I would attribute this to one of the points I made in my intro to the whole tournament. A combination of the increase in teams, the dilution of the quality thereof, and the fact that four of the six third places teams will continue on makes it harder to have a GROUP OF DEATH.
This is the group that probably would have acquired the moniker, if we were still with only two teams going through and it is still an even battle to see who will be the team to miss out.
Belgium are ranked number one in the world according to the incomprehensible system used by FIFA, the world governing body to determine these things.
There is no doubt that they are an extremely talented group of individuals but therein lies the problem. Football is a team game and these players have not gelled as a team and as a result I do not see Belgium going all the way.
Yet again, one could say this reflects the fabric of Belgian society. A country which struggles to maintain a stable government and which has sharp divisions between the Flemish and and the Walloon's, before we even start on the high immigrant population problems that they have.
So Belgium are not a team in the way that Italy are a team, well organised, especially defensively, no major egos and an ethos of giving everything for the team effort. If we were talking about the French, we could say "all for one and one for all", which sums up this Italian squad perfectly.
Another thing is that historically, Italy often plays well in tournaments, they have garnered years of experience in this type of football and use this knowledge to its full extent.
Next up are Sweden, the only of the Scandinavian nations to qualify, another solid well organised team, without much flair, but undoubtedly they have in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, yes I know a very Swedish sounding name, one of the players of whom most is expected in this tournament.
A reader of the blog informed me that Zlatan has been involved in 74% of Swedish goals scored in the last few years,
my reply to him was, maybe, but not when it mattered not in the money time. If Zlatan fires on all cylinders as he did in the clip below against England, Sweden may do well, if he doesn't, it will be thanks for bringing the gravlax, safe trip home.
Zlatan bangs them in
This leaves us with the Republic of Ireland, another hard working well organised side who being Irish, don't know when they are beaten.
This group is too hard to predict, expect three out of four to advance, but your guess is as good as mine which three it will be.
Four to watch
|Buffon, not a clown|
|Nainggolan, Why ?|
|Seamus Coleman love his first name|
|Zlatan goal m|