Euro 2016

Sweden vs Belgium- Match Preview

Zlatan Ibrahimović announced before this match that he will retire from international football after this tournament. Manager Erik Hamrén has also announced he will be stepping down at the end of the tournament, with the way things have gone for the Swedes this could be the farewell game for both of them. Group E is the most straight forward of the six groups at Euro 2016. Italy have already sewn up top spot and Belgium sit on three points ahead of Ireland and Sweden who are both on one point. Belgium know that all they need to do is avoid defeat and they will go through as Runners-up to face the winner of Group F. They will fancy their chances in this one as Sweden are yet to register a shot on target this tournament.

Both teams had contrasting fortunes in their previous games, Belgium bounced back well from a disappointing opening defeat to Italy by overpowering Republic of Ireland 3-0. Meanwhile, Sweden will feel hard done by as a late piece of individual brilliance from Éder denied them a well-deserved point against the Italians. Belgium have the upper hand based off previous meetings (seven wins compared to five) and will seriously fancy their chances of making it eight.

Predicted Line-Ups 

Sweden- Isaksson, Lindelof, Johansson, Granqvist, Olsson, Larsson, Ekdal, Kallstrom, Forsberg, Guidetti, Ibrahimović

The only concern Sweden have coming into the match is the fitness of Mikael Lustig. The midfielder continues to struggle with the groin injury that forced him off in the opening match and has been told that his Euros are likely to be over unless Sweden progress beyond the group stage. Lindelöf and Olsson will have to be careful in this match as a booking for them would rule them out of any potential last-16 match.

Belgium- Courtois, Meunier, Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen, Witsel, Fellaini, Hazard, De Bruyne, Mertens, Lukaku

Belgium have slightly more to worry about, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Moussa Dembélé both limped off against the Republic of Ireland and both are doubts for this match. This could see Dries Mertens and Marouane Fellaini return to the starting line-up. Belgium may be tempted to rest Vermaelen and Vertonghen as both are a booking away from a suspension.

Key Players 

Sweden have really struggled in front of goal in this tournament, even with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimović no Swedish player has got onto the scoresheet. This raises a lot of questions about the quality of service they are receiving. The likes of Forsberg, Ekdal and Kallstrom have not stood up so far this tournament. This means the role of Sebastian Larsson will be crucial in today’s game. The Sunderland winger has dropped down the pecking order since the arrival of Sam Allardyce but his ability to cross a ball isn’t in any doubt.  With Belgium likely to be spending large swathes of the game on top, a well-delivered set-piece could be Sweden’s best chance to score.

Romelu Lukaku plays a key role in this Belgium side, the common criticism of Belgium is that they have produced world class players in almost every position except for up-front. However, that is harsh on Romelu Lukaku, a man who scored 25 goals in all competitions last season for Everton. With the quality of service he will be receiving from the likes of Hazard and De Bruyne Lukaku’s form in-front of goal is crucial to Belgium’s chances of wrapping up games. The way in which missing chances can really affect a team’s morale was shown in Belgium’s disappointing opener against Italy.

My prediction

Belgium really bounced back from their opening day disappointment against Ireland with a clinical attacking display. I think this will continue against Sweden and Belgium will run out easy winners. With the poor attacking show from Sweden so far I expect Belgium to only need one but they will get more and run out 3-0 winners.

Sweden vs Belgium, Live on ITV4, coverage starts from 7:15pm, Kick-off at 8:00pm GMT at the Stade de Nice



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