Euro 2016 Preview – Group E
Belgium[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”#16989D” class=”” size=”24″]Top ranked in Europe[/perfectpullquote] The Red Devils are a side packed with talent – de Bruyne, Courtois, Hazard, Lukaku – and if all fire on all cylinders, Belgium will go a long way in the tournament. They are strong in all areas, and the only doubt is whether they can play as a team, rather than a collection of individual stars. In the 2014 World Cup, they reached the quarter finals, but this was seen as a disappointment. Their coach, Marc Wilmots, will be hoping to improve on that last eight finish.
Italy[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#16989D” class=”” size=”24″]Tournement team[/perfectpullquote] The Italian side have a proud tradition of performing well in the big tournaments. Form goes out the window when the Azzurri compete, and they are always well organised. They go in to this competition arguably light up top, but with a strong defence featuring Buffon between the sticks, and in front of him, Bonnuci, Barzagli and Chiellini – all from Juventus. This solid platform should make them difficult to break down. The coach, Conte, will also want to end his tenure on a high.
Republic of Ireland[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#16989D” class=”” size=”24″]Underdogs[/perfectpullquote]. Few expect Ireland to get out of this group, but with group E likely to be tight, the Boys in Green will be hoping hey can pull off one top result and bag three points from somewhere. A result like the 1-0 defeat of Germany in qualifying, which saw them secure the third qualifying place. They will hope to avoid the embarrassment of the last Euros, which saw them concede nine goals in three games and only find the net once. In Martin O’Neill they have an experienced coach, but he may struggle to keep them in with a shout.
Sweden[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”#16989D” class=”” size=”24″]A one man side?[/perfectpullquote]All eyes with be on Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Sweden’s star player, who will most likely be playing in his last major international tournament. Without the 34-year old, Sweden look a bit pedestrian, and Sweden’s opponents will be keen to mark him out of the game. Kim Kallstrom, playing at Grasshoper, is another experienced player that Sweden will hope can shield the back four – the defence itself looks reliable – and start attacking moves. Sweden may progress under the radar and once in the knockout stages, who knows?
A lot will hinge on the Sweden v Republic of Ireland game. A win for either would mean the loser facing an uphill battle to qualify. Expect to see Belgium and Italy come one two and Sweden to pip Ireland to the third spot.
packed with: Full of
fire on all cylinders : Perform strongly; play as well as they can
form goes out the window: Previous results are not relevant; you can ignore recent results
light up top: With a weak attack; with few star forwards
between the sticks: In goal; between the posts
bag three points: Win three points; get three points
be in with a shout: have a chance
pedestrian: ordinary; slow
under the radar: quietly; without fanfare; not making a fuss; unnoticed