At number 2 in the FIFA World Rankings, behind only Argentina, Belgium are officially the highest-rated team at Euro 2016, and are favourites to top Group E which is completed by Italy, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland.
Euro 2016 Group E Betting
Belgium 5/4, Italy 15/8, Sweden 6/1, Republic of Ireland 12/1
Having exited the 2014 World Cup at the quarter-final stage at the hands of Argentina, the only team ranked higher than them in the world, many believe that Euro 2016 could be the place for this young Belgian side to shine brightly, with De Bruyne expected to shine brightest of all. Recent friendly results don’t exactly fill you with confidence though with two expected wins tempered with a draw against Finland and defeat in Portugal. They conceded goals in all four friendlies this year, but are 2 wins from 3 against their group opposition.
The Italians may have been unbeaten in qualifying, but their recent 4-1 defeat by Germany shows they may struggle against the better teams. They also used more players in qualifying than any other team, perhaps suggesting that manager Antonio Conte struggled to find his perfect squad. Their combined record against Belgium, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland stands at played 10, won 4, drawn 4, lost 2.
Sweden may have won the under-21 Euro 2015 Tournament equivalent, but their chances of success in Euro 2016 is probably dependent on the performances of super-striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as he scored 11 of the 18 goals Sweden notched-up in qualifying. In their recent friendlies they have only recorded one win in four games, and their results against their group opponents have yielded just 1 win in 6 games.
Republic Of Ireland
The only thing that the Republic of Ireland topped in qualifying is the highest average age of all the squads, though they did put that experience to good use by taking 4 points off World Champions Germany. That helped them secure third spot in their group, before they beat Bosnia in a play-off. Recent friendlies have produced mixed results with a win over Switzerland, a defeat by Belarus, and draws against Holland and Slovakia, however they have won 1 and drawn 3 of their 6 games against Italy, and won 1, drawn 1 and lost 1 of their 3 games against Sweden.
Euro 2016 Group E Summary
It’s hard to think that either Sweden or Republic of Ireland can produce three good enough performances to top the group, and that means this could well be a shootout between Belgium and Italy. Of the two, I much prefer the chances of Belgium, who are as side on the up, and one that look to have a genuine chance of going all the way.