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A team-by-team guide of Ireland's Euro 2016 group opponents

A closer look at Belgium, Italy and Sweden.

IRELAND NOW KNOW their opponents for next summer’s European Championships after the group stage draw took place in Paris earlier this evening. Here, we take a closer look at the teams Martin O’Neill’s side will face at Euro 2016.

UEFA Euro 2016 Draw - Paris Source: Adam Davy


World ranking: 1
Coach: Marc Wilmots

Belgium were rarely forced to perform at the levels expected of the world’s top-ranked side during qualifying, but Marc Wilmots’ men will face a tougher test of their credentials next summer.

Making their first European Championship appearance since they co-hosted the 2000 event, Belgium will be aiming to build on their quarter-final showing at last year’s World Cup.

With Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku to name but a few, Wilmots has an abundance of options at seemingly every position and the large majority of his squad in their prime, but the weight of expectations has never been higher for the 1980 runners-up.

Consistent but not spectacular during the qualifiers, Belgium will hope to hit unprecedented heights in neighbouring France.

Cyprus Belgium Euro Soccer Eden Hazard has been central to Belgium's success. Source: AP/Press Association Images


World ranking: 15
Coach: Antonio Conte

Italy eased through qualifying without losing a game, although they were held twice by Croatia and were never particularly convincing.

Former Juventus coach Antonio Conte took over in the wake of Italy’s disappointing exit from last year’s World Cup at the group stage under Cesare Prandelli.

Conte will hope the Azzurri can perform more like the team that reached the final of Euro 2012 before losing comprehensively to Spain.

Captain Gianluigi Buffon remains from the side that won the World Cup a decade ago, and there is a strong Juventus presence elsewhere, while the likes of supremely gifted Paris Saint-Germain playmaker Marco Verratti and the Southampton striker Graziano Pelle could have key roles to play.

Sean St. Ledger and Richard Dunne Ireland faced Italy at Euro 2012. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO


World ranking: 35
Coach: Erik Hamren

Sweden finished third in qualifying Group G behind Austria and Russia, notably losing 4-1 at home to the Austrians.

However, they secured their presence at a fifth consecutive European Championship finals by beating Scandinavian rivals Denmark 4-3 in a play-off.

Erik Hamren’s squad contains only one truly outstanding player in Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The 34-year-old Paris Saint-Germain striker will appear at a last major international tournament in his adopted country after scoring 11 goals during the qualifying campaign.

Behind him, Hamren will hope some of those who helped Sweden win this year’s European under-21 title, such as the Celta Vigo striker John Guidetti, can have an impact and help the Swedes get beyond the group stage, something they failed to do in 2008 or in 2012.

- © AFP 2015

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