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ESPN FC's Euro 2016 awards

Euro 2016
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Euro 2016 team preview: Republic of Ireland aim to improve on 2012

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

The Republic of Ireland arrive at their second successive European Championship hoping to at least do better than their miserable group stage exit in 2012, when they lost all three games and conceded nine goals. Scraping through Group E would constitute success for a workmanlike side.

How they qualified: Via playoffs

Ireland defeated Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-1 on aggregate after finishing third in Group D behind Germany and Poland. A famous home win over the Germans in October earned them that spot; they also held the world champions 1-1 the previous year.

How they'll proceed:

Nobody should underestimate the Irish, who have plenty of experience and have shown they can scrap their way to the kind of result that would throw the group wide open. Their first match against Sweden looks vital, and anything but a win would make progression a very long shot.

TBD by Editor
After beating England in their first game in 1988, Ireland are winless in five European Championship matches.

Predicted lineup:

(4-5-1); GK: Darren Randolph; DF: Seamus Coleman, John O'Shea, Richard Keogh, Robbie Brady; MF: James McCarthy, Glenn Whelan, Jonathan Walters, Wes Hoolahan, James McClean; FW: Shane Long.

Key player: James McCarthy

The Everton midfielder is a tenacious, all-action competitor and can also look after the ball in possession. He was crucial in qualifying, as he worked tirelessly in a side that relies on graft, and has the tactical astuteness for success at a major tournament.

Manager: Martin O'Neill

A former Northern Ireland international who has managed Norwich, Leicester, Celtic, Aston Villa and Sunderland in club football, O'Neill took the job in 2013 and -- assisted by Roy Keane -- has moulded a dogged side that while short on flair will fight for the very last ball.

Schedule:

June 13 vs. Sweden (Noon ET/4 p.m. GMT; Stade de France, Saint-Denis)
-- LIVE on ESPN

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

June 22 vs. Italy (3 p.m. ET/7 p.m. GMT; Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille)
-- LIVE on ESPN

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

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