Written by David Robinson
Euro 2016 is finally upon us with a great tournament expected in France with 24 teams battling it out to first and foremost get out of the group stage. As part of a series at All Out Football we preview each group and give our predictions.
The Red Devils were disappointing in truth at the World Cup with the ‘golden generation’ of endless talent at their disposal. Several names including Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Toby Alderweireld are proven hits in the Premier League so many viewers will know what this team are capable of. The Belgium’s didn’t breeze through qualifying but were winners of their group 6 points ahead of 3rd place Bosnia & Herzegovina in the end. The opening game for Marc Wilmot’s men is against Italy which will have significant importance. Avoiding defeat would be a good result which could give them confidence leading into the next 2 games vs the Republic of Ireland and Sweden, where they will be favourites. If Belgium are convincing against an Italy side and win, I can see them topping the group and being a real contender for the Championship.
You would be foolish to write Italy off a major tournament however I believe this time they could struggle without influential midfielder’s Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio who are missing through injury. This coupled with the absent Andrea Pirlo will give a new look Italy a problem as to how they will go about their business. They did top their group qualifying without losing a single game showing they have plenty of ability. Again, the opening match vs Belgium will be crucial. A win is likely to see the Italians go on and qualify however I believe there will be shocks in the tournament as usual therefore I’m going to stick my neck on the line and predict the Italians to exit at the group stages with Conte’s team underachieving in France.
Republic of Ireland
A good achievement for Martin O’Neill’s men to qualify, they should play with plenty of intensity and fancy upsetting Belgium and Italy to qualify from the Group Stages. Experience will be key for Ireland with game management and getting the better of the occasion key factors that could determine their fate. Shane Long for me has to start and can be the hero for the side. He can cause defences problems with his movement and you would suspect he will have to play a key part while not necessarily having to score. A well structured set up could make all difference for the Irish. I see a determined Ireland causing a huge shock by qualifying from the group winning against Italy in the final game to seal it.
Sweden in my opinion will go into the group as huge underdogs with a pretty bare squad aiming to get out of the group stage. On the other hand, a win against Ireland which is their best opportunity on paper could give them a decent chance with Belgium and Italy likely to be under greater pressure as the games go on. Everyone will be focused on the influence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the Swedes where no doubting he will have to play well however a team effort will be needed making games tight and uncomfortable for the opposition. I do see Sweden struggling and potentially ending up with no points. They finished 3rd in their qualifying group behind Russia and Austria winning half of their matches. This level of performance is likely to carry over to the Championships which will not be good enough.
What are your predictions for the group? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Nazionale Calcio