Day nine preview
Attention turns to Group E on day nine, as Belgium face the Republic of Ireland in Bordeaux. Both teams are looking for their first wins of the competition following a defeat and a draw respectively in their opening games.
Belgium’s status as the competition’s highest ranking team looked highly dubious in their 2-0 opening game defeat against Italy. The highly-talented group of individuals failed to come together as a team on the big stage and the experienced Italians took advantage to record the win.
The Red Devils will have to produce a better display against Ireland, particularly Everton’s want-away Striker Romelu Lukaku, who missed some good opportunities against the Azzurri.
With Italy already qualified from the group, a win is highly necessary in this clash. The omens are with Marc Wilmots side though, as they have not lost against Ireland for 50 years and have also not lost in the seven competitive matches between the pair.
The Republic of Ireland produced a very good performance in their opening game against Sweden and will argue that they deserved more than a 1-1 draw. Martin O’Neill’s side will have to produce another spirited display in this clash against the highly-rated Belgians.
A win for Ireland would put them in a decent position to make the last 16, although their last game in the group is against group leaders Italy.
The evening game comes from Group F, as surprise packages Iceland and Hungary go head-to-head following highly creditable results in their group openers.
Iceland produced a solid display in their opening game drawing 1-1 with Portugal. Lars Lagerback’s debutants equipped themselves very well in qualifying and their only game performance showed that they are not to be taken lightly in France.
The Scandinavians will be aware that history is against them when it comes to games with Hungary, as they have suffered defeat in seven of the ten meetings between the pair. In fact Hungary have won the last five games.
However, Iceland head into this clash as slight favourites against a Hungarian team that also like to upset the odds. Bernd Stork’s side caused a massive surprise with a 2-0 win over the highly-rated Austria in their group opener.
Hungary were regarded as one of the poorest teams at the competition by many, but a win could see them through the knockout stages of the competition.
In the other game in the group sees Portugal and Austria looking to atone for disappointing open game results and performances.
Portugal’s 1-1 draw with Iceland was regarded as a massive blow, especially with a tricky game against Austria to come. In truth Fernando Santos’ side just did not have the necessary guile to break down the Scandinavians.
However, a win in this game could change the complexion of the group for Cristiano Ronaldo and co, as could a win for Austria.
Marcel Koller’s side kick-off in France as one of the dark horses for the competition, but their 2-0 opening game defeat has dampened expectations and brought them back to earth. This game is a difficult one, especially without suspended centre-back Aleksandar Dragovic.
However, they must produce a performance and can ill-afford another defeat if they are to have any hope of making the knockout stages.