As Ireland extended their unbeaten run at the Aviva under Martin O'Neill last night, our Group E opponents Italy, Belguim and Sweden endured a far more chastening night in their respective international friendlies last night.
Most notably, Italy were hammered 4-1 by Germany in Munich. The Italians were 4-0 down after 75 minutes, and pulled a goal back through Stephane El Shaaraway. Most worrying for Italy was a serious-looking injury to defensive stalwart Leonardo Bonucci, who was stretchered off having collapsed with a suspected knee injury.
First time since 1939 Italy have lost to Germany by 3 clear goals
— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) March 29, 2016
Despite the heavy defeat, Antonio Conte said that he will not be calling up any new faces to the squad between now and the Euros:
Germany are world champions. I think they deserved it today, without a doubt. When they got their chances they used them. We had a few chances but we were inexperienced
I can't accuse the guys of anything. They tried everything, gave everything... I don't know what I can change six weeks before naming the squad.
The game was the only the second occasion Italy have conceded four goals in a game since the Euro 2012 final. Football Italia called the defeat "embarrasing", with Eurosport highlighting the problems the Azzurri are encountering in the forward line:
There is a lack of experience in the front line which could be exposed at Euro 2016 in games when their defence is breached. Federico Bernardeschi is a young winger still finding his feet at this level, while Simone Zaza was anonymous for much of the game in Munich and is not in goal-scoring form at club level for Juventus.
Antonio Conte may have to turn to Southampton's Graziano Pelle or the injury-prone enigma that is Stefan El Shaarawy as his main scorer. The 4-1 defeat to the Germans was a stark reminder for the defence of the tests to come at the highest level, but also for the forwards of the need to step up.
Elsewhere, Belguim fell to a 2-1 defeat to Portugal in a game moved from Brussels owing to the recent terror attacks. Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani put Portugal ahead, with Jordan Lukaku - younger brother of Everton forward Romelu - pulling a goal back, proving that Ireland now have a second Lukaku brother to worry about at the championships.
Belgian media outlet HLN.be put the defeat down to the absence of a number of first-team regulars in defence:
No Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, but especially not Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen. Five absentee holders - including three pillars back - proved too much of a good thing this evening in the Portuguese Leiria.
Interestingly, the report also included #PrayForKompany, so it would seem that it is not just Manchester City who are overly reliant on the injury-prone defender.
— Kristof Terreur (@HLNinEngeland) March 29, 2016
Eurosport highlighted both the injuries and the performance of Jordan Lukaku:
Judging Marc Wilmots’ side on this performance would be harsh. Key players such as Christian Benteke, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, and Jan Vertonghen were all missing. But barely any of Belgum’s reserves impressed – with the exception of Romelu’s little brother. Jordan - a 21-year-old who plays for Oostende - has certainly not done his chances of featuring in France any harm.
And finally, Sweden were the only of Ireland's Group E opponents to avoid defeat: they drew 1-1 with the Czech Republic at the Friends' Arena in Stockholm. Amid ceaseless speculation over his club future, Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to international action in a game which Sweden dominated early on, taking the lead through Marcus Berg. The Czechs then equalised through Matej Vydra.