It’s being touted as the group of death, and you can see why as Group E in the Euros has Italy, Belgium, Sweden and Rep of Ireland, all capable of beating each other. Will Belgium fulfill their potential or can Italy bring out the fighting spirit that has so often appeared in past tournaments?
After a disastrous World Cup Antonio Conte took the reins and has reignited the Azzurri in the qualification process. They have a few new faces and legend Andre Pirlo no longer plays for the national side, but Buffon is still number 1 between the sticks. This really is a hard group and they may well struggle to get through which is priced at 7/2. I’m looking forward to watching this group as every game and goal will be vital to qualifying for the knock outs, but I see no value bets to get on at present that include Italy.
They qualified in top spot only losing once to Wales, so they come to France in good spirits. Marc Wilmots has an embarrassment of riches in what the Belgiums are called ‘The Golden Generation’. Eden Hazard will be expected to pull the strings in midfield and supply the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke, a partnership to be fearful of. In Lukaku they have a world class striker who has been scoring for fun in the run up to the Euros. He looks the man to score the majority of Belgium’s goals in the group stages.
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They had to come through the play offs after finishing third in their group, and in the end beat neighbors Denmark 4-3 to book their place in France. When you think of Swedish football the one name always crops up, that of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the talisman for his team who pretty much carried them through the groups. He’s scored a phenomenal 62 goals in 112 appearances and will once again have the hopes of the nation on his shoulders. Sweden do struggle to score goals and they will rely on defense and nicking goals in tight games, so in a group alongside Italy they may struggle to move to the next round.
Republic Of Ireland
Martin O’Neill’s men also qualified via the play offs after finishing third in an extremely hard group. They pipped Scotland in that group and then went on to beat Bosnia fairly comfortably. They don’t really have any star men or flair players, but they do possess a huge amount of team spirit and as one of my friends tells me, they’ll have the best support in France, but unfortunately that doesn’t win you matches. Robbie Keane is a little off the boil and ageing these days so the team will look to Southampton’s Shane Long to lead the line and score the vital goals. Every game will be a cup final so Ireland will be aiming for a runners up or best third place to progress to the knock outs.
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