- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

PARIS (AP) - Former winner Italy landed in arguably the toughest group for Euro 2016, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden and a rejuvenated Belgium currently top of FIFA’s rankings.

Ireland completes the group.

“It couldn’t get tougher,” Ireland manager Martin O’Neill said.

Here are other essential things to know about Group E:

THE BIG MATCH: Italy vs. Belgium on June 13 in Lyon. Although Italy’s performances over the past two years have not been so impressive, the Azzurri remain perennial contenders at big tournaments. The contrast between Italy’s efficiency and the free-flowing football from Belgium’s new crop of players promises one of the most interesting games of the tournament.



PLAYER TO WATCH: Marco Verratti. The Paris Saint-Germain player has become a beating heart of the French champions’ midfield since joining from Pescara in 2012. At just 23, Verratti impresses not only with his exceptional physical qualities but also his leadership.

PROJECTED TOP TWO: Belgium, Italy. With English Premier League stars Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany, Belgium is expected to go deep in the tournament, while Italy will count on its traditional stubbornness to advance despite some aging players.

“Belgium are a great team with outstanding players,” Italy coach Antonio Conte said.

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots was equally wary, saying: “It’s the most difficult opponents we could have.”

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