Two strong teams of Euro 2016 — Belgium and Italy — are set for a mammoth encounter at the Stade de Lyon on Monday. With Belgium possessing an impressive number of stars, the match — the first one in the competition for both teams — could be an intense battle between Italy's defence and The Red Devils' offensive unit, making it for an entertaining view in Decines.
With Belgium and Italy being placed in the tough Group E, which also comprises the Republic of Ireland and Sweden, both the teams will be eager to get off to a winning start. The winner of tonight's clash between Belgium and Italy will have a huge chance to finish on top of the group, as they are the strongest two teams in the pool.
Belgium and Italy come into this Euro 2016 as confident units with some great performances in the qualifying stages. Belgium lost one match in the qualifying round while Italy did not taste defeat even once, and will be keen to maintain that record in Euro 2016 as well.
Belgium may not have won glorious titles in the past, but this star-studded team can help their nation achieve history, and their coach Marc Wilmots, wants fans to back them against Italy.
"The hope we have is fantastic. When you have a national side that's had results like ours over the last four years, it's normal that people have hope. We'll have 15 or 18,000 fans here. We've given Belgium its colour back. I prefer pressure to not having people coming to watch us, and we'll need our 12th man tomorrow because there will be spells that aren't easy," UEFA's official website quoted Wilmots as saying.
Belgium have a solid team, with Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku being their go-to man for goals. But they will be strongly tested by Italy's defence. Italy does not concede much goals, as was witnessed during their qualifying, where they let in only seven. With Giorgio Chiellini being Italy's leader at the back, he will want to come with an inspiring performance, and help Italy start Euro 2016 with a win.
They have always been a strong defensive unit, but their goal-scoring could be a cause of concern. Italy does not have a world-class striker compared to other big teams, and will depend on Graziano Pelle for goals, along with some strong offensive performance from Stephan El Shaarawy.
Italy coach, Antonio Conte, is aware of the threat Belgium poses, and showered praise on his opponents ahead of the clash.
"There's little to say about Belgium – everybody can see their capabilities – and it is also all their own work to have such talented young players. Congratulations to them, because it means they've worked well on their football. They are strong everywhere, in attack and midfield, with lots of substance. At the back, they have a lot of experience. They're a great side for me, in terms of both the present and the future," Conte said.
Belgium might have a slight edge in this Euro 2016 encounter, but if Italy take lead, the Red Devils will have a tough time to come back from a goal down against Italy's defence. Hence both teams will come out all guns blazing in search of that opening goal, which will settle the nerves for the goal-scoring team.
Where to watch live
Belgium vs Italy is scheduled for a 8 p.m. BST (12:30 a.m. IST, 3 p.m. EST) start. TV coverage and Live streaming options for Euro 2016 are given below.
India: TV: Sony Six/HD and Sony ESPN/HD. Live Streaming: Sonyliv.
Belgium: La Une
Italy: Sky Sport 1 Italia
France: TV: Bein Sports 1. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.
USA: TV: ESPN. Live Streaming: Watch ESPN.
Canada: TV: TSN and RDS. Live Streaming: TSN TV.
Australia: TV: Bein Sports and SBS One. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.
Latin America: TV: DirecTV.
China and Hong Kong: TV: CCTV and LeTV.
Thailand: TV: Channel 3.
Singapore: TV: Eleven Singapore and Singtel. Live Streaming: Singtel Go.
Malaysia: TV: Astro.
Middle East and North Africa: TV: Bein Sports Max. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.
South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa: TV: SuperSport 3. Live Streaming: SuperSport