Belgium (+145) vs Italy (+215), Draw (+205)
The two favorites in Group E will square off right out of the gate on Monday when Belgium and Italy clash at the Stade des Lumières in Décines, France (3:00 PM Eastern).
The oddsmakers listed Belgium as the favorite to win the Group E at 11/10 while Italy follows at 13/8. Sweden (6/1) and the Republic of Ireland (10/1) round out the closest thing this year’s tournament has to a “group of death.”
Belgium have never had a lot of success on the international stage, but they bring their most talented team ever into the Euro. In terms of transfer dollars, their roster is the most expensive of the 24 nations participating in the tournament, and it’s not close. All told, the Belgium team cost over $461 million in transfers.
Every line of the starting squad boasts top-end talent, but the midfield may be the scariest of all, led by Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, two of the best players in the English Premier League with Manchester City and Chelsea, respectively.
Upfront, Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku will look to finish the scoring chances created by their midfield counterparts.
The team finished the Euro qualifiers atop Group B with seven wins, two draws, and one loss. They scored 24 goals and allowed just five. Their only loss was a 1-0 away setback to runner-up Wales.
Unlike Belgium, Italy don’t have a lot of options on the attack. While Belgium’s national team is in a golden age, Italy is fielding one of its weakest teams in decades in terms of personnel. That said, the Azzurri are unified and well-coached. They finished qualification without a loss (7-3-0) and will again be tough to score on in the Euro.
These teams met in a friendly last year and Belgium emerged with an easy 3-1 win at home. They’ll get a tougher test in Monday’s neutral-site game, but should still prevail.
Pick: Belgium (+145).
(Photo Credit: Erik Drost (Flickr: Belgium National Team) CC BY 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)