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Euro 2016: Group E Preview
Euro 2016 is fast approaching and our scribe has previews for all the groups including Group E.
Europe's Premier International football tournament gets underway on Friday the 10th of June. Football fans will be in for an absolute treat with Europe's finest 16 sides going all out to be crowned champions of the continent.
Our European football scribe has been hard at work composing his preview. After weeks of intense research, he has come up with a full preview for each group.
Below, we'll take a look at Group E below which features Belgium, Italy, Republic, and Sweden.
Belgium | Italy | Republic of Ireland | Sweden
Monday 13 June: Ireland vs Sweden / Belgium vs Italy
Friday 17 June: Italy vs Sweden
Saturday 18 June: Belgium vs Ireland
Wednesday 22 June: Italy vs Ireland / Sweden vs Belgium
To Win Outright: 10/1 | To Win Group: 11/10
Currently rated number one in the world, Belgium enter the tournament in the unfamiliar territory of being amongst the pre-tournament favourites. It will be interesting to see exactly how they shoulder this burden.
Personally, I think there is a fault in the ratings system that a side yet to really shine on the global stage is atop the pile. In any event, this is an extremely talented side.
The form of Benteke throughout the season may be a concern. However, the combined talent of Origi and Lukaku should provide enough firepower for the side. Eden Hazard thankfully returned to his impish best in the closing stages of the Premier League season.
If the Belgian superstar is looking for a way out of Chelsea in the off-season (P.S.G anyone), then you can expect a massive tournament from Hazard. De Bruyne is the fulcrum of the side while Alderweireld and Vermalen will provide excellent cover for the injured Kompany.
Key Player: Kevin De Bruyne
The exceptional City midfielder is - to my mind - an amalgamation of the creative powers of Bergkamp and the direct running of Gerrard. He truly is a total footballer and will be crucial to Belgium’s progression.
Player to Watch: Yannick Carrasco
The Atletico utility forward has shown excellent versatility and seems to understand the gravitas associated with the big occasion. He is both powerful and mobile and is excellent at negotiating possession in tight scenarios.
To Win Outright: 16/1 | To Win Group: 16/10
Antonio Conte’s eminent departure to the Premier League may give him the peace of mind to focus fully on this European Championship. Italy have tried to inject some youth into what has become a slightly staid squad.
The Juventus backbone that has come to define the defensive unit is starting to look slightly antiquated, especially when you consider the pace on display in the tournament. Montoliveo has been slightly surprisingly omitted while there remains some lingering injury doubts over Marco Verratti. The PSG midfielder brings a necessary dynamism to the more stygian Italian side.
Candreva, Motta and De Rossi are solid midfield players, but they lack the cutting edge provided by Verratti. Simone Zaza has emerged as Italy’s presumptive number nine, with Graziano Pelle and Eder waiting in the wings.
Italy lack something in my estimation and will likely scrape through this group.
Key Player: Giorgio Chiellini
Chiellini is an absolute rock at the heart of the Italian defence. His presence cannot be underestimated along with that of Gianluigi Buffon. He commands the defensive area better than anyone in the tournament.
Player to Watch: Simone Zaza
The up and coming striker will aim to fill the void left my one Mario Balotelli.
Republic of Ireland
To Win Outright: 150/1 | To Win Group: 10/1
Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane once again pool their collective footballing acumen as the Republic of Ireland aim to exorcise the demons from their dismal showing in the 2012 tournament.
Robbie Keane and James McCarthy have been included in the provisional squads despite both players carrying some injury doubts.
The Republic have a tenacious side with a generous smattering of quality thrown into the mix. Alongside the grit of Whelan in midfield you find the creativity of Hoolahan.
Up front you have the wrecking ball that is John Walters alongside the pace and guile of Shane Long. But the Republic are going to have a tough time in what looks to be the proverbial ‘group of death’.
Key Player: Shane Long
Shane Long’s pace is perhaps the single greatest asset in this side. Considering the complexion of the group - Long’s pace is going to prove essential as the Republic will likely be playing most matches on the counterattack.
Player to Watch: James McClean
The powerful left-footed midfielder is often deployed in masochistically defensive mode at Pulis’ West Brom. He actually has the capacity to be dynamic and couples that skill with a ferocity that occasionally gets the better of him.
To Win Outright: 125/1 | To Win Group: 6/1
As with any journalistic precursor to a Swedish footballing endeavour, one can’t underestimate the impact of one Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Only Robert Lewandowski scored more goals than the iconic Swede in qualifying.
This may very well be the Zlatan’s final chance to immortalize himself on the international stage.
I’m just not that sure about the kudos of this Swedish side. Seb Larson has barely played a game for Sunderland this season yet he rolls casually into the side. Celta Vigo’s John Guidetti has been impressive while Norwich City’s Martin Olsson has been reliable. But a pattern is definitely starting to emerge.
There is just an overriding sense of mediocrity about this squad. Everything hinges on the brilliance of one man and in that sense the Swedish side are hard to quantify.
Key Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The name says it all.
Player to Watch: John Guidetti
The Celta Vigo man brings some much needed European pedigree to the side.
Who will Progress?
The difference between finishing first and second in the group may just well be the difference between playing either Croatia or Portugal. So it’s hard to tell which would be the favourable deal. Belgium’s strength of squad should see them through to the top of the group. The rest is anyone’s guess. Italy have an excellent squad but to my mind lack athleticism and may find themselves in third place behind either Sweden or the Republic of Ireland. I’m actually going to go out there and say that Zlatan will steer his side to second place while Italy end third, waiting on the result of other groups.