Wilmots: Belgium not in running
Ireland's rivals are 'outsiders' inisists manager
Marc Wilmots, the manager of Ireland's Euro 2016 opponents Belgium, insists his team are outsiders to win the competition.
Wilmots, who pits his wits against Ireland manager Martin O'Neill in the second Group E game in Bordeaux on Saturday, June 18 (kick-off 5.0pm Irish time) insists Spain, Germany and France are favourites to win the tournament, despite his own Belgian team being seeded second.
Top of the FIFA World Ranking until April and second only to Argentina now, Belgium have been named by some pundits as potential European champions.
But in an interview published yesterday with Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport, Wilmots played down his squad's chances.
"Just because people are crazy it does not mean I am as well," Wilmots said. "There are teams like Spain, Germany and France that have a lot of quality. We are among the outsiders like Italy and Portugal."
With team captain Vincent Kompany already ruled out of Euro 2016, Wilmots said Belgium would need to avoid injuries to reach the later stages of the tournament.
Liverpool's Divock Origi, who Wilmots picked as a fairly unknown striker for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, is also still uncertain after suffering an ankle injury.
Wilmots said the Belgian team had matured since being knocked out by Argentina in the World Cup quarter-finals, as shown by transfers of players such as Christian Benteke and Kevin De Bruyne to new and bigger clubs.
"It made them more confident in their abilities. We are all more relaxed," said Wilmots, who played for Belgium himself.
Bookmakers rank Belgium as fifth favourites for Euro 2016, behind France, Germany, Spain and England."If we can avoid injuries we can reach the semi-finals, and once you are there who knows what can happen," Wilmots said.
Ireland are valued at 100/1 to win the competition.