The 2016 European Championships are just around the corner, and Tottenham Hotspur are well represented. With eleven players in the competition, Tottenham have the second highest number of players of any club in Europe, behind Liverpool and Juventus, which both have 12. That's a pretty impressive feat!
Thankfully for all of our sanities, eight of those 11 players are concentrated onto two national teams: England (five players) and Belgium (three players). That gives you an idea of who you should focus your attention on, all other things being equal.
Let's take a look at those teams, and be sure to also check out SB Nation's thorough Euro preview.
When you (lie back and) think of England, exciting, dynamic, and young aren't usually the first words to come to mind, but that's more or less what you've got with Roy Hodgson's current squad. Roy is taking a very young and talented team to France, players like Spurs' Dele Alli, Harry Kane, and Eric Dier, Everton's John Stones, and also 18-year old Marcus Rashford. All of them are young, hungry, and eager to make an impact.
And then there's Wayne Rooney, who is seemingly the opposite of all those things. England's fortunes in the Euros may come down to what Roy ultimately does with Rooney, and whether or not he can successfully pound his (increasingly larger) square peg into a round hole. This may be Rooney's last rodeo, so there's some poetry to giving him one last chance to go out on a high, but England may go as far as its youth movement takes them in this tournament.
As far as the Tottenham contingent, Kane and Alli appear to be locks for the starting 11, and Eric Dier has endeared himself to Hodgson lately as well. We'll probably see a Spurs fullback as well, though darned if I know which one.
Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Harry Kane, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker
Matches (Group B):
- vs. Russia - Saturday, June 11, 8:00 p.m. (UK), 3:00 p.m. (ET)
- vs. Wales - Thursday, June 16 - 2:00 p.m. (UK), 9:00 a.m. (ET)
- vs. Slovakia - Monday, June 20 - 8:00 p.m. (UK), 3:00 p.m. (ET)
Belgium is a team long on talent and in the midst of a Golden Generation, but they're mysteriously short in a couple of key areas, specifically fullbacks. That makes Marc Wilmots' Red Devils suspiciously frail, especially on defense. It's compounded by injuries to Belgium's preferred center backs Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Lombaerts.
A rational manager might see that, give starts to Tottenham CB tandem Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen and give some experience to Belgium's young fullbacks like Jordan Lukaku. Alas, that doesn't seem to be the case; look for Toby and Jan to continue where they are regularly featured: out wide as wing-backs.
Even with some defensive concerns, players like Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, and Thibaut Courtois, Belgium once again look like a team that could (emphasize: could) contend for the Euro title. But we thought that at the World Cup, too. Now they just have to finally live up to that hype.
Toby Alderweireld, Mousa Dembele, Jan Vertonghen
Matches (Group E):
- vs. Italy - Monday, June 13, 8:00 p.m. (UK), 3:00 p.m. (ET)
- vs. Ireland - Saturday, June 18, 2:00 p.m. (UK), 9:00 a.m. (ET)
- vs. Sweden - Wednesday, June 22, 8:00 p.m. (UK, 3:00 p.m. (ET)
Six years ago, France were in shambles, but rose like a phoenix (or like the chicken on their crest) in the last World Cup. Now two years later they enter the Euros as the presumptive favorites. Boasting a team that could feature Paul Pogba, Dmitri Payet, and N'Golo Kante in midfield, plus Olivier Giroud and Anthony Martial up top, they look hella exciting. Their defense doesn't look too shabby either, so Tottenham and France captain Hugo Lloris should have plenty of confidence that he won't have to carry this team on his back. But if he does need to make a good save, he's capable of it.
France should be hella fun to watch in this tournament, and you should definitely do so.
Matches (Group A):
- vs. Romania - Friday, June 10, 8:00 p.m. (UK), 3:00 p.m. (ET)
- vs. Albania - Wednesday, June 15, 8:00 p.m. (UK), 3:00 p.m. (ET)
- vs. Switzerland - Sunday, June 19, 8:00 p.m. (UK), 3:00 p.m. (ET)
Austria probably won't make a whole lot of noise at this Euro Championships, but that's probably ok. Bayern Munich's David Alaba is excellent and linked to Real Madrid, and Austria are a perfectly decent international side, but beyond Alaba Austria "boast" the services of Stoke's Marko Arnautovic, and Leicester fullback Christian Fuchs, perfectly decent players, but not a lot to get excited about. Tottenham's Kevin Wimmer had a very good stint at Tottenham this season filling in for the injured Jan Vertonghen, but there's a chance he might not even start at CB for Austria, if the manager prefers Alexander Dragovich and Sebastian Prodl.
Matches (Group F):
- vs. Hungary - Tuesday, June 14, 5:00 p.m. (UK), 12:00 p.m. (ET)
- vs. Portugal - Saturday, June 18, 8:00 p.m. (UK), 3:00 p.m. (ET)
- vs. Iceland - Wednesday, June 22, 5:00 p.m (UK), 12:00 p.m. (ET)
Wales may just actually be a good side this time around, which feels like a weird thing to say considering that it's Wales. But this year's team is boasting players such as Aaron Ramsey, Ashley Williams, Joe Allen, and Hal Robson-Kanu. Oh, there's also Gareth Bale. You might have heard of him.
Wales are in a tough group that includes England, Russia, and Slovakia. But more specifically it's a tough group because it includes Wales. Which still feels weird. While Bale is the central focus of the team, there's enough talent around him that the Welsh could make some noise in the group stages, and progression is emphatically not a pipe dream.
On the Tottenham front, Ben Davies should be a lock in the Welsh back line. Though he's a left back for Spurs and will probably play there for Wales too, he's also deputized in the center of defense in the past
Matches (Group B):
- vs. Slovakia - Saturday, June 11, 5:00 p.m. (UK), 12:00 p.m. (ET)
- vs. England - Thursday, June 16, 2:00 p.m. (UK), 9:00 a.m. (ET)
- vs. Russia - Monday, June 20, 8:00 p.m. (UK), 3:00 p.m. (ET)
Other teams of interest to Tottenham fans
Croatia (Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar, Mateo Kovacic)
It wasn't that long ago that Spurs had a whole contingent of Croats. Ahh, the heady days when Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar roamed the White Hart Lane pitch and Harry Redknapp talked through car windows. Our Bro-atian contingent has moved on, but you can relive the glory days of FRAAB by watching Croatia play. Besides the former players, Mateo Kovacic has been nominally linked with a Tottenham move this summer.
Iceland (Gylfi Sigurðsson, Eidur Gudjohnsson)
If there's a feel-good story in this competition (besides Wales) it's probably Iceland, who qualified for this tournament, their first major international competition finals EVER. Gylfi is still a beloved figure with many Spurs fans despite playing for Swansea now, and some will remember the now 37 year old Gudjohnsson, who spent a season on loan at Tottenham back in 2010.
Ireland (Robbie Keane)
Good ol' Robbie. Now with LA Galaxy, Robbo is still kicking around for his childhood club, Ireland. He's been one of the best players on a mediocre Ireland team for a long time, but his career is starting to wind down. Now 35 years old, this is probably Keane's last major tournament. Too bad Ireland still isn't very good.
Romania (Vlad Chiriches)
And lastly, who could forget hot-dog loving BatVlad? He's here, captaining his beloved Romanian side. Vlad has settled nicely at Napoli this season after being sold this past summer, and while he's still (reportedly) the Vlad we all knew and
loved loathed loved, he's the leader of the Romanian defense, and he STILL looks like he plays with a lampshade on his head.