In what is arguably the clash of the tournament so far Belgium who for many are the tournament favourites go up against an Italy side that doesn’t quite have the quality of previous squads and in many eyes will do well to repeat the feat of reaching the 2012 final.
For Belgium their hopes would have taken a major blow with the injury to Vincent Kompany which ruled him out of the tournament, his absence will be a massive blow and probably pushes Belgium down the pecking order as to who will be lifting the trophy in July but that’s not to say they still can’t go all the way especially with the talent at their disposal
Marc Wilmots side should have a Tottenham flavour with no fewer than 3 players from the North London side expected to start. With Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld having such an impressive partnership at the back for Spurs it will be interesting to see if they are charged with replicating that for their National side or whether they will once again take up roles at full back.
Mousa Dembele will also be a key man in Centre Midfield but Marc Wilmots will have to hope that their aren’t an injuries in that area of the squad especially with such a top heavy squad in terms of attackers with no fewer than 9 in the squad
One of them will be Eden Hazard who after a very disappointing season for Chelsea has perhaps found his form at just the right time towards the end of the campaign. It may very well be the Wilmots who feels the benefit of this refound form over the next few weeks
As for Italy, apart from the ageless Gianluigi Buffon there isn’t any real star in their squad. That’s not to say that the players that Antonio Conte has picked aren’t a talented bunch but you get the feeling it’s going to have to be more about the collective than the superstar this time around
Much was made about the fact that Andrea Pirlo and Sebastian Giovinco weren’t picked for the squad but with them playing in the MLS it was always going to be a difficult case to present. Out of the two Giovinco had the better chance of being selected especially with Italy’s attacking like looking a bit light
But they have been both left across the Atlantic and the job of scoring goals will more than likely fall to Southampton’s Graziano Pelle. Pelle has been linked with a move to Juventus over the Weekend and an impressive tournament will surely see him return to Italy once the Summer is done
Antonio Conte bows out of the job of Italy Manager once the tournament has finished to take over the Stamford Bridge hotseat, can he end on the ultimate high and go one better than the 2012 defeat to Spain in Kiev
I’m not too sure, to be honest they have to worry about the challenge that Belgium will present. This will be a real test for both sides but it will also be a good measure to see if this Belgian side really can go all the way. I have a feeling neither side will want to lose this opening encounter and it will end up a Draw.