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Euro 2016 team preview: Belgium have the talent to make a deep run

Group E: Belgium | Italy | Republic of Ireland | Sweden

If you believe the FIFA rankings, chart-toppers Belgium should be outright favourites for this tournament. The truth is not quite as rosy, but this appears the time for a wonderful generation to deliver. Falling short of the semifinals would be a missed opportunity.

How they qualified: First in Group B

Belgium topped their pool comfortably, with a home draw and an away defeat to second-placed Wales as their only real blips. They scored 24 goals and conceded just five.

How they'll proceed:

The opening match against Italy could well decide who wins the group. Funnily enough, whoever finishes top might have the tougher task, as Germany are likely quarterfinal opponents. Expect Belgium to get at least that far -- and further still if they avoid Joachim Low's men.

TBD by Editor
This will be Belgium's first European Championship appearance since they were cohosts in 2000.

Predicted lineup:

(4-3-3); GK: Thibaut Courtois; DF: Toby Alderweireld, Thomas Vermaelen, Jason Denayer, Jan Vertonghen; MF: Radja Nainggolan, Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini; FW: Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku.

Key player: Kevin De Bruyne

A serious knee injury saw the Manchester City midfielder miss several months, but he will be back for Euro 2016, and his country will need him. For all their talent, Belgium can look ponderous at times, but an in-form De Bruyne is capable of raising their tempo.

Manager: Marc Wilmots

There was a sense during the 2014 World Cup, when Belgium never quite hit top gear, despite reaching the last eight, that Wilmots -- in charge since 2012 -- could get more out of his team. But he has inspired improvement since and could prove doubters wrong.

Schedule:

June 13 vs. Italy (3 p.m. ET/7 p.m. GMT; Stade de Lyon, Lyon)
-- LIVE on ESPN

June 18 vs. Republic of Ireland (9 a.m. ET/1 p.m. GMT; Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux)
-- LIVE on ESPN

June 22 vs. Sweden (3 p.m. ET/7 p.m. GMT; Stade de Nice, Nice)
-- LIVE on ESPN2

Games are also LIVE on ESPN Deportes, ESPN FC, WatchESPN and the ESPN app.

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