man team. But that man is Cristiano Ronaldo, and this may be his last chance to really impress during a major international tournament. Expect him to go down swinging.

8. Austria

Austria were probably the biggest surprise of the qualifying process. They were unbeaten in 10 games and their total of 28 points was bettered only by England’s 30. Their group wasn’t the strongest — Russia and Sweden were second and third — but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic heading into the tournament.

The two biggest reasons are Bayern Munich’s David Alaba and Stoke’s Marko Arnautovic. Alaba started his career with Bayern as a left back, but has transformed into an all-action midfield presence for his country (and occasionally his club). Arnautovic, meanwhile, enjoyed a breakout season in the Premier League, scoring 11 goals and adding 6 assists in 34 games

7. Croatia

This Croatia team is not lacking in talent. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic are two of the best all-around midfielders in the world, Mateo Kovacic showed flashes of his considerable talent for Real Madrid this season and Mario Mandzukic is a constant threat up front. Add in the experience of Darjio Srna and Vedran Corluka at the back, and this team could be set for a deep run.

They are certainly not a serious favorite, but with the right draw, and a bit of luck, there is enough ability in this squad to make a run to the semifinals. In a group with the Czech Republic, Spain and Turkey, the game against the Czech Republic could be crucial.

6. Italy

This is certainly not one of the great Italy teams. No team containing Gigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Daniele de Rossi will be easy to beat, but there is lack of real attacking talent. Graziano Pelle, Ciro Immobile and Stephan El Shaarawy are talented enough, but it’s not exactly Del Piero, Inzaghi and Vieri. It’s not even an in form Balotelli.

Italy are in a group with Belgium, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland. Only Belgium are more talented (though much less experienced), but none of those games will be easy. Never bet against the Italians (or their manager, Antonio Conte), but if they are able to replicate their run to the final in 2012, it will go down as a big surprise.

5. England

The good news is this side is blessed with genuine attacking talent. In Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge, they have arguably the deepest strike force in the competition. Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli, Ross Barkely and (love him or hate him) Wayne Rooney are not a bad supporting cast either. The bad news is there is a real lack of defensive coherence.

England won all 10 of their games in qualifying, which for a lot of other countries might count for more here. But England have a habit of impressing in qualifying and then failing to show up when it actually matters. If they can top their group, a semifinal run is a real possibility, but then you’ve heard that before, haven’t you?

4. Belgium

Belgium are currently the best team in the world according to FIFA’s official rankings. That probably tells you more about how bad FIFA’s rankings are than anything else, but this is a very, very talented team.

Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Mousa Dembele, Romelu Lukaku… the list of brilliant attackers goes on. The problem, much as it was in the World Cup two years ago, is at the back, where Marc Wilmots usually plays four center backs in a back four. With Vincent Kompany and Nicholas Lombaerts out of the tournament with injury, that strategy will look even less convincing. Still, if the attack clicks, this team will take some stopping.

3. Spain

Spain had a disastrous 2014 World Cup, losing its first two games by a combined score of 7-1. That was a shocking way for the most dominant international team of all time — winner of three consecutive major tournaments — to go out, and it robbed this team of its former invincibility.

Even so, Spain still boast the biggest collection of world class central midfielders of any team in the world, and in Alvaro Morata, they could have the forward target they have been missing. It is hard to know how this team will react to that World Cup humiliation, but make no mistake, they have more than enough talent to win this.

2. Germany

It has not been smooth sailing for Germany since winning the World Cup in 2014. They lost to Poland and the Republic of Ireland in qualifying, as well as in a couple of recent friendlies to England and Slovakia. They also lack genuine quality in the fullback positions now that Philip Lahm has retired.

But, much like Spain, this side is simply too talented to count out. Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira form a fearsome midfield, while Thomas Muller’s goalscoring pedigree in major tournaments is unmatched. In an easy-looking group with Northern Ireland, Poland and Ukraine, the Germans should be able to build up a head of steam heading into the knockout rounds.

1. France

Paul Pogba might be the most entertaining player in the tournament, Blaise Matuidi is a tireless presence in midfield, and manager Didier Deschamps has the luxury of choosing between N’Golo Kante, Yohan Cabaye and Morgan Scheiderlin to join the center of the pitch. Dimitri Payet, Antoine Grizemann and Olivier Giroud, meanwhile, should pose enough of a goalscoring threat to make up for the absence of Karim Benzema.

As well as one of the most talented squads in the tournament, France have home field advantage. The last time that was true, they won the World Cup. While the current squad isn’t as talented as the 1998 team, there is plenty to like. The only real question is whether the lack of competitive games since 2014 will affect them.