Euro 2016 Group E preview: Belgium to showcase strength, Ireland can progress
Lee Gormley | June 6, 2016
Euro 2016 Group E preview
Coral are previewing each group at Euro 2016 for this summer, and this time it’s the turn of the Republic of Ireland’s summer tests, with the Boys in Green set to contest all of Belgium, Sweden and Italy on French soil.
The Irish find themselves alongside three seemingly strong nations in Group E, so read on for a full overview of each country’s chances…
History between teams
Marc Wilmots’ Belgium and Antonio Conte’s Italy are seen as the two front-runners for Group E superiority, with the Red Devils instilled as favourites at evens with Coral to finish top of their standings in France.
They don’t possess an encouraging record against the Azzurri though, having prevailed just four times from 21 previous encounters, while the Italians have tasted much fixture success with 13 victories and are 7/4 to top their group.
Sweden will hope to have a strong say on proceedings though, and are hugely boosted by the incredible form and presence of their main marksman Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who struck 11 times in a rampant qualifying campaign, finishing behind only Poland’s Robert Lewandowski.
The Swedes hold a close head-to-head record with Belgium, having prevailed on five occasions to their group opponents’ seven, while they hold six victories over Italy, who have emerged successfully from that fixture 10 times.
Many see this group as a three-way tussle, but Martin O’Neill’s gallant Irish side proved in qualifying that they can mix it with the big boys and are 6/5 to progress.
The Emerald Isle won’t be fazed at all after heroics against Germany in Dublin on their way to securing a spot in France, and they hold promising records against Sweden (3W, 2D, 5L) and Belgium (3W, 5D, 5L), though have tasted defeat to Italy eight times from 13 meetings, including at Euro 2012.
Belgium may be seen as favourites for Group E and a case can be made for potential overall success, but they have endured some injury setbacks to key defensive players, including skipper Vincent Kompany and fellow centre back Nicolas Lombaerts.
For Euro 2012 runners-up Italy, both PSG’s Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio of Juventus are out of the tournament after injuries requiring surgery, while veteran playmaker Andrea Pirlo was not selected by Conte this summer.
Hamburg midfielder Albin Ekdal is included on Sweden’s roster despite still suffering from a deep cut on his back after falling at a nightclub in May, while Ireland will be without Bournemouth playmaker Harry Arter through injury.
Arter’s Cherries teammate Eunan O’Kane, Everton midfielder Darron Gibson, Oxford United youngster Callum O’Dowda and striker David McGoldrick were also cut from O’Neill’s provisional squad.
Previous tournament success
The Irish enter their second successive European Championship, but will hope to enjoy better success than two years ago when they lost all three group games before exiting. Under Jack Charlton’s reign, they reached their maiden finals back in 1988, while also rallying to the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals and 1994 last 16.
Mick McCarthy helped Ireland reach the 2002 World Cup but it wasn’t until 10 years later that Giovanni Trapattoni oversaw them finally enter another Euro tournament, which ultimately ended disappointingly.
Belgium have never conquered in Europe but have come close, finishing third at Euro 1972, second at Euro 1980 and also came in fourth in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The Swedes made their first World Cup outing in 1934, going on to make 11 appearances in total, and have featured in five European finals, including reaching the semi-finals at Euro 1992.
Italy boast the most illustrious history in Group E, having won four World Cup crowns, as well as Euro 1968, while finishing runners-up in both 2000 and 2012. Before current coach Conte takes charge of Chelsea, he will look to enjoy a strong campaign, and the Azzurri are 18/1 to go all the way this summer.
What does Coral ambassador Alan Shearer think of Ireland’s chances at the Euros? Find out in the video below:
Group E fixtures
Republic of Ireland v Sweden, Sunday June 13th, 17.00, BBC
Belgium v Italy, Sunday June 13th, 20.00, BBC
Italy v Sweden, Friday June 17th, 14.00, ITV
Belgium v Republic of Ireland, Saturday June 18th, 14.00, ITV
Italy v Republic of Ireland, Wednesday June 22nd, 20.00, ITV
Sweden v Belgium, Wednesday June 22nd, 20.00, ITV