The hosts received a kind draw as they seek their first European Championship since 2000. France boast the necessary tools to sweep through this group, particularly if Les Bleus can sidestep the distractions of playing at home and Karim Benzema sorts out his personal issues. Switzerland hold the inside track to the second spot with their combination of solidity and ingenuity and their strength at fullback. Romania harbor hopes of sneaking through in third-place with a victory over debutants Albania, perhaps the weakest team in the entire draw.
GROUP B: England, Russia, Wales, Slovakia
All of the attention falls squarely on the pairing of England and Wales, but this group is not quite that straightforward. Russia improved markedly after CSKA Moscow manager Leonid Slutsky took charge during qualifying. Look for that aging squad to rely on Artyom Dzyuba for goals. Slovakia is organized and experienced, if somewhat limited. Wales reached their first Euros on the back of Gareth Bale, but the supporting cast -- particularly captain Ashley Williams and midfielder Aaron Ramsey -- is capable, too. England sauntered through their group again -- it is now time to address the concerns in front of the back four and atone for the flameout in Brazil.
GROUP C: Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Northern Ireland
There are few genuine concerns ahead for Germany, but the World Cup winners received an awkward assignment after losing to Poland during qualifying. Ukraine lean on their wingers to carve open teams, while Poland rely solely on the dominating presence of Robert Lewandowski up front. Look for those two sides to tussle for second-place in the group. Northern Ireland focus on structure to obscure a lack of individual quality and a dearth of goal threats aside from Kyle Lafferty.
GROUP D: Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, Croatia
The most difficult group heaps pressure on Spain to solve its center forward problems in short order. There are goals ahead in this group with Croatia and Czech Republic both capable of menace at one end and imprecision at the other. Look for Spain to play more directly than in the past to exploit some of those gaps. Turkey do not have the individual quality of previous generations, but they are competent and well-drilled.
GROUP E: Belgium, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Sweden
Is this the tournament for Belgium to make a run toward the semifinals? There is certainly enough talent in the ranks to ease through this group, even if Eden Hazard is not back to his best form. This is not a vintage Italy side, but Antonio Conte will make the Italians difficult to beat. Similar principles apply to Ireland, but a lack of goals is the big problem there. Sweden must trust in Zlatan Ibrahimovic to summon one last big performance on the international stage to carry them through the group and mask the lack of quality in the squad.
GROUP F: Portugal, Iceland, Austria, Hungary
The weakest of the four groups offers any of the four teams a chance to progress. Portugal is less ambitious now in the wake of Fernando Santos’ appointment, but Cristiano Ronaldo remains a figure capable of spurring them to the quarterfinals. Austria impressed during qualifying with their best side in a generation. Keep a keen eye on David Alaba in midfield as the Austrians plot a path toward the top of the group. Iceland and Hungary focus on their collective strengths and their team morale. Can one of those two sides wring out a win to reach the last 16?