Group E of this summer’s Euro Cup is comprised of the Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Italy, and Belgium. Can underdogs Sweden and Ireland exceed expectations as Costa Rica did in the 2014 World Cup? Will Belgium live up to their hype and coast through Group E? How will Italy hold up after losing Verratti and Marchisio to injuries?
Let’s call a spade a spade; Sweden is a one-man show. Zlatan Ibrahimović aside, Sweden’s lineup is comprised of players who’s caliber doesn’t come close to matching that of the Belgians or Italians. Belgium and Italy’s players are not only dispersed throughout the top leagues in the world, the EPL, La Liga, and the Serie A, but across the top teams in those leagues. Overall, Sweden don’t possess the same talent as the two powerhouses of Group E.
It takes a split second to score a goal. One could argue Ibrahimović is the capitalizer of all capitalizers of those split seconds. Though, even if Belgium’s Kompany-less defense gives up a goal or two, their offense is too ruthless not to exploit Sweden’s defense who, frankly, are not all that impressive. Also, Italy’s experienced holding midfielder/s and strong back line can effectively negate a majority of Sweden’s attacking opportunities. Remember, this is an 11 v.s. 11 game. Ibracadabra isn’t magical enough to defeat his opposition alone this summer.
If there’s any team in Group E that won’t win three points, it’s the Republic of Ireland. There’s no need for a detailed analysis here. Ireland simply don’t have what it takes to fend off Belgium’s talent, Italy’s tactics, Or Ibrahimović. Viewers love an underdog, but there’s no hope for the Republic of Ireland in France come June.
Will Belgium live up to all the hype coming into this competition? Yes. This talented squad has gained the necessary experience over the years to not only advance to the knockout stages but possibly reach the final. Fans have impatiently waited to see the Belgians in this year’s Euro as they anticipated their potential to reach its maximum by this point.
Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Radja Nainggolan, and Kevin De Bruyne. Though the entire Belgian squad is fantastic, these four players mentioned above will be key in the Red Devil’s success in their group and beyond. Eden Hazard enters the Euro Cup following a disappointing season at Chelsea which is why he’ll come out guns blazin’. Also, with the support of a quality midfield behind him, Lukaku is destined to shine up top. This season, Lukaku scored 18 goals and provided 6 assists for Everton.
Even following the loss of their two star midfielders, Italy remain Belgium’s main concern in the group. Regardless of having defeated the Azzurri 3-1 in a friendly last year, Belgium may struggle on the big stage against Conte’s organized 3-5-2.
With the loss of Verratti and Marchisio, Conte is forced to start the De Rossi and Motta. Though the loss of two key players may seem like a loss, De Rossi and Motta’s experience in the midfield will prove to be valuable against tough opponents. If Italy can hold their own against an aggressive Belgian side, they may finish top of the group. Regardless, they will advance to the knockout stages.
Therefore, Belgium and Italy will certainly advance to the knockout rounds. Belgium will likely finish atop of Group E with Italy behind them in second, Sweden in third and the Republic of Ireland last of the group.
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