Euro Group E Preview: Belgian Brilliance and Zlatan’s Final Bow

The World Cup might still be two years away, but that doesn’t mean that the summer of 2016 is going to be anything other than magical. With the Copa America happening right now within the United States, there’s plenty of footy to satiate any fanatic. However, crossing the Atlantic ocean during June and July will see you crash headlong into the European Championships. A tournament comprised of the best footballing nations of Europe, and a tournament plunged deep into the mirth of quality seen from European soccer. A chance to shine in your continent and be remembered as legends of the game; it’s a crown for an area that proudly proclaims to be the birthplace of the world’s game. In 2016, one country will rise and be proclaimed as king…bring it on!

With the Copa America in full swing and the goals finally starting to flow, it’s tough to think that there will be another dose of elite soccer for us to enjoy. Yet, here we are, preparing to dive headlong into the European Championships. With that in mind, the Center Circle has decided to give you a group-by-group look at what we can expect, what to watch for, and who we see moving on from the group stage. It’s Europe, it’s for a major title, and it’s going to be amazing!

GROUP E

Group E might end up having to scoop goals out of the back of the net with buckets. A ridiculous attacking lineup for the Belgians, the constant power of the Italians, the most dangerous man on-and-off the pitch with Zidane’s Sweden, and the lovable underdog in Ireland. If there’s a group whose games you should consider “can’t miss,” then Group E certainly fits that bill.

Belgium is currently the world’s number one ranked team. However, despite having all the talent necessary, all the potential, and a great cohesion, the final product still evades the Belgians. This tournament is going to be the moment where Belgium is either going to stand up and be counted or their “dark horse” status from the previous World Cup and their “favorite” status from this Euros is going to be seen as naught. The scariest part for the rest of Europe? This squad is incredibly young.

A striking core built with ridiculous strength in Romelu Lukaku, Benteke, and Origi. A midfield that would have any manager drooling with Nainggolan, Fellaini, Dembele, De Bruyne, and Eden Hazard. It’s not even fair. The only way that this team falters will be from some gaps in defense created by the absence of Vincent Kompany. Still, don’t expect them to be too weak as there are several worthy replacements (Vermaelen, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, and a few others), but it is their weakest spot on the field (“weak” as in the “weakest” part of a steel beam). However, like we said, if they can’t start showcasing success befitting of a top five team, then they may never be considered true contenders.

PREDICTION: First in the group, but they better not choke.

WHY: They look like somebody altered the rosters on FIFA16. It simply isn’t fair.

The choice for second place in this group is incredibly tough, but we had to go with the experience of Italy. While manager Antonio Conte won’t be feeling a ton of pressure, this team is in a delicate position heading into this tournament. A large portion of the team’s core is nearing the scary part of their 30’s and none of the forwards on the roster are scoring the way you’d like heading into a major tournament. We’re anxious to see which players show that they’re ready to replace so many legendary players.

A defence that can still hold clean sheets against any squad, it is tough to think that Buffon and Chiellini will be as pivotal in this squad once Russia rolls around in 2018. It will be interesting to see how many of the younger players get a chance to prove themselves, but we’re a bit sad to be seeing some of these players go. Thiago Motta and Daniele De Rossi feel like they’ve been around since we started liking the game, so this might be a final window for serious hardware. Despite bringing more forwards than almost anyone else in the tournament, Italy will need one of them to find their scoring form in order to succeed. Either Pelle or Immobile will need to catch fire, or the Italians will be heading home early.

PREDICTION: Second

WHY: Honestly? Because they’re Italy.

For third, and being the last team to qualify through the third-place loophole, we’ve got Zlatan entertaining us for a bit longer at this level and dragging Sweden through. While there is some talent in the Swedish midfield and strike-force, Zlatan scored 11 of the team’s 19 goals in qualifying…if Ibra isn’t firing at his best, it could be a short tournament. Factor in Sweden’s defense being notoriously slow, and Ireland might sneak away with third. In fact, Ireland will be buoyed by some of their recent performances and the fact hat they’re actually ranked ahead of Sweden by FIFA. If the defense (their weakest spot) can hold, their incredible fan-base might get the success they deserve.

PREDICTION: We don’t care…we love them both!

WHY: Have you seen Zlatan play? Have you heard the Irish support during and after a game?

There you have our Center Circle guide to group C. We hope that something in here helps you sound a bit more intelligent than your mates, but, a bit more selfishly, we just hope we get our predictions right. Keep an eye out for the other group predictions and enjoy the Euros!

Euro 2016 Group Previews:

Group A

Group B

Group C

Group D

Group E

Group F

 

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About the author: Andrew McCole

 

If I may be so bold to condense my immense personality into two words, it would be: soccer nerd. I love everything about the beautiful game and I tend to reflect that in my writing. I suffer through Liverpool fandom and hope that they will win another title before my wife spreads my ashes at Anfield (considering I'm in my twenties, it seems somewhat likely). Although I also dabble in tennis, teaching, and coaching, most of my free-time is spent writing articles for The Center Circle! Feel free to stalk me on Google+

 

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