Friday, 10 June 2016 00:00


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A quick look at the Group ‘E’ would indicate that this would be your group of death. The presence of Italy, Belgium, Sweden and Republic of Ireland is a treat for the spectators but definitely not one for the weak hearted.


FIFA World rankings put Belgium top of the pile, and they deserve it too. Check any top European club team and you would find a Belgian in that. This golden generation of Belgium has so much potential that on paper they already look Champions.

Losing Vincent Kompany to injury is a big loss for Belgium, though. Marc Wilmot’s side is definitely one of the pre-tournament favorites and if they can hit their stride quickly, Belgium is one side every team would hate to face.

Qualification: Top of Group B

Key player: Kevin De Bruyne

Prediction: Semi-finals

Key match: vs Italy

Best result: Runners-up


Italy is one of the three teams that finished qualifiers without a loss. But that doesn’t make them unbeatable as this Italian side looks a distinctly ordinary side. They crashed out in group stage itself in the past two World Cups.

The Italians finished runners-up in last edition, which looks a distant dream now – at least before the start of the tournament. How Antonio Conte will manage the resources at his disposal could decide how far they will go. At the outset, their chances don’t look promising!

Qualification: Top of group A

Key player: Graziano Pelle

Prediction: Quarter-finals

Key match: vs Sweden

Best Result: Winners (1968)


Ireland have never been a regular in European Championships making their first appearance in 1988 and returning only in 2012. Martin O’Neill managed side has booked its place for a second successive time, and in the process even shocking Germany.

But Ireland could at best be a spoiler of other teams’ hopes, especially in a close group as this. This could make them a dangerous side to contend with.

Qualification: Play-off win over Bosnia-Herzegovina

Key player: Shane Long

Prediction: Round I exit

Key match: vs Sweden

Best Result: Group stage


It is a grave injustice to the Swedish squad to call them a one-man army but you would be tempted to call them so. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a larger-than-life presence in any team and it is his goals that led Sweden to Euros.

In what could be his final hurrah in Sweden colors, Zlatan could put his every ounce to carry Sweden as much as he could. And he remains their only hope.

Qualification: Play-off win over Denmark

Key player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Prediction: Second Round exit

Key match: vs Republic of Ireland

Best Result: Semi-finals (1992)

Belgium and Italy look good to progress while Sweden could take the next slot available. But don’t count Ireland out from shocking one of these teams, though they don’t look capable of moving to the next stage.

Read 2112 times Last modified on Friday, 10 June 2016 17:13
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