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Euro 2016: Belgium fact file

EURO 2016: Golden Generation to go all the way?

EURO 2016: Golden Generation to go all the way?

Europe’s best team according to the FIFA World Rankings, Belgium will kick off their tournament on Monday evening against the finalists of 2012, Italy.

Marc Wilmots’ side have a number of issues, not least the absence of City captain Vincent Kompany, but the Red Devils are still expected to challenge for a place in the Paris final.

The Group

Joining Belgium in Group E are Italy, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland.

While not quite being worthy of the ‘Group of Death’ tag, Group E certainly won’t be easy for Belgium. Many have already written off Italy but the Azzurri head to France with the rarest of luxuries, a fit and solid defence backed up by the ageless Gianluigi Buffon.

Sweden required a play-off against neighbours Denmark just to reach the tournament but Zlatan Ibrahimovic will always be capable of springing a surprise.

Making up the group with the oldest squad at the tournament, Republic of Ireland are sure to work as hard as possible to deny their more illustrious opponents chances on goal.

City representatives

Jason Denayer and Kevin De Bruyne.

Kompany’s absence leaves two City-based players in the Red Devils squad.

Kevin De Bruyne’s outstanding debut season at City has led to Wilmots making the attacking midfielder the focal point of his side. If Belgium are to succeed in France, De Bruyne will play a crucial role.

Central defender Jason Denayer is likely to be shifted to right-back to accommodate Toby Alderweireld in the middle but the 20-year-old’s loan spell at Turkish Cup winners Galatasaray has proved he is adept in a number of roles.

Key Player

Thibaut Courtois

The old adage that you can’t win anything without a great goalkeeper will certainly ring true if Belgium go on to lift the trophy on 10 July.

Despite a poor domestic season with Chelsea, the 24-year-old has a CV that includes a Champions League final appearance and the title winning medals from both England and Spain.

While still young in goalkeeping terms, the shot-stopper’s six foot five frame makes him a formidable opponent in one-on-ones and a domineering presence once crosses are played into his box.

The Coach

Marc Wilmots is a proud Belgian with a long, distinguished playing career behind him but there have been doubts in his homeland as to whether he should be trusted with the nation’s ‘Golden Generation’.

The pressure is on the 47-year-old to make use of his embarrassment of riches or risk being regarded as the man that wasted his tiny country’s greatest chance of success.

How they got there…

Belgium topped Group B of the qualifying stage, with their only loss coming at the hands of Wales’ star man Gareth Bale.

Predicted XI

Courtois, Denayer, Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen, Witsel, Nainggolan, Ferreira-Carrasco, De Bruyne, Hazard, Lukaku

Why they’ll win

A star-studded, exciting first choice side is backed up by a plethora of attacking options from the bench. Premier League stars such as Christian Benteke, Divock Origi and Mousa Dembele can all make a difference if called upon by Wilmots.

Why they might not

Having always struggled to find their own footballing identity in comparison to heavyweight neighbours Netherlands and Germany, the Belgians are inexperienced on the biggest of stages.

The current crop of players are the nation’s first with genuine expectations of silverware and that lack of a track record could go against them in the decisive moments.

Schedule

Monday 13th June: Belgium v Italy, 8pm

Saturday 18th June: Belgium v Rep of Ireland, 2pm

Wednesday 22nd June: Belgium v Sweden, 8pm

Betsafe odds to win outright

21/2



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