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Euro 2016 group draw results: Italy, Belgium, Zlatan in solid Group E

Mark your calendars for fun with Zlatan.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

This is the most fun group in the tournament before you remember that Italy will definitely play 10 men behind the ball in search of two 0-0 draws and a 1-0 win. Outside of them, though, Group E is fantastic. Belgium and Sweden are a joy to watch, while Ireland will bring the best set of fans to France, even if they don't win any points.

Meet the teams:


Belgium are one of the most exciting teams in international football right now, playing attractive football and doing it successfully enough that they've climbed to the top of the FIFA international rankings. They're packed with young and exciting stars, and seem primed to take a big step forward as a team to contend with, despite a somewhat disappointing World Cup appearance two summers ago.

Key player: Kevin De Bruyne

While many would pick Eden Hazard or Romelu Lukaku for this spot, De Bruyne's well-rounded skillset as a creative midfielder makes him vital for this kind of tournament format. He can create chances for his teammates from various positions, he can take chances for himself, he's great at set pieces -- that's a must-play and a key cog for any team in a tournament.


Italy have been largely underwhelming since reaching the final of the European Championships three years ago, though they are undoubtedly one of the historic giants of world football. The Azzurri he won a total of five major tournaments, and when it comes to the Euros, they're invariably mentioned among the contenders.

It's certainly true to say they've not been particularly exciting since Antonio Conte took charge in the wake of their disappointing World Cup group stage exit in Brazil last year, and qualifying proved something of a grind: a draw against Bulgaria and one-goal wins over Malta and Azerbaijan confirmed the suspicion that their current crop of ageing stars and Serie A cloggers is one lacking in real quality.

However, Italy have a history of performing at their best with their backs to the wall, and if nothing else, they're likely to be a very stubborn team to beat. Don't discount them.

Key player: Giorgio Chiellini

That Giorgio Chiellini is Italy's key player is rather indicative of their current tactical approach, with coach Conte unwilling to take risks in both selection and style. A tight back line is very much the priority for this current Azzurri side, and so it's fortunate Chiellini remains one of the very best defenders on the planet. In the last set of international call-ups, only legendary Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had picked up more caps than his domestic teammate, and if Italy are to have any success in the summer, Chiellini's technical and organizational skill will surely prove pivotal.


Sweden are something of an enigma coming into Euro 2016. Zlatan And Company are a good team, but not always particularly well balanced. Their defense can be spotty, their midfield unreliable, and their attack a one-man-band -- admittedly a very impressive one man. At other times, though, they look very complete, with all phases clicking and overwhelming almost any opponent. That kind of enigma is hard to predict a performance for in a tournament setting, but it's always safer to assume that such a team will fall flat in the end -- but you also can't overlook the chance that they get hot and stay hot. That's confusing and troubling, but it could also be so much fun if Sweden does well.

Key player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan may not quite be Zlatan any more, as age and time have started to catch up to him and slow down his once incredible talents. He's still well capable of taking over any match, though, and his talents still demand significant attention from a defense. As long as his fellow attackers are on their game, the space his presence will create should be more than enough to let Sweden run the day. If they're not, and Zlatan is on his game like the old days, then no amount of defensive attention will stop him. It's nice to have Zlatan in your team, isn't it?

Republic of Ireland

Qualified for their second straight Euros tournament for the first time ever, many fans and casual observers will be hoping for something good from this tournament for the Irish. Always a fun team, Ireland also looked excellent on a competitive level through their qualifying run, even beating Germany and looking fully deserved in doing so along the way. They're still something of a flawed team, with a questionable back line and creative concerns in midfield, but when things are clicking, their ability to strike on the counter is tough to beat. That always make for the potential to cause surprises in a tournament setting -- and when you've got that plus a fun team, who knows what can happen.

Key player: Jonathan Walters

Walters is a versatile forward who fits excellently with how Ireland play. Whether he's deployed on the wing or up top, he's a hard worker who presses extremely well when Ireland don't have the ball, and when they're trying to build up play he's very good at floating into spaces to let his teammates pick him out in attack. He's also a huge threat on the counter attack, something Ireland do a lot of. If anyone is going to be a huge asset in their attack in this tournament, it's Walters.


Winners: Belgium
Going through: Italy
Third, with a chance: Sweden
Out: Republic of Ireland