Group A has three Arsenal players in it as I write this, but there is a strong possibility of that changing to four. Both Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud look like being mainstays of the hosts France while new boy Granit Xhaka should play each game for Switzerland. If the rumours are to be believed Roberto Rodriguez of Borussia Dortmund and Switzerland could be an Arsenal player very soon too.
France start the tournament off this Friday night with a game against Romania while Switzerland kick off against the group outsiders Albania the next afternoon. The following Wednesday Switzerland play Romania in the evening game while France take on Albania that night. The group finishes on Sunday June 19th when France and Switzerland play each other while the other two teams play at the same time.
On the face of it France and Switzerland should both be looking to progress to the knockout stages with France the most likely team to win the group. Romania and Albania will be no pushovers though and I expect this group could end up very close with three teams possibly progressing. From an Arsenal perspective we should have an interest in five of the six games which is no bad thing.
Group B has two Arsenal players on show with England's Jack Wilshere and Wales's Aaron Ramsey. While Ramsey should be an ever present for Wales, Wilshere is less likely to start for England unless things are going awry and they need to shake them up. The other two teams in the group are Russia and Slovakia and it promises to be a pretty tough group for England and Wales. There's always the possibility of a second Arsenal player in the England squad with Jamie Vardy mulling over a transfer to us and his signature would give Arsenal fans an added interest in the England games at least.
Wales kick off on Saturday evening when they play Slovakia and England play Russia that night. England play Wales on Thursday afternoon with Russia and Slovakia playing the afternoon before that. The group comes to a conclusion on the night of Monday June 20th with England playing Slovakia while Wales play Russia at the same time.
Despite my misgivings about England I think they should progress from the group, but Wales won't find it so easy. They did well to qualify for the finals, but they are very reliant on Gareth Bale and could struggle if he can be contained. With up to three teams going through there's every chance of both of them progressing, but Wales in particular will have to be at their very best to do so. As with Group A there is an Arsenal interest in five of the games which should at least make it worth watching for us Arsenal fans.
Group C gives us the chance to see Mesut Ozil strut his stuff for Germany while Wojciech Szczesny should start in goal for Poland. Germany are the reigning World Champions and one of the favourites to lift the trophy even if they weren't the greatest in qualifying. Szczesny looks like he could be about to depart the fold at Arsenal after his season long loan at Roma, but we will at least get to see what we are missing out on when he goes. The rest of the group is made up of Ukraine and Northern Ireland and it promises to be another close run group.
The games start on Sunday evening when Poland play Northern Ireland with Germany playing Ukraine that night. The following Thursdsy evening Ukraine play Northern Ireland with Germany playing Poland that night. Things come to a conclusion on the evening of Tuesday June 21st with Germany playing Northern Ireland and Poland playing Ukraine.
It would be a huge shock if Germany didn't come out on top of the group while Poland will be pretty hopeful of making the last 16 too. Ukraine are seen as the major threat to both of them, but Northern Ireland should not be underestimated. They won their group to get to the finals and their total is far better than the sum of it's parts. Yet again we will get to see Arsenal players in five of the six games and it's always a pleasure to watch Ozil play.
Group D is the final group with an Arsenal interest with Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky in the Czech Republic squad and Hector Bellerin in the Spanish squad. Again both teams will fancy their chances of making the knockout stages and Spain will be looking to keep the trophy they have won twice in a row. Croatia and Turkey make up the numbers in the group and it looks like it could be a very open group.
The group kicks off on Sunday afternoon with the game between Croatia and Tukey while Spain play the Czech Republic the next afternoon. The following Friday evening we see the Czech's play Croatia with Spain playing Turkey that night. The final group games are on the night of Tuesday June 21st when Croatia play Spain and the Czech Republic play Turkey.
On the face of it Turkey look the least likely to succeed in this group, but they won't be an easy opponent for any of the other three teams. Spain are among the favourites to win the tournament, but Bellerin might not get a starting berth in their team while both Arsenal players look likely to play for the Czech team. This could be Rosicky's swan song if things work out for him and it would be fantastic to see him have a great tournament. Yet again we could get to see Arsenal players in five of the games and it all helps to pass the time as we wait for the real football to return in August.
As it stands there are 10 Arsenal players in the first four groups and none in the final two, but that could rise to 12 quite soon depending on how our transfer dealings progress. Even if the two players most likely to join do so before the tournament starts there will still be no Arsenal interest in groups E and F. With only two days to go the tension is building and I can't wait for things to get going.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.