The Euro 2016 championship is under way and over the next couple of days, the teams from groups E and F will make their tournament bow. Let’s take a closer look at the eight countries involved in these sections.
GROUP E – BELGIUM, ITALY, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND, SWEDEN
Not quite the so-called “Group of Death” but as close as you could possibly get to it; Belgium are clear favourites to win this section and in many people’s opinion (and the betting exchanges) one of the favourites to lift the trophy next month in Paris. Marc Wilmot’s team contains some of the tournament’s best players in Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan, Chelsea play-maker Eden Hazard and Everton striker Romelu Lukaku and their opening game against Italy, is one of the most eagerly awaited contests of the group phase. The Italian’s come into the competition with one of the oldest squads in France with many cynics claiming coach Antonio Conte is just filling in his time before he joins Chelsea next season. Sweden of course, has Zlatan Ibrahimovic in attack, so be prepared for fireworks when they kick-off their campaign against the Republic of Ireland at the Stade de France on Monday. Martin O’Neill’s side are the group outsiders but the Irish have made a habit of upsetting the formbook on more than one occasion.
ONE TO WATCH
He’s pretty much the forgotten man at Juventus but Italian striker Simone Zaza looks destined to play an important role in his country’s Euro 2016 campaign. With his future at club level uncertain, playing international football has been a breath of fresh air for the 24-year-old and having impressed in the recent friendly games, he could well have a major part to play if the Italians are to progress to the latter stages.
GROUP F – PORTUGAL, HUNGARY, AUSTRIA, ICELAND
So finally to group F with both Portugal and Austria the overwhelming favourites to grab the two automatic qualification places into the last 16. Football is not a one-man sport, but Portugal have the nearest you can get to it in Cristiano Ronaldo. However, for all his wealth and superstar status at club level, no-one gives more for his country than CR7 but having had a few niggling injury problems of late; Portugal will be holding its breath praying that he keeps his fitness over the next month. If you’re looking for a good value bet in these championships, then the *41.00 being offered by the best online football betting sites for Austria to cause an upset and win the tournament is one of the better ones. Marcel Koller’s team had an excellent qualification campaign and on their day can be a match for anyone. Hungary are appearing in their first major tournament for 30 years whilst group outsiders Iceland are appearing in their first one ever and are the smallest nation to have qualified for a major international finals tournament.
ONE TO WATCH
They say that goalkeepers are crazy and in Gábor Király, Hungary have the first 40-year-old player to take part in the finals. Nicknamed “Pyjama Man” thanks to the fact that he is always seen wearing jogging pants whilst in goal, should not deflect from the fact that he is his country’s leading appearance maker with 103 caps.
No wonder Adam Bogdan is third-choice at Liverpool. Gabor Kiraly, at 40, is still playing ahead of him for Hungary.. pic.twitter.com/YN8cbAgcty
— talkingbaws (@talkingbaws) June 4, 2016
*odds courtesy of Paddy Power
Steve Mitchell @barafundler