Friends of yesterday become the enemies of today when EURO 2016 kicks off at France later this summer. Players from all across Europe will go head to head as they represent their nation in search for some glory.
With only three weeks left for Euro 2016, we take a look at how teams are placed in Group E and what can we expect from them ahead of this summer’s extravaganza.
Today, we take a closer look at Group E in our Euro 2016 Group E Preview, and what we might see in terms of qualification to the knockout stages and which players can set the tournament on fire from this group.
Euro 2016 GROUP E
Teams: Belgium, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Sweden
The toughest group in the competition, Group E sees Italy, Belgium and Sweden fight for two spots along with the outsider’s Republic of Ireland.
Italy and Belgium topped their respective groups in the qualifiers and will be favorites to move to the next round while Sweden will also have a decent chance at causing an upset.
Surely, this group is bound to provide some high octane entertainment come the start of the tournament. Let us now take a closer look at each teams from Group E in our detailed Euro 2016 Group E Preview including the key men for all the teams in this group.
With a squad full of top class players, Belgium, who have reached the final of the tournament just once in their history will hope to repeat their feat and may be go one step further in this campaign.
Marc Wilmots, the coach of the side for over 4 years knows the strengths and weaknesses of every player in the squad and will have a huge job in his hand in France.
Key Player – Romelu Lukaku
The Everton striker has been in sublime form in the recently concluded Premier League season.
In a team that has not been able to find consistency, Lukaku has scored 25 goals for the club in all competitions and is in red-hot form going into the EUROS.
He will be an important player for Belgium if they are to take the next step in the competition. Lukaku is equally adapt at scoring goals from the box or have a pop at goal from long range.
Lukaku’s finishing abilities will define Belgium’s success at this year’s Euro 2016. Add to that, the striker will be playing to impress the bigger European clubs to sign him later in the summer.
After topping Group H in the qualifiers, Italy have been drawn in a tough group with Belgium, Sweden and Republic of Ireland.
They did not have the best campaign in the FIFA World Cup and will be hoping to come-back strongly and challenge for the trophy.
They have a superb squad which can beat the best teams in the world and coach Antonio Conte, who will leave the side after the tournament to move to Chelsea will hope to end his stint with a memorable campaign.
Key Player – Leonardo Bonucci
Known to be a team that hates to concede, Italy have some of the best defenders in Europe in their squad.
Juventus star Bonucci is one of the most experienced players in the squad and will have an important role at the center of the defense for Italy at the EUROS.
He is a superb reader of the game and will have to be at his best to give his team a chance at qualification.
Republic of Ireland
Having come-back into the finals of the EURO after a 24-year gap in 2012, Republic of Ireland have now made consecutive appearances in the tournament after finishing 3rd in Group D.
However, they will consider themselves unlucky to have been drawn in one of the toughest groups in the competition.
They have shown that they can be hard to beat but they are favorites to finish at the bottom of this Group.
Key Player – Shane Long
After an impressive season with the Saints, Shane Long will be raring to go and win some games for his national side.
Long, though could not find the back of the net on a consistent basis in the domestic season, has always been an influential player for Southampton.
Having already played 9 games and scoring 3 goals in the process, Shane Long will have an important part to play in Republic of Ireland’s journey in France.
Sweden, have never won the EUROS and were lucky to have qualified for Euro 2016 with a victory against Denmark in the last game of the qualifying play-offs.
They finished 3rd in Group G and were drawn in this group along-side Italy, Belgium and Republic of Ireland.
Though they will find it hard to move into the next round, they have a decent squad that can upset one of the big teams in the group and help the team to the knock-out phase of the competition.
Key Player – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The reason for Sweden’s qualification to the group stage, Ibrahimovic has been in tremendous form for League 1 side PSG.
He has 51 goals in 49 appearances for the club this season and is also the second highest goal-scorer in the qualifiers.
He is the most important player for the team and if he is on song, he can single handedly lift the whole Sweden team into the knock-out stage of the EURO 2016.
Key Match: Belgium vs Italy (June 13)
More than the qualification, it will be about who ends up topping the Group E. Italy and Belgium are two of the favorites to go deep in this year’s competition and will go against each other at Parc Olympique Lyonnais on June 12.
While Belgium are the emerging powerhouses of European football, Italy’s proved pedigree at the International scene will see them edge ahead of The Red Devils and take control of Group E at Euro 2016.