The United Kingdom has a long-storied history of football and football culture, but that’s never really translated to success in international competitions, bar England’s 1966 World Cup win.
Perennial underachievers England, underdogs Republic of Ireland, and first-timers Northern Ireland and Wales will be vying to write history in France at Euro 2016.
English football fans get their hopes up every two years for the major international competitions, just to be let down by underwhelming performances and disjointed squads.
They hold the unfortunate record of being the only World Cup winners from Europe to have not lifted the Henry Delaunay Cup, having reached the semi-finals twice, but never the grand final.
In the last quarter-century, the Three Lions have been kicked out of the Euros on penalties three times, cementing their reputation as the opposite of penalty shoot-out specialists.
England should be confident of progressing into the knock-out rounds, from which point anything could happen, with Russia, Slovakia and Wales joining them in Group B.
Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 squad will probably have a few fresh faces since finishing last in their group in Brazil two years ago.
The squad announced on Monday, is expectedly younger than previous squads, after breakthrough seasons from Tottenham trio Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Eric Dier.
Premier League champions Leicester City will also contribute a few players to the national squad, Jamie Vardy and Danny Drinkwater among the stand-outs from Claudio Ranieri’s team.
Daniel Sturridge, who has the ability to win games on his own, is the fittest he’s ever been, after three injury-plagued seasons at Liverpool.
Manchester City’s English contingent will be looking to impress with new boss Pep Guardiola no doubt watching on intently, and Joe Hart will be looking to continue his fine form of late into the international games.
Republic of Ireland
Although they technically aren’t part of the United Kingdom, The Boys in Green will fly into the tournament quietly confident in their own abilities, after beating Bosnia over two legs to qualify for the tournament.
Unbeaten against reigning world champions Germany in the qualifying round, Martin O’Neill’s squad will not feel too much fear heading into a group with Italy, Belgium and Sweden.
O’Neill will be looking upon Ireland’s all-time top scorer Robbie Keane to lead the squad, hoping he can overcome recent injury problems to front up against Sweden on June 12.
Shay Given’s spot between the sticks is fairly secure, with Rob Elliot to miss the tournament through a knee injury sustained in March.
The Stoke City connections will run deep in the starting 11, with Given, Marc Wilson, Glen Whelan and Jonathan Walters all likely to feature.
Shane Long has performed brilliantly for Southampton this season, all but cementing his spot up front for the Irish.
James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman were a part of this season’s under-performing Everton side, but will be looking to put that behind them with strong showings in France.
Northern Ireland have not lost a game in more than 12 months, and finished top of their qualifying group.
On a record winning streak and tactically flexible, Michael O’Neill’s squad could cause some upsets in Group C, facing Poland, Ukraine and Germany.
O’Neill has given his team the ability to fluidly switch from a back four to a back three, accommodating three of the country’s biggest footballing names in Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley and Craig Cathcart.
Up front is Northern Ireland’s current top scorer Kyle Lafferty, who this season barely played for club side Norwich, but will be vital in the Norn Iron’s chances of progressing to the knock-out rounds.
The Northerners will be looking to supplement experience with youthful exuberance, the likes of 36-year-old’s McAuley and Melbourne City’s Aaron Hughes teamed with Manchester United youngster Paddy McNair and Queens Park Rangers striker Conor Washington.
Wins over Poland and Ukraine are not too far-fetched for O’Neill’s first-timers, making them outsiders for a knockout berth.
Wales could well be the surprise package of this year’s competition.
With a solid core of Premier League players, and the match-winning abilities of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, Wales could surpass expectations and go on to ‘do a Greece’.
Captain Ashley Williams will lead his nation into its first major tournament since 1976, the powerful defender ready to marshal the back-line against Russia, Slovakia, and neighbours England.
Joe Allen will join Ramsey in the midfield, making for a technically gifted midfield, while Crystal Palace’s Joe Ledley is still a doubt after fracturing his fibula against Stoke earlier this week.
Andy King will be the likely replacement if Ledley does not make it on the plane, off the back of a history-making season as the first player to win League One, the Championship and the Premier League with the same team.
Gareth Bale will not join the squad until after the Champions League final in Milan on May 28, but will not take long to readjust to his surroundings.
If manager Chris Coleman approaches the tournament in the right way, his team could go from first-time qualifiers to first-time contenders.