The European Championships commence in France on Saturday with some of the world’s biggest stars preparing to fight for Europe’s greatest prize.
Germany will be aiming to take out their second consecutive international tournament after their 2014 World Cup success, while a rejuvenated Spanish side are eager to erase memories of their first round exit in 2014.
Manchester United’s potential signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic will have one more chance to prove himself on the international stage with his native Sweden.
England’s manager Roy Hodgson embarks on the difficult mission of bringing home some silverware after much heartbreak at the Euros.
Stars who should make an impact
Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal
Portugal are expected to sail through their group which consists of Austria, Iceland and Hungary. With the 31-year-old Real Madrid winger in full-flight, Portugal should progress to the later stages of the Championships. No individual player is as crucial to a team as Ronaldo is to Portugal.
Robert Lewandowski – Poland
The Polish talisman scored 30 goals for German side Bayern Munich in the 2015-16 season. Lewandowski has scored 34 goals for his national side and he’s one of the favourites to take out the Golden Boot.
Mats Hummels – Germany
Since making his international debut while at Borussia Dortmund, Hummels has proved he can not only prevent goals, he can score them too. Hummels will link up with fellow centre-back Jerome Boateng for one of the most formidable defensive pairings in the game.
Antoine Griezmann – France
For the second consecutive season, Antoine Griezmann notched up 22 goals in the Spanish Primera Division with Atletico Madrid where he made an appearance in the 2016 Champions League Final. At the Euros, Griezmann has the opportunity to become a senior member of the French squad.
Group A – France, Romania, Albania, Switzerland
The host nation is one of the favourites to take out the tournament. With influential goalkeeper Hugo Lloris between the sticks, Paul Pogba controlling the midfield and Antoine Griezmann leading the attack there’s no reason why French fans shouldn’t be feeling confident. In the 2014 World Cup, France thumped Switzerland 5-2, while Albania and Romania are expected to be disposed of easily. Game to watch: Albania v Switzerland
Likely winners: France
Group B – England, Wales, Russia, Slovakia
Fresh faces have been added to the English squad following the retirement of legends Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and John Terry in recent years. England’s squad has the youngest average age of the 24 teams with 25.4 and could break the trend of early Euro exits. Game to watch: England v Wales
Likely winners: England
Group C – Germany, Northern Ireland, Poland, Ukraine
Germany are highly favoured to match Spain’s feat of winning the European Championships two years after taking out the World Cup, and have most of their trophy-winning side left. But veterans Phillip Lahm and Miroslav Klose retired at the end of the World Cup so the new generation will get a chance to impress. Game to watch: Germany v Poland
Likely winners: Germany
Group D – Spain, Croatia, Czech Republic, Turkey
Spain are taking a new-look squad to Euro 2016 in their bid to win a third consecutive European Championship. While the side is expected to take out this group, its youth and inexperience in both attack and defence could cost them when the competition reaches its latter stages. Game to watch: Croatia v Turkey
Likely winners: Spain
Group E – Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Republic of Ireland
With the talent of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, Belgium may have the edge to take out the top spot in this tight group. They have yet to win any major international trophies but this competition may be a turning point for the Red Devils. Game to watch: Italy v Sweden
Likely winners: Belgium
Group F – Austria, Iceland, Portugal, Hungary
Days before the championships kick off, Portugal signaled their intent with a 7-0 thrashing of Estonia. If Ronaldo, Nani and Quaresma are on their game, Portugal can coast through the group against minnows like the unfavoured Hungary and Iceland, whose team represents an alarmingly high proportion of the country’s total population. Their match with Austria will be their toughest challenge in the group. Game to watch: Austria v Portugal
Likely winners: Portugal
The UEFA European Championships 2016 kick off at 5am AEST on Saturday, June 11, when France faces Romania. – Patrick Staveley
Photo of the official Euro 2016 match ball from the UEFA Euro 2016 Twitter feed.