Lakenheath Old Boys

We are all former students at Lakenheath High School and other public schools in East Anglia. We were in school in the 70s and 80s and drank deeply from the well of British culture of those decades - the pints, the telly, and of course the footie!

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Euro 2016 Preview - Group E: Italy

On to Group E now, the Group of Death for this summer's tournament. Top seed in the group - perennial tournament contenders Italy:

Nickname: " Gli Azurri" ("The Sky Blues")

Absurd FIFA ranking: 12th

Coach: Future Chelsea boss Antonio Conte

Match Schedule: 

June 13 - Italy v. Belgium (Lyon, 3pm EST, ESPN)
June 17 - Italy v. Sweden (Toulouse, 3pm ESPN)
June 22 - Italy v. Republic of Ireland (Lille, 3pm, ESPN)

Prospects: Despite erratic form under former Juve boss Conte, the Azurri topped their qualifying group. They arrive at France 2016 in the Group of Death and with low expectations. Yet, the Italians have a way of starting slowly, playing badly and still somehow eking their way through the rounds until - hey, presto! - they're in the semifinals. If only England had their tournament mentality! The Italians possess one of the most seasoned squads in the tournament with players along the spine - Buffon, Motta, de Rossi - that have been there before. Count them out at your own risk!

Key Player: Gianluca Buffon has the potential to be a hero again for his beloved national side. In a procession of close call matches, Buffon might save Italy's bacon in several rounds.

Youngster to Watch: None; even the youngest players in the squad have been out of short pants for quite some time.

Who Will Get the Goals: Scoring is the Azurri's main weakness under Conte who is likely to play one solo striker up front. Without crazy Mario Balotelli around this time, striking duties may fall to the likes of Southampton's Graziano Pelle.

Who Will Get the Cards: Take your pick among the rugged and cynical Italian backline; however, Juve's Georgio Chiellini always starts on a yellow in my book.

Prediction: It will be the usual long and winding road for Italy this summer, edged out of top spot in Group E by a rampant Belgian side that finally comes good. That will bring up a toothless Portugal in the Round of 16. After dispatching them 1-0, they'll run into old foes England in the Quarters. Another penalty win gets them a semi final occasion with Spain. One game too many for them.

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