Euro 2016 Day 4: Champions Spain face Czech Republic, Ireland kick-off against Sweden

Holders Spain look to kick-off their campaign with victory over Czech Republic, Belgium and Italy face off in what should be a tight game, while Ireland go head-to-head with Sweden.

Spain v Czech Republic
1400 ~ Stadium Municipal, Toulouse

Spain will be aiming to kick-off their campaign with a win as they aim for a third consecutive European Championships and head coach Vicente del Bosque hopes his side come out on top against a very tough side.

Spain suffered defeat to Georgia in their final warm up game image; goal.com

Spain suffered defeat to Georgia in their final warm up game
image; goal.com

“I think we have managed to get into good shape despite the hard season,” said the 65-year-old.

“The opening game is very special and one with a lot of responsibility, increasing from day to day, but we will see if we are at the level we deserve. Czech Republic are a well-organised team with good players and they are good from set pieces which is always dangerous.”

Cezch Republic topped their group at Euro 2012 but gaffer Pavel Vrba knows that it will take something special from his team to defeat the holders.

“We have a very difficult test in front of us,” said the former Viktoria Plzen head coach.

To succeed we will have to do everything right as we are going to face one of the biggest favourites for the tournament. They have world-class players in every position. I still think there are things that could surprise them.

Team News

Spain coach del Bosque has hinted that David de Gea will start in goal ahead of Iker Casillas, despite the Man United goalkeeper facing allegations that he was involved in a sex text scandal.

Striker Alvaro Morata is available after he missed Spain’s 1-0 friendly defeat to Georgia with a  thigh injury, while David Silva looks set to win his 100th cap.

Czech Republic midfielder  Borek Dockal is expected to face the defending champions despite been hampered with an ankle injury. Marek Suchy is suspended so either Michal Kadlec or Roman Hubnik will replace him at centre-back.

Republic of Ireland v Sweden
1700 ~ Stade de France, Saint-Denis

Ireland failed to pick up a single point at Euro 2012 but gaffer Martin O’Neill hopes it’s much better for the Boys in Green this time around and can’t wait to get their campaign underway.

“It’s getting exciting. I think we just can’t wait to get started,” said the former Celtic boss.

“We have some very talented individuals who can hopefully change the course of a game. If you’re stubborn and you’re hard to break down, if you’ve got that little bit of talent where you can conjure something up from virtually nothing, it gives you a better chance.”

Shane Long scored in Ireland's 1-1 warm up draw with The Netherlands image: setanta.com

Shane Long scored in Ireland’s 1-1 warm up draw with The Netherlands
image: setanta.com

Sweden are unbeaten in their last six competitive games against Ireland and Erik Hamren will be looking to star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to get Sweden off to a winning start.

“We respect Ireland and are looking forward to this encounter,” said the 58-year-old.

“The important thing is to win the games and I hope we’ll do that. Who scores the goals is not as important; if Zlatan can provide for others I’ll be just as happy as if Zlatan scores the goals himself.”

Team News

Ireland will hand late fitness tests to captain Robbie Keane (calf) and midfielder James McCarthy (hamstring), while Stoke striker Jonathan Walters could start after overcoming an achilles problem.

Manager O’Neill has a decision to make as to who will partner John O’Shea in defence with Shane Duffy, Richard Keogh and Ciaran Clark all vying to start against Sweden.

Sweden midfielder Albin Ekdal is back in contention after he suffered a deep cut to his back during a fall at a nightclub in May but is unlikely to start their opening match as boss Hamren has a full strength squad to choose from.

Belgium v Italy
2000 ~ Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon

Belgium head into their Euro 2016 campaign as many a persons dark horses but head coach Marc Wilmots is aware of the threat of Italy, a side the Red Devils have not beaten competitively in 44 years.

“A win would give us a lot of confidence whereas a loss would shake us up a bit,” said

“Italy are the most prestigious and most difficult opponents to start a tournament with, and we’ll need to be in top form right from the start. They have one of the top leagues in the world, a high level of players and a well-prepared coach who’ll get them in great physical condition.”

Italy were runners-up to Spain at Euro 2016 but manager Antonio Conte hopes the pressure does not get to his Italy team and that they focus on the task at hand.

Belgium have not won a competitive game against Italy since 1972 image: uefa.com

Belgium have not won a competitive game against Italy since 1972
image: uefa.com

“It’s important to use your head and try to play the way we have prepared over recent days,” said the incoming Chelsea boss.

“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. They are strong everywhere, in attack and midfield, with lots of substance. At the back, they have a lot of experience.”

Team News

Belgium winger Eden Hazard limped out of training but the Chelsea man is expected to start against Italy and he will captain the side at Euro 2016 after regular captain Vincent Kompany missed out on the squad through injury.

Italy boss Conte is missing a number of key players from his 23-man squad with midfield trio Riccardo Montolivo, Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti all out injured.

There is also no Mario Balotelli for Italy after he was left out of the squad after a poor season at AC Milan, so Southampton’s Graziano Pelle could start up front against Belgium.

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