Tournaments always bring beefs, so look forward to this lot shaking clenched fists in each other’s directions...
Granit Xhaka vs Taulant Xhaka
Half-brothers Jerome and Kevin-Prince Boateng clashed at the World Cup in 2010 representing Germany and Ghana, but the brothers Xhaka – Switzerland’s Granit, 23, and Albania’s Taulant, 25 – will be the first full siblings to do battle at a tournament when they meet in the second match of Euro 2016. Both were born and raised in Switzerland by Kosovan parents – and both wanted to play for Albania. Nippy Basel defender Taulant did just that, but Borussia Monchengladbach’s Schweinsteiger-esque Granit said the Eagles didn’t show enough interest in him, and he plumped for his adopted homeland instead.
Croatia vs Turkey
Mention Vienna to a Croatia fan and they’ll cry like an X Factor auditionee clutching a photo of their sickly nan. In the Austrian capital at Euro 2008, after a feisty 120 minutes, Turkey eliminated Croatia on penalties to set up a semi with Germany. Ivan Klasnic had nodded the Vatreni ahead with seconds left in extra time, only for Turkey’s Semih Senturk to volley home an equaliser with the last kick of the match. Croatia have spent eight years asking ‘what if?’, and will be spoiling for revenge.
The England Band vs The Barry Horns
Asking most fans with ears if they’d rather listen to the English or Welsh brass band ensemble is like making them choose whether they’d rather freeze or burn to death. But Wales’ outfit are niftier musicians and have a wider and far less irritating repertoire than their English equivalent, who feature ostrich-bothering comedian Bernie Clifton on trombone and think The Great Escape theme is still entertaining. 1-0 Wales.
Austria vs Hungary
Former imperial buddies, Austria and Hungary and their co-monarchy ran a large wedge
of Europe between 1867 and 1918. Their footballing fixture is the second-most played international match in the world, having been contested 136 times (only Argentina and Uruguay have met more often). Hungary have the upper hand, with 66 wins to Austria’s 40, but June 14’s Group F showdown in Bordeaux will be the sides’ first for almost a decade.
Robert Lewandowski vs Manuel Neuer
Poland fans must wince when they imagine how prolific their side could have been had Miroslav Klose (71 international goals) and Lukas Podolski (48) opted to play for their mother country rather than Germany. This summer, however, they’ve got Europe’s most coveted goal glutton on their team – and he’ll be kicking towards the end guarded by his Bayern Munich team-mate, glove god Manuel Neuer. It’s the classic billing of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, and it’ll certainly be a lot more fun than that Batman vs Superman guff.
Italy vs Sweden
“Italians like to think in a Machiavellian way, but it would not be possible to play for a 2-2 draw, and I don’t think it’ll end 2-2,” said Sweden coach Lars Lagerback the day before his side drew 2-2 with Denmark to conveniently eliminate Italy from their Euro 2004 group. Whether there was collusion, we’ll never know – so far there seems to be nothing about it in the Panama Papers – but Italy were understandably aggrieved, and have no doubt been brushing up on Machiavelli’s The Art Of War ever since.
Luka Modric vs Sergio Busquets
Messi vs CR7 always take top billing at any Barcelona-Madrid fight night, but often the most compelling Clasico match-up is between the Croatian schemer and the Catalan anchorman. Busquets is Barça and Spain’s quiet adhesive, doing the dirty work better than anyone else in Europe before giving the ball to his flashier team-mates, while Modric remains a creative cog for club and country. The pair reunite in the final Group D fixture.
Words: Nick Moore