Seven matches before the 2016 European Champions are crowned – we head to Marseille for the first of the quarter finals.
Poland are now really into uncharted territory, they had never qualified for a European Championship until the 2008 edition, they hosted in 2012, in both of those they never made it past the group stage, but now they are in the last 8 and will be thinking they can at least go one step further. Not since the days of Lato in 1974 World Cup and Boniek in the 1982 version has a Polish team got this far in a major championship tournament – in both they finish third . In fact Boniek is now the President of the Polish Football association and maybe his presence at all the matches is inspiring the players. One player who does need to step up more is their captain Robert Lewandowski, he has struggled this tournament and the only time he has found the net was in the penalty shootout against Switzerland. I have noticed he is spending a lot of time outside the penalty area being a play maker, when he is much more dangerous in the widths of the 18 yard box where he has shown he can be devastating. If he is firing the Poles will have a great chance.
What can we say about Portugal. Well they are unbeaten that’s a positive. Its staggering that they have not won a game in 90 minutes, with their winner coming in extra time in their round of 16 game against a Croatian side that had in my opinion been the best team in the tournament at that stage, however when you get to the knockout phase, you only get one chance and it was the Portuguese who took theirs. Ricardo Quaresma took it in the 117th minute – the first shot on target in the game. The thing the Portuguese have shown in their last couple of games is backbone. Yes Ronaldo (who is nowhere near 100% fit in my opinion) is the main man but he was very peripheral in this match (though his shot helped set up the winner) – but the rest of team performed superbly and defensively they were outstanding. The starting of Sporting Lisbon team mates Adrien Silva and William Carvalho helped along with the substitute introduction of Renato Sanches who drove the team forward in the absent of Ronaldo being on top of his game. A real opportunity is now there for the Iberian team to make the semi-finals for the fourth time in the last five European Championships.
Okay prediction time. Portugal to break their 90 minute winning duck. Poland will give a good fight and I can see Lewandowski scoring but the Portuguese winning the match. 2-1 to Portugal.
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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