Antonio Conte’s Italy are the only previous winners of the competition in the Euro 2016 Group E, and the future Chelsea boss has got his men playing like it. They’ve already qualified for the last-16, beating Eden Hazard’s Belgium & Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden. Now, Robbie Keane will lead his team out against Buffon’s Italians in a bid to secure qualification - they sit right at the bottom. Meanwhile, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne will dare to face the great Zlatan Ibrahimovic - could it be his last Sweden match? The final fixture of Group E beckons – let’s take a look at what it could do to the final standings!
|4||Republic of Ireland||2||0||1||1||1||4||-2||1|
As it stands, Italy sit right at the top with 6 points from their two wins. They beat Belgium 2-0, with Leonardo Bonucci notching a sumptuous assist for Giaccherini’s opener. Then, Eder scored an 88th minute winner to break Sweden’s resolve right at the end.
The highly-rated Belgians were humbled in the opener but bounced back immediately, smashing the Republic of Ireland for 3. Now they face Sunderland set-piece specialist Seb Larsson, whose team has struggled for form. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been a totem-pole, dragging them into these finals - he scored 53% percent of the goals that got them here.
Moreover, they picked up their single point against the Irish when his cross for Seb Larsson was deflected into Shay Given’s goal by Ciaran Clark. That was also the Republic of Ireland’s only point - they collapsed in the following fixture to the Belgians. The 2nd-placed team here will go on to face the winner of Group F – who will be decided tonight
Italy vs Republic of Ireland
If Italy win, then they will have 9 points - they will be Europe’s very best team up to now. They’ve already qualified anyway, so it’s just a matter of maintaining form ahead of a long-awaited reunion with the men they made champions last time round - Spain. For the Republic of Ireland, it will be a dismaying first round exit and second consecutive loss.
If Italy and the Republic of Ireland draw, the Irish will be sweating on the other fixture and cross their fingers and pray that Hazard can lead Belgium to victory against Ibrahimovic. Should that happen, the Irish will be into the 3rd-placed pot, but with 2 points that may not be enough to go into the round of 16.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND WIN:
If Martin O’Neill can outwit Antonio Conte and get Robbie Keane, Jonathan Walters or the fleet-flooted Shane Long to beat Buffon, then Ireland will have 4 points. That’ll place them second on the table, and will improve their chances in the lucky losers’ pot. Their goal difference stands at -3 after a heavy beating by Belgium, which could cost them.
If the Belgians & the Swedes draw, then they will finish 3rd due to their head-to-head record. Should Sweden overcome Belgium, then they will need to beat the Italians by 3 or more, and hope that the Swedes beat Belgium by only one goal to surpass their goal difference.
Sweden vs Belgium
If Zlatan Ibrahimovic can come up with the goods, then he will not say farewell to his nation tonight. Should Sweden defeat the world’s 2nd highest ranked team, then they will have 4 points, and will probably go through as second unless Ireland shock Italy.
The Belgians will incredibly crash out of the tournament if the other match is an upset and the Irish beat the group’s best team. If Italy triumph, however, then Belgium will be saved with a 3rd -placed spot. However, their goal difference is just +1 now - if they concede a hatful they will probably be knocked out.
If Sweden can hold the Belgians to a draw, then Barcelona man Thomas Vermaelen and his team will proceed to the next phase as 2nd in the group. Sweden will look at the other result and hope that Italy continue their excellent form against the Republic of Ireland.
With only 2 points, they will go into the 3rd-placed draw. If the other match ends in a tie, then Sweden’s goal difference will come into play - and they will still finish 3rd .
If the Belgians deliver for a second match in a row, then they will finish second, as they were beaten by the Italians in the opener. Sweden will have only one point and could go crashing out if the Republic of Ireland so much as draw with the table toppers. It would be an ignominious end to the international career of a genuine footballing heavyweight.
|Possible points table||Italy beat Republic of Ireland||Italy & Republic of Ireland||Republic of Ireland beat Italy|
|Belgium beat Sweden||Italy-9, Belgium-6, Sweden-1, Republic of Ireland-1||Italy-7, Belgium-6, Republic of Ireland-2, Sweden-1||Italy-6, Belgium-6, Republic of Ireland-4, Sweden-1|
|Belgium & Sweden draw||Italy-9, Belgium-4, Sweden-2, Republic of Ireland-1||Italy-7, Belgium-4, Sweden-2, Republic of Ireland-2||Italy-6, Belgium-4, Republic of Ireland-4 , Sweden-2|
|Sweden beat Belgum||Italy-9, Sweden-4, Belgium-3, Republic of Ireland-1||Italy-7, Sweden-4, Belgium-3, Republic of Ireland-2||Italy-6, Sweden-4, Republic of Ireland-4, Belgium-3,|
For the Italians, the match against the Republic of Ireland is decent preparation for their re-match against the defending champions. They will be desperate to avenge the 4-0 humiliation they suffered in the final of the Euro 2012. Belgium badly need to live up to their tag as favourites for this tournament - their performances have been far less than the sum of their parts, something Roy Keane would punish Chelsea star and captain Hazard for!
Should they finish second, they will face the winners of Group F, but who could that be - Portugal, Hungary or Iceland? Sweden can go through as second, but they have the difficult task of overcoming the world’s number 2. If that’s tough, the Republic of Ireland will be awed by their final fixture - they must defeat the 2012 finalists. It’s all down to this - a win, head-to-head, goal-difference. Who can sneak through?
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