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Euro 2016 profile: Belgium a top dark horse pick for punters

Can Belgium go all the way in France and lift Euro 2016?

Kevin-De-Bruyne-and-Eden-Hazard

We cast an eye over Belgium and their Euro 2016 aspirations in the betting build-up to the tournament.

We’re profiling all 24 teams at the Euro 2016 finals in France, so punters are in the know when it comes to the sides on show this summer.

First up are Belgium, a team packed with Premier League superstars and tipped to be the outsiders to watch in this tournament.

The talented Red Devils are a top market price of 12/1 with Coral to take home the trophy, but first have to navigate a tricky and competitive Group E also featuring Euro giants Italy plus Sweden and the Republic of Ireland.

History at the Euros: Regular underachievers in the past, Belgium’s best finish was as runner-up at Euro 1980, when the Red Devils were defeated in the final by West Germany. They have not made it past the group stage since, but this current crop and ‘golden generation’ aim to change all that…

Head coach: A 70-capped former Belgium international, ex-Schalke attacking midfielder Marc Wilmotts is still his nation’s all-time top scorer at the World Cup.

Dubbed the ‘Bull of Dongelberg’, the 47-year-old once tried his hand at being a politician, but has been ensconced in the Red Devils dugout since 2012 with a win ratio of 75 per cent in competitive clashes.

Key player: Kevin De Bruyne. With skipper Eden Hazard off the boil for club Chelsea, it is up to Manchester City star De Bruyne (a 33/1 outsider from Sky Bet to be tournament top scorer) to be the attacking inspiration upon his return from injury.

With 11 international strikes, the predatory playmaker is even more potent than battering ram Romelu Lukaku, despite fewer caps, making the nimble schemer the one for opposition sides to shackle. Take your eye off 24-year-old De Bruyne for a second and he’ll have set a teammate up, or put the ball in the back of the net himself – a true match winner.

Rising star: Now this is a tough one. Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Ferreira Carrasco has been thrust into the ranks and has looked a threat on the flanks in his cameos so far, but Marseille marksman Michy Batshuayi has arguably been more explosive, with two goals in as many Belgium games.

Lukaku (20/1 with Betfair to be leading Euro 2016 scorer) looks a cert to start up top but bullish Batshuayi is more likely than Christian Benteke to put the Evertonian under pressure, and perhaps bag a goal off the bench.

Wildcard: Nacer Chadli. The Tottenham wideman has seen his club season interrupted by injury but, since his return in December, the Belgian has bagged six goals and four assists.

With so many top-drawer attackers available, Chadli’s squad spot is not cemented, yet he could prove a reliable and direct performer on French soil in tandem with flashier stars such as Hazard.

Confirmed Belgium Euro 2016 fixtures
All kick-offs are British Summer Time (BST)

Monday, June 13th: Belgium v Italy (20:00); Parc Olympique Lyonnais/Stade des Lumieres, Lyon, BBC
Saturday, June 18th: Belgium v Republic of Ireland (14:00); Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, ITV
Wednesday, June 22nd: Sweden v Belgium (20:00); Allianz Riviera, Nice, ITV

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