24 teams started – 8 have gone home now, 36 matches have been played – only 15 left and we will have a winner. The knockout stage begins today – NO SECOND CHANCES NOW!!!!!!!
Switzerland v Poland – Saint-Etienne
Two teams that will be seeing this a fantastic opportunity to make the last eight. Both have been pretty cagey in their matches so far, each side has only scored twice with Poland yet to concede and Switzerland only being breached once and that was a penalty. The Polish have a world class talent in Robert Lewandowski up front but they have struggled to supply him, but maybe that was just the plan in the group phase. Switzerland have just had problems scoring full stop, they have created chances but Haris Seferovic whilst a willing worker has missed all is chances, he was dropped for their last match versus France in favour of rising starlet, 18 year old Breel Embolo. It will be interesting to see what manager Vladimir Petkovic does in this regard. I feel Poland with their higher quality firepower will prevail, but only just. 2-1 to the Polish.
Wales v Northern Ireland – Paris
Wales learned the hard way in the group phase that talk is cheap when they tried to out psyche England in the build up to their huge clash. To be fair to them they nearly managed it, though the fact it was so late in the game and the way defeat was handed to them you might have thought it may have broken their spirit. Not a chance, they drew a line under line it and duly despatched, an admittedly poor, Russia side – but one that their English rivals could not beat, which was the same story with Slovakia. Wales deservedly topping the group through their strong work ethic and the obvious help of a man right on top of his game Gareth Bale, though Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey have been outstanding foils. Their reward another ‘Battle of Britain’ clash against Northern Ireland. Michael O’Neill and his players had done a marvellous job of just qualifying for this tournament, but getting out of a group that contained world champions Germany, Poland and Ukraine is a fantastic achievement. The way they bounced back against Ukraine in Lyon (after an insipid and dare I say a bit of a cowardly performance in their first match against Poland) was outstanding and set the tone for their backs to the wall efforts against Germany where goalkeeper, Michael McGovern put on a worldy performance to keep the score down and qualify the team as one of the best third place teams on goal difference. Its difficult to predict what will happen in this match as it always is with derbies. Wales have winning momentum, Northern Ireland will no doubt have huge belief, however they gave up a lot of chances against the Germans and can their goalkeeper have such an outstanding game again? I doubt it – Wales to prevail 2-0
Croatia v Portugal – Lens
Croatia for me have been the best team in this tournament so far, bar their fans completely losing it late on in their 2-2 draw against the Czech Republic, an inexplicable result bearing in mind how they totally dominated before the stoppage. However they showed huge fight against the holders, Spain, coming from behind to deservedly beat them and top their group which has at least put them in the so called easier half of the draw. The slight downside is they now have to play Portugal, who surprisingly only qualified from their group as a best third place team. Any team with Ronaldo in there must be taken on with some caution. The problem they have is that they were shown to be very vulnerable at the back after conceding three (admittedly two were deflected efforts) against Hungary, but the aforementioned Ronaldo was back on the scoresheet with a brace. I think the Iberian team will play to soak up pressure and attack on the break especially as they only played on Wednesday in stifling heat in Lyon. I feel they will be able to hold out in 90 minutes but Croatia will outlast them in extra time. 1-1 after 90 minutes with Croatia to win in extra time.
There will be daily predictions on Euro 2016 and comment as and when I get the opportunity to pass on my take on the goings on in the tournament – enjoy – let me know your thoughts.
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