England's Euro 2016 Qualifying Group Opponents: Scouting Report

A mix of strong sides and minnows peppered with exciting talent, Brazil looks like a lost cause but Euro 2016 might not be...
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A mix of strong sides and minnows peppered with exciting talent, Brazil looks like a lost cause but Euro 2016 might not be...

England's Euro 2016 Qualifying Group Opponents: Scouting Report

England know that they're unlikely to make much of a dent in Brazil this summer but now they know who they will come into contact with in their Euro 2016 qualifying group, so it’s time to take a look at the other teams involved in Group E…

SWITZERLAND

Chances of qualifying

Very high. The Swiss are a well-equipped side with a talented squad and are worthy of their place at the upcoming World Cup in Brazil. A top two finish in qualifying is an absolute must for manager Ottmar Hitzfeld.

Key players

Switzerland skipper Gökhan Inler is an integral part of the midfield while speedy Juventus wing-back Stephan Lichtsteiner and young Bayern Munich livewire Xherdan Shaqiri are two very capable players. Switzerland’s play revolves around the action in midfield and feeding tall striker Eren Derdiyok to score.

The coach

65-year-old German-born boss Ottmar Hitzfeld

Last appearance at Euro finals

Euro 2008 (held in Austria/Switzerland). Won one, lost two at group stage.

SLOVENIA

Chances of qualifying

Reasonable. Slovenia are unlikely challengers for the top two positions but they could secure a third place finish which would send them to the play-offs phase. Made it to the 2010 World Cup but failed to progress past the group stage and haven’t done anything of significance on the global stage since.

Key players

There’s a good mixture of youthful inexperience and veteran know-how in the squad but it lacks quality. Inter Milan goalkeeper Samir Handanović is arguably the most high-profile Slovenian player and Valter Birsa of AC Milan is a clever central midfielder who made his international bow at the tender age of 18.  Austria-based Kevin Kampl is also highly thought of. There is very little firepower up front and that could seriously damage Slovenia’s hopes of making the Euros.

The coach 

Srečko Katanec, 50, is “fun and pretty strict” according to @sloveniafooty. He told me Katanec can “play a very attacking or very defensive formation”.

Last appearance at Euro finals

Euro 2000 (held in Belgium/Holland). Drew two, lost one at group stage.

ESTONIA

Chances of qualifying

Slim. Estonia is a small country and would have to pull off something monumental to qualify for their first ever Euro finals. The best they can realistically hope for is a play-off spot.

Key players 

Right-back Enar Jääger, just 29, already has 100 caps under his belt for his country and is an ever-present part of the national setup. There are some good midfield operators such as Sander Puri and Konstantin Vassiljev while 22-year-old forward Henrik Ojamaa, previously with Motherwell in Scotland, is an exciting and adventurous player.

The coach 

Magnus Pehrsson, aged 37, is by all means young for a coach. The Swedish-born Pehrsson was appointed boss of Estonia in December last year and his first match in charge will be a friendly against Gibraltar on 5 March.

Last appearance at Euro finals

Never qualified.

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LITHUANIA

Chances of qualifying

Extremely unlikely. Lithuania is an unknown quantity in the international football scene and that is because they rarely, if ever, produce moments of any importance. Their greatest feat to date? A 1-1 draw with Italy in Naples in Euro 2008 qualifying.

Key players

Marius Žaliūkas of Leeds United is the side’s strongest defender while there are a couple of promising youngsters within the Lithuanian ranks: Simonas Stankevičius (aged 18) of Leicester’s youth squad and Deimantas Petravičius (18) of Nottingham Forest’s youth squad.

The coach

Similar to Estonia’s coach, formal national team member Igoris Pankratjevas was also handed the Lithuania job on a permanent basis in December 2013. The 49-year-old has previously coached a handful of top Lithuanian sides such as FK Žalgiris Vilnius and he collected the Best Coach of the Year award in 2010.

Last appearance at Euro finals

Never qualified.

SAN MARINO

Chances of qualifying

Almost impossible. San Marino has the smallest population of any UEFA country and this helps to explain why they’ve fared so horrendously on the international stage. The pattern in qualifying is a predictable one: defeat, plenty of goals let in and one goal scored if they’re lucky. The team has only ever won one game of football and that was a tight 1-0 home win against Lichtenstein in an international friendly back in 2008.

Key players

San Marino’s skipper and veteran forward Andy Selva is the side’s leading scorer with eight goals. Much of the squad is domestic-based.

The coach

Pierangelo Manzaroli. That’s more or less it.

Last appearance at Euro finals

You won’t be surprised to hear that San Marino have never qualified.

Follow Nathan on Twitter, @_Carr16