As Sevilla proved by outplaying Liverpool to win their third consecutive Europa League final, there is more to La Liga than just Barcelona and Real Madrid.
In a league of their own
The strength in depth in Spain is unrivalled at club level at the moment and it is a surprise, then, to see that La Liga will only be the fifth most represented league at Euro 2016, pipped to fourth place by the Turkish Super Lig, a reflection of how the money on offer in Turkey is making it more attractive to foreign players.
When it comes to financial clout, however, it is impossible to look past England. Forget that there will be 106 Premier League players in France, an even clearer measure of English football’s spending power is that there will be more players from the Championship (31) than from Ligue 1 and the Ukrainian Premier League. Then again, the Premier League had the most players at Euro 2012 and 2014 World Cup and it did little for English clubs in Europe. La Liga seemed under represented in 2012, sending 31 players, but Spain defended their title successfully and Spanish clubs continue to flourish in continental competitions.
The long and short of it
As the tallest side at the Euros, expect Sweden to be a big threat at set-pieces. It is likely that Martin O’Neill will place an extra emphasis on defending dead balls before their opener against the Swedes.
No prizes for guessing which country has the shortest players. Do not expect Spain to start lumping it to the big man.
As for England, John Stones wins it in the long and lean stakes, while Wayne Rooney is at the other end of the scale …
Scorching strike rates
News flash: Ireland will have to keep a close watch on Zlatan Ibrahimovic when they face Sweden on Monday. No player at Euro 2016 has a better strike rate at international level than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has scored 62 goals in 113 matches for his country. Ireland will be desperate for Robbie Keane to return to full fitness - the veteran striker has 67 goals in 142 matches.
The usual suspects are up there. Germany can count on Thomas Müller (32 in 71 matches), Portugal will look to Cristiano Ronaldo for inspiration (56 in 125) and Robert Lewandowski has been a ruthless finisher for Poland (34 in 76. But what of the supposed lesser nations? Keep an eye out for Turkey’s Burak Yilmaz (20 in 44), Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko (25 in 59) and Austria’s Marc Janko (25 in 54), while statistically the second most lethal player is Iceland’s 26-year-old forward, Kolbein Sigorthsson (19 in 38).
The difference between age and experience
Finding a squad’s median number of caps – the midpoint of the distribution – is one way of judging which country boasts the most experience and although Germany have the second youngest squad, that method suggests that the world champions will not be overawed in France. The same cannot be said for England, though. They have the third youngest squad but are second bottom in the experience stakes. Could that be a problem when they face Slovakia in their final group match? Slovakia have the oldest squad and only Germany and Ukraine look more experienced. Spain, meanwhile, have a fresh look after their World Cup debacle. Although they have a relatively old squad, with an average age of 28.9, Vicente Del Bosque’s side are the least experienced.
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