EURO 2016 – GROUP E: BELGIUM
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
Key match: vs Italy
Best result: Runners-up
EURO 2016 – GROUP E: ITALY
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-finalsKey match: vs Sweden
Best Result: Winners (1968)
EURO 2016 – GROUP E: REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
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
EURO 2016 – GROUP E: SWEDEN
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.