Group E Preview

Discussion in 'Group E - Belgium, Italy, Ireland, Sweden' started by nirvaanfc, Jun 4, 2016.


Who wins this group?

Poll closed Jun 14, 2016.
  1. Belgium

  2. Italy

  3. Sweden

  4. Republic of Ireland

  1. nirvaanfc

    nirvaanfc Member

    Jan 13, 2004
    Trinidad & Tobago
    Juventus FC
    Nat'l Team:

    Belgium and Italy to advance. Sweden possibly but unlikely.

    Euro 2016 Preview (Group E - Belgium / Italy / Republic of Ireland / Sweden)

    Team: BELGIUM
    Captain: Eden Hazard
    Key Players: Eden Hazard; Radja Nainggolan; Kevin De Bruyne
    Potential Breakout Player: Yannick Ferreira Carrasco
    Notable Absentees: Vincent Kompany (injury); Kevin Mirallas (non-selection)
    Best Historical Finish: Runners-up (1980)
    Minimum Expectation: Semifinals
    How Far Could They Go: Winners

    The term Golden Generation seems to have been invented for the Belgians. After a long stretch in the international wilderness (over a decade between major tournaments) they returned in World Cup 2014 and advanced all the way to the quarterfinals. They breezed through qualifying for the Euros winning their group scoring twenty-four goals and conceding just five.

    Courtois in goal provides a massive presence even if he has not been at his best this season. The loss of their inspirational skipper Kompany through injury is a concern, but with the likes of Vertonghen/Alderweireld/Vermaelen they will have enough depth to survive. There is a further concern regarding their lack of true fullbacks, typically with a central defender being pushed to the flanks. The midfield and attack boast a wealth of talented options with Hazard/Nainggolan/De Bruyne/Witsel/Mertens almost certainly playing behind one of Lukaku/Benteke/Batshuayi. Add midfield options the likes of Fellaini/Ferreira Carrasco/Dembele and it is clear Wilmots has a plethora of weapons at his disposal.

    The Belgians are one of the four favourites to win it all and will comfortably advance from this group, in all likelihood as group winners no less. Intriguingly though, being the group winner is almost a poisoned chalice in this group given the winner will likely have a tumultuous route to the final. To be the best you have to beat the best and make no mistake the Belgians want to be the best, not just owners of a hollow number one spot in the FIFA rankings.

    Team: ITALY
    Captain: Gianluigi Buffon
    Key Players: Gianluigi Buffon; Giorgio Chiellini; Leonardo Bonucci
    Potential Breakout Player: Federico Bernardeschi
    Notable Absentees: Claudio Marchisio; Marco Verratti
    Best Historical Finish: Winners (1968)
    Minimum Expectation: Quarterfinals
    How Far Could They Go: Winners

    The Italians won their group in qualifying unbeaten, were finalists at Euro 2012 and have qualified for every major tournament since Euro 1992. Those would be the positives, the challenges are numerous though. Already a limited squad by comparison to the great Italian teams of the past, Italy's prospects were further dented with the loss of key midfielders Marchisio, Verratti and Montolivo through injury.

    A team always built on defensive foundations, Italy will rely heavily on the Juventus rearguard with skipper Buffon accustomed to playing behind a defensive trio of Barzagli/Bonucci/Chiellini. The 3-5-2 formation is the favourite of Conte and in this formation the likes of Darmian/Florenzi/Candreva/Giaccherini will play key roles. De Rossi will also need to shine given the absence of the first choice central midfielders, but really the biggest question marks lie in attacking positions. Insigne/El Shaarawy/Bernardeschi all had bright campaigns in Serie A and all three are phenomenal talents, but none have ever done it on the full international stage.

    Italy are notorious slow starters and typically grow into tournaments, which in the this format may be acceptable given even a win in their last game against the Republic of Ireland on its own could be enough to advance. They are not the one of the most talented sides at the tournament nor are they one of the form sides entering the tournament, but they do have the best defensive unit and a Juventus spine which typically serves Italian teams well.

    Captain: Robbie Keane
    Key Players: Seamus Coleman; James McCarthy; Shane Long
    Potential Breakout Player: Robbie Brady
    Notable Absentee: Kevin Doyle
    Best Historical Finish: Group Stage (1988; 2012)
    Minimum Expectation: Qualifying (Already achieved)
    How Far Could They Go: Second Round

    The Irish achieved qualification via the playoffs after emerging credibly from a group that contained the Germans, Poles and Scots. Impressively they were unbeaten against the Germans, winning the home fixture and earning a draw in Germany. That said their tournament history is not great, with qualification usually victory in itself.

    With a range of serviceable Premier League talent to choose from the Irish can prove difficult to break down. Coleman and Brady will likely play wide roles with both energetic and skillful players, McCarthy will be challenged to manage a weak midfield and much will depend on Long up top as a pacey outlet avenue with Keane well past his best.

    The Irish will struggle to score against the teams in this group which all boast better teams and individuals. It would be a surprise if they can pick up a point and they will do very well to finish above any of the other three teams. The Irish fans are always a breath of fresh air and were brilliant at Euro 2012 even though they were eliminated without a point and just a solitary goal. Expect a repeat.

    Team: SWEDEN
    Captain: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
    Key Players: Zlatan Ibrahimovic; Kim Kallstrom; Sebastian Larsson
    Potential Breakout Player: Oscar Hiljemark
    Notable Absentees: Oscar Wendt (non-selection); Ola Toivonen (non-selection)
    Best Historical Finish: Semifinals (1992)
    Minimum Expectation: Second Round
    How Far Could They Go: Second Round

    The Swedes battled through qualification finished third in their group behind Austria and Russia, eventually punching their ticket with a playoff victory over their neighbours, Denmark. They were not overly prolific nor was their defence anything to write home about. They have been consistent qualifiers for the Euros but have only been able to advance from the group once in their last four trips.

    Contrary to popular belief, Sweden is more than just Zlatan. They do have some good veteran players with Isaksson in goal, Granqvist/Lustig in defence and Wernbloom/Larsson/Kallstrom in midfield. Each of this group has over fifty international caps. Add to that group some promising young players like Hiljemark/Guidetti/Ekdal/Forsberg and there is solid team on paper.

    All of that said, but ultimately Sweden will need Zlatan to be Zlatan to progress. As a genuinely world class prolific striker he can lead a team of solid but unspectacular players to the second round. That is likely where it will come to an end for the Swedes though.

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