Gary Lineker and Thierry Henry are hugely looking forward to helping front the BBC’s coverage of Euro 2016. TV & Satellite Week caught up with the two footballing greats to talk about how England, Wales and Northern Ireland will perform. Plus they tell us who they think might win the whole tournament…
Are there any teams who could cause as big an upset as Leicester did in the Premier League?
Gary: “Football is so bonkers even England might win it! We’ve seen in this tournament before that surprise winners can happen, like Denmark and Greece. Plus it’s a small tournament, so it’s not like what Leicester did in the league, which is simply incomprehensible.”
How do you seriously rate England’s chances?
Thierry: “They have a chance because people’s expectations aren’t as high as when Gary used to play. England fans are like, ‘We have a young team, let’s see how they’re going to do.’ That might help them.”
Gary: “I’m excited by the youth that’s coming through, although I think this tournament might be a bit premature for us. If I was England manager Roy Hodgson, I’d be thinking let’s have a bit of fun and see how far we can go with these young players. He should just take the pressure off them and let them enjoy it.”
What do you expect of Wales and Northern Ireland?
Gary: “Northern Ireland turned in some brilliant performances in the qualifers. I’m sure Wales will be competitive, though I expect England to beat them in their match.”
Thierry: “You never know. Who thought Greece would win Euro 2004? No one – but they did. These sides have to go there with the mentality and desire of wanting to win the competition.”
As captain, does Wayne Rooney have to start England’s first game against Russia?
Gary: “No one has to start. Ultimately Roy has to pick his best team who’ll have the greatest chance to succeed. But Wayne’s been a very good player for a very long time and he’s got loads of experience, which there isn’t much of in the squad. It’s hard to see how he will play up front because I would say Harry Kane has to play there and I also think Jamie Vardy will be ahead of Wayne if Roy wants to play two up front. But Wayne’s an intelligent footballer and he can drop into midfield.”
Thierry: “It’s not for me to say whether he should play, but some of those youngsters lost it recently when they played for Tottenham against Chelsea and you need a guy with experience to say, ‘Hey stop or someone’s going to get sent off’. And Wayne can be that guy because he went through that himself when he was sent off against Portugal at the 2006 World Cup.”
Who do you predict will win the tournament?
Gary: “France. They have a really good squad with some really classy footballers. I think they’ve got a real chance especially if Antoine Griezmann can score the goals he has been doing for Atlético Madrid. You can tell a player like Antoine has got it because when he’s put through on goal you know he’ll score.”
Thierry: “I think France have a chance. What’s been good for us recently is we’ve finally become a team. No disrespect to Romania or the other teams in our group, but you’d like to think we could win well against them. If we can win the first couple of games then the whole nation will get behind the team.”
Who will win the Golden Boot?
Thierry: “People always talk about the Golden Boot and it’s weird for me to say this, but it’s all about winning the tournament.”
Gary: “I always thought it was about winning the Golden Boot!”
The opening game of Euro 2016, France v Romania, kicks off at 8pm on Friday. ITV will have live coverage from 7.15pm; highlights will be shown on BBC1 at 11.25pm, with a full rerun of the match at 1.30am on BBC2