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Euro 2024: Group E Predictions – Belgium, Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine

Euro 2024: Group E Predictions – Belgium, Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine

Kai Iliev Kai Iliev

Group E might not be the most exciting on paper, with Belgium being the clear favourite. However, this doesn’t mean fans should overlook the schedule. The second spot is up for grabs among the remaining three teams: Slovakia, Romania, and Ukraine. 

The Ukrainians reached the quarter-finals at Euro 2020, their best performance in history. However, their qualification path was a bit more complicated. After finishing third in their qualification group, they had to navigate the play-offs. They calmly eliminated Iceland to book their spot in the continental tournament.

Slovakia is a regular player of the Euros despite not having standout performances. While Slovakia doesn’t have any particular stars, they have a solid team capable of causing surprises.

Lastly, there is Romania. The Eastern Europeans missed the 2020 tournament, but now they’re back. While there are some talents, Romania has yet to prove it is ready for the top level. Their success in this tournament will largely depend on their encounters against Slovakia and especially against Ukraine.

Belgium: The Favourites with Aging Stars

Group Winner Odds: 1.47 (22bet)

Belgium might be the favourite in Group E, but they will have to understand that they cannot take their matches lightly. The Red Devils can no longer play the expansive version of football they once did, as key players have aged and are now unable to maintain the same intensity.

Belgium, unlike their opponents, would prefer a slower game, with the defence still needing development compared to the other departments.

The Belgians are expected to rely on their front three, composed of Jeremy Doku (Manchester City), Romelu Lukaku (AS Roma), and Leandro Trossard (Arsenal FC). Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City) are expected to be the leaders of the team, following the retirement of the Belgian superstar Eden Hazard.

The backline’s only remnant left from the Golden Generation that reached the 2018 World Cup semi-final is Jan Vertonghen, and this is a weakness that Belgium should look to hide. Another option for bolstering the defense could be Axel Witsel (Atlético de Madrid) and Wout Faes (Leicester City).

Belgium’s primary game plan should focus on playing through Doku and Kevin De Bruyne, the two most productive players when it comes to chance creation. 

With Lukaku as the focal point, this spine should guide the Belgians; any deviation from this strategy is likely to result in futile efforts. Belgium had a decent run in international friendlies, winning against Luxembourg, Montenegro and Ireland and drawing against England (2-2).

Romania: The Surprise Package

Group Qualification Odds: 1.7 (22bet)

Romania’s first participation after missing the 2020 edition of the tournament has been an absolute success. Contrary to expectations, Romania bossed the group, remaining unbeaten with six victories and four draws. Their final victory, a 1-0 win against Switzerland, showcased their strength. 

However, the Romanians still need to improve when it comes to sustaining pressure, which caused them to drop points against Kosovo (0-0) and Israel (1-1). 

The preparation matches, particularly the international friendlies, have raised concerns ahead of the tournament. Romania failed to win a single match out of four – drawing three and losing one against Colombia (2-3). 

The encounter against neighbours Bulgaria was especially worrying. The Bulgarians’s solid performance quickly suffocated Romania. Even organizing a winnable match against Lichtenstein didn’t help; Romania still dropped points, failing to capitalize on opportunities (0-0).

Romania has experimented with several formations, but Ianis Hagi is expected to be the team’s leader and creative force, while Radu Dragusin will anchor the defense.

Slovakia: The Solid Contenders

Group Qualification Odds: 1.9 (22bet)

Slovakia is an example of how some teams can qualify, lacking standout stars. Their path to qualification was straightforward, finishing second in a group that included Portugal, Luxembourg, Iceland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Liechtenstein.

Anything less than second place would have been considered a catastrophe. Slovakia only suffered two losses during qualification, both against Portugal. Although Slovakia showed good resistance in both matches, the difference in individual quality was too much for Slovakia to handle – an issue likely to persist in the tournament. 

How they will fare against teams of similar caliber remains a question. Slovakia is expected to struggle against Ukraine but has shown they have a fighting chance despite Ukraine being favored.

Slovakia’s campaign in international friendlies was not particularly impressive either. They were defeated by Austria (0-2) at home and held to a draw by Norway (1-1). They comfortably defeated San Marino (4-0) and capped their preparations with a surprising and emphatic win against Wales (4-0). Slovakia’s lack of star players – only Lobotka and Skriniar can be considered standouts – could hurt them when it matters most.

Juraj Kucka left the pitch injured after scoring against Wales, which threatens his availability for Slovakia’s first game – the most important, against Belgium.

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Ukraine: The Rising Talent Pool

Group Qualification Odds: 1.35 (22bet)

Ukraine’s status as a favorite for second place – and possibly even a challenge to Belgium – is well-established. The Ukrainian squad is brimming with talent, including Mykhaylo Mudryk (Chelsea), Georgyi Sudakov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Oleksandr Zinchenko (Arsenal), Viktor Tsygankov (Girona FC), Artem Dovbyk (Girona FC), Andriy Lunin (Real Madrid), and Ilia Zabarnyi (Bournemouth), to name a few. In the last tournament, Ukraine demonstrated they are a counter-attacking team with character, allowing Zinchenko a freer role as a playmaker. 

Despite this talent, Ukraine finished third in their qualifying group – and had to go through the playoffs to secure their spot. They triumphed over Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iceland to qualify. 

Ukraine has emerged as a new goldmine in terms of talent, with Artem Dovbyk exemplifying the phrase “veni, vidi, vici” – in his first season, he was awarded the Pichichi trophy. Nobody scores like the Ukrainian, and his partnership with Tsygankov is something the team should look to exploit. 

Ukraine reminds us that having star players is one thing, but assembling them into a cohesive team is another. 

They are no longer an underdog, even though they had to go through the play-offs. With an abundance of creative talent and goal scorers, defending against Ukraine will be a nightmare for any team. They certainly have the potential to make another deep run despite not always being mentioned among the favorites.

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