France top Euro 2016 Power Rankings, Germany second, Spain third
Euro 2016 kicks off on Friday, but who are the favourites to win it all at the Stade de France on July 10? We asked Miguel Delaney to rank the 24-team field.
1. FRANCE: A vibrant squad of staggering strength and depth, fired forward by home advantage -- but missing key experience and a top striker in Real Madrid's Karim Benzema. The wonder is whether they can evolve to go on and win it, similarly to the side that won the World Cup at home in 1998. On talent and positional balance alone, they're the best team in the competition. They just have to prove it.
2. GERMANY: Arrive as world champions, but also having largely failed to show that status in a flat qualifying campaign. The absence of a top-class goalscorer seems to reflect a lack of ruthlessness in the side. The expectation around the squad, though, is that they will do what Germany so regularly do and properly focus come crunch time.
3. SPAIN: The defending champions -- but that oddly might be one of their biggest problems. Spain still have Vicente Del Bosque at the helm and, successful as he's been, the argument is that his loyalty to experience has come at the expense of reinvigorating a team with the talent pool to win what would be a record third European Championship in a row, fourth overall.
4. BELGIUM: One of the highest-quality squads in the tournament, their biggest obstacle might be that manager Marc Wilmots rarely seems able to get the best out of that talent, choosing to sacrifice expression for tactical discipline. Will be hard to beat, but the frustration is that they should find winning easier.
5. ITALY: An Italian side with fewer elite players than any other in recent history, but with a proper star manager in Antonio Conte. His intensity, combined with what is probably the best defensive unit in the competition, could mean they surprise many.
6. ENGLAND: A strong, young starting XI with the potential to grow over the course of tournament, the wonder is whether conservative coach Roy Hodgson can find the tactical balance to get the best out of his players and finally advance beyond the quarterfinals.
7. CROATIA: A smooth qualification to the finals reflected their smooth style of play, and the general feeling is that this is the best Croatian generation since the team that reached the quarterfinals of Euro 96 and semifinals of France 98. They have a decent chance of replicating that feat, depending on whether they can beat Spain to first place in their group.
8. AUSTRIA: The young side increasingly being vaunted as the team most likely to emulate Denmark 1992 or Greece 2004 and come from outside to win the tournament. Austria is much more entertaining than both of those previous champions, and while it's possible that it's still too early for them as a group, David Alaba could lead them into the later stages of the competition.
9. PORTUGAL: The squad with the tournament's greatest player in Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal is much more difficult to define as a team. The mixture of familiar faces like veteran Ricardo Carvalho and brilliant young talents like Joao Mario marks a potential generational imbalance. It will be up to Ronaldo to cover the extra ground.
10. POLAND: Almost a lighter version of Portugal in that the team has one star that rises well above a very mixed group. Robert Lewandowski's goals should at least see them into the last 16.
11. SLOVAKIA: A decent squad whose qualifying run included a victory over Spain, they could defy expectations with talents like Marik Hamsik.
12. SWITZERLAND: Some good talent, but none of it really shaped in a competitive way, and there is little optimism about their play right now. They have not evolved since the 2014 World Cup and the main hope is that a forgiving group sparks a new confidence and cohesion.
13. CZECH REPUBLIC: Lacking the star quality of their finest displays in tournament history -- finalists in 1996 and semifinalists in 2004 -- they do have a surprising resilience that saw them top a group featuring the Netherlands and Turkey in qualifying. Their ability to dig deep will be key if they hope to advance out of a tough group featuring Spain, Croatia and Turkey.
14. WALES: Gareth Bale is yet another of that distinctive band of Euro 2016 star players charged with lifting his country to greater levels, but Wales do have some good support behind him despite their relatively modest quality. Their reliable defence gives the Real Madrid forward the perfect platform for those rapid breaks.
15. ICELAND: The story of the qualifying campaign, they became the smallest country to ever qualify after beating the Netherlands twice and defeating Turkey and the Czech Republic too. These big wins emphasise just how capable this side is of stunning.
16. TURKEY: Only got into the tournament through last-minute dramatics, but that kind of test could mark the making of a promising young team. The question is whether more experienced stars like Arda Turan will be in form to properly complete the side.
17. RUSSIA: An uninspiring and aging team is only enhanced by the tactical nous of manager Leonid Slutsky. The main hope is that his innovation, as well as the cohesion of groups of players at Zenit and CSKA Moscow, will be enough to grind their way through.
18. UKRAINE: An average outfit elevated by Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko, their match against Northern Ireland will most likely determine if one of them can win and get out of the group.
19. SWEDEN: If Swedish football coverage almost always seems to be about Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it's because their play is too. He simply dominates everything. He gives them a chance, but also puts focus on the limitations of his supporting cast.
20. REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: A limited team, but one with more competitive intensity and cohesion than most others. This quality will make them tough to beat, and has the potential to offer a much more respectable campaign than the disaster that was 2012.
21. ALBANIA: A team of few top players but unique unity, bolstered by the spirit around the side and the fact that there are so many members of the country's diaspora playing. Advancing out of a qualifying group that featured Portugal, Denmark and Serbia shows they are anything but an easy opponent.
22. NORTHERN IRELAND: A very limited group of players, but manager Michael O'Neill has crafted his team into a unit adept at limiting what their opposition do. They could really frustrate superior sides.
23. ROMANIA: Almost got into the tournament by default -- drably advancing out of a poor group. The team, largely devoid of quality, looks unlikely to do much. Similar to Switzerland, their main hope of progressing is based on the relative ease of their group play outside of an opening match against France.
24. HUNGARY: Squeezed through a weak group to even get to this point, likely making them the weakest side in the tournament. Now that they're actually here, they could be crushed by much tougher competition.
Miguel Delaney covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MiguelDelaney.