Competition: European Championship
Fixture: Belgium v Italy
Date: Monday, June 13, 2016
Venue: Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon
Kick off time: 9:00 pm, local time
A nail-biting match from the Group of Death is coming your way on Monday evening as Belgium and Italy will face off in the Euro Cup.
Belgium form: W-D-W-L-W
De Rode Duivels are coming in this tournament as the world no. 2 side – a position which they have been retaining since the better half of the previous year. Marc Wilmots has undoubtedly got the strongest squad at his disposal, which is the reason why they are a heavy favorites to win this tournament.
Wilmots was brought in 2012 to manage the team, after they consistently failed to reach the major tournaments. This is the first time that Belgium managed to qualify for the Euro Cup since 1984. Despite qualifying as the host nation in 2000, their poor performance led them to a 12th place finish. However, the turnaround in their performance after 2012 has been absolutely remarkable.
Under Wilmots, they team reached the quarter-final in the World Cup, which was the first time when they showed how much of a threat they truly can be. Their form in the Qualifiers was absolutely remarkable, as they lost just one match and endured a couple of draws. Their rise to the top has been slow and steady, with Wilmots tweaking the defects in the side to gain more strength. His trust in Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne as the play makers has paid off, as the duo have been scoring consistently in the previous matches.
The backbone of their defense is missing with Vincent Kompany succumbing to injury, but Toby Alderweireld and Thomas Vermaelen are capable of getting the job done. Wilmots prefers the formation 4-2-3-1, which he appears to have perfected pretty well. His experiments with other tactics such as 4-3-3 didn’t end in victories, as shown against Portugal and Italy recently.
Italy’s form: W-W-L-D-D
The 2012 Euro Cup runners-up are coming in the tournament with a manager who is known for his various interpretations of tactical formations. Antonio Conte, who was voted as the best coach in 2013 while his time at Juventus, is certainly one of the most influential managers the team has had.
However, he hasn’t got a fully prepared squad at his disposal, having lost Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti to injury. Despite having a successful campaign in the Qualifiers without any losses, the recent friendlies right before the tournament have exposed some serious flaws in his team. The defensive wall is undoubtedly their most valuable asset right now, with Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini making it hard for the opposing strikers to break through.
But the lack of experience in the midfield puts pressure on Daniel De Rossi and Thiago Motta to perform in the 3-5-2 formation which Conte is so fond of playing. His experiments with putting Stephen El Shaarawy in the midfield has proven to be particularly effective, as the Roma forward has been revitalizing his form since January.
Lacking the individual star factor, the only way that the Azzurri can break through such a tricky group is by playing as a team. The massive talent and experience in the midfield are going to be crucial factors in determining their goal scoring abilities, especially against a tough defensive wall such as Belgium’s.
Key Players and Team News:
Belgium have got themselves a sensational squad, which is made more intimidating when put in the 4-2-3-1 formation. Romelu Lukaku has been the key player for Everton this season, and given his recent form with Belgium, he will be starting up front, with De Bruyne and Hazard in the back. The pace of Dries Mertens will provide the much needed boost from the winged positions. The option of using Marouane Fellaini and Moussa Dembele in the center back is also an effective strategy, given that the Manchester United midfielder is the nation’s top goal scorer.
Their inexperienced attack will be put to severe test when they face Belgium in this crucial encounter. Graziano Pelle has been the key goal scorer for his team, with only 13 international caps. Antonio Candreva will be starting as the second forward, seeing that his experience from appearances in 38 internationals is much needed here. In addition to De Rossi and Motta in the midfield, Alessandro Florenzi is also going to be favorite of Conte to start in the playing XI.
To keep the dangerous attack of Belgium at bay, Leonardo Bonucci will also need to do his part in keeping the defensive wall intact.
Needless to mention, Belgium are going to be favorites to win the match at 8/5. You can also expect Lukaku to net the ball in any time during the match at 12/5.