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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Euro 2016 countdown as France prepares to host summer showdown

ESPN FC's Shaka Hislop has selected his pick for Euro 2016.

The countdown starts now ... Just 50 days remain until Euro 2016 kicks off and ESPN FC have specialised bloggers covering all the countries. Here are their pre-tournament thoughts:

ALBANIA: After narrowly losing to Austria in a revealing pre-tournament friendly, an air of uncertainty hangs around the Albanian national team. Supporters know their side harbour no inferiority complex in confronting more seasoned European nations. Yet some fans question if this side will be brave enough to topple...

Italy performance overshadowed by Antonio Conte's uncertain future

Lorenzo Insigne and Aritz Aduriz scored two minutes apart as Italy and Spain drew in Udine.
Antonio Conte, left, somewhat spoiled Italy's draw with Spain over his apparent interest in another job.

Carlo Tavecchio dropped a shoulder and went past an imaginary defender. The FIGC president wanted to get the Italy coach's attention. "Look, Antonio," he said. "This is what I used to do when I played on the right wing."

The piece of skill was not executed out on the training pitch at Italy's leafy Coverciano headquarters; Tavecchio pulled it off in the press room instead. Italy were preparing for their first friendly of the international break against Spain, but journalists from a different nation...

 By Nick Ames

Euro 2016 ambitions on display as Italy and Spain play to friendly draw

Lorenzo Insigne and Aritz Aduriz scored two minutes apart as Italy and Spain drew in Udine.
ESPN FC's Sid Lowe discusses Vicente del Bosque's latest thinking on Spain's goalkeeping situation for Euro 2016.

UDINE, Italy -- With Italy and Spain playing to a 1-1 friendly draw at the Stadio Friuli, Nick Ames highlights five talking points La Furia Roja and the Azzurri will be focused on in their preparation for this summer's European Championship.

1. Conte's system change points the way

Antonio Conte had promised to take Spain on with attacking, high-tempo football, and his assertive Italy side delivered. The coach used this friendly to test a 3-4-3 formation, similar to the setup he used when in charge...

 By Mina Rzouki

Italy will defend well at Euro 2016, but lack of creativity in attack is an issue

With Euro 2016 on the horizon, Mina Rzouki looks at how Italy are shaping up for the tournament this summer.

Projected starting XI

Buffon; Bonucci, Barzagli, Chiellini; Florenzi, Marchisio, Verratti, Darmian; Candreva, Zaza, El Shaarawy

Once everyone is fit and healthy, this looks like the team Antonio Conte will rely on. While it is definitely strong at the back, there's hardly an abundance of thrills going forward.

Injury worries

Although at this moment both Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea...

 By Nick Ames

Euro 2016 contenders: How France, Germany, Spain preparation is going

ESPN FC's Raphael Honigstein looks ahead to Germany's Euro 2016 group and explains why he believes they will win it all.

The leading contenders for victory at Euro 2016 all take part in high-profile friendlies over the next seven days as they fine-tune their tournament preparations. Here is a health check on the eight leading sides ahead of those warm-up games:

Germany (vs. England, Saturday; vs. Italy, Tuesday)

Germany suffered a few blips in 2015, losing to the U.S., Ireland and France as well as being held to a home draw by Australia. It's no surprise that Joachim Low will want to start this year on the right...

 By Chris Wright

Mario Balotelli nutmegged by freestyle superstar Soufiane Touzani

Professional freestyler Soufiane Touzani turned up at Milan's training complex earlier in the week with one goal: to nutmeg Mario Balotelli.

As such, the pair agreed to engage in one-on-one combat out on the all-weather court, with each player attempting to be the first to stick the ball through the legs of the other to claim victory.

Balotelli adopted cagey tactics from the start, keeping his feet together in a desperate attempt to stop Touzani finding room to strike.

However, the defensive action...