Thursday, June 30, 2016

Euro 2016 predictions: The elite eight battle for the final four spots

After a fairly cautious group stage which saw a total of 69 goals from 38 matches, EURO 2016 exploded into life in the first knockout stage with some extraordinary games (and Croatia vs. Portugal). This round had it all, penalty shoot outs, shocks, come-back wins, own goals, wonder goals, spankings… and it had Croatia vs. Portugal. With all eight ties now decided, we’ll preview the quarter final fixtures today, but before we begin, let’s look back at the major talking points from the Round of 16.

The final last 16 match up of the tournament ended on Monday evening with a massive upset as England were beaten 2-1 by Iceland in Nice. It was a horrific night for Roy Hodgson and his men with not only a premature elimination to deal with, but also unarguably the most embarrassing defeat in the history of the English national team at a major tournament since they were beaten 1-0 by a semi professional U.S team at the 1950 World Cup. England have perennially flattered to deceive on the big stage, but they outdid themselves on the night, with their performance against Iceland ridiculed from all corners. They managed only one shot on target in the second half, a tepid Harry Kane header, with Hodgson’s tactics and substitutions often mind-boggling. Expectedly, Hodgson ended his four year reign as coach almost immediately after the game and a lot of English fans believe some of the playing staff should also call time on their international careers.

Spain dominated the world football scene from 2008-2012, winning three major titles in that span, but after being outclassed, outfought and outplayed by the Italians in Saint Denis on Monday, the question on the lips of most football fans is; is this the end of an era? Antonio Conte’s Italy side kept Spain at bay throughout the match at the Stade de France, emerging 2-0 winners and ensured that Spain conceded a goal in the knockout round of a Euro finals for the first time since former France winger Youri Djorkaeff’s strike in 2000. The Azzurri were magnificent in possession and even better without it, cutting off supply lines and frustrating Spain’s flair players, with Danielle De Rossi particularly impressive in the middle of the park. Spain now head home after another disappointing international tournament, with Italy marching on to play Germany in the quarters as the footballing landscape continues to change.

The bore fest between Portugal and Ukraine has to go down in history as the dullest and most aesthetically offensive match in world football history. There were 117 minutes of pure nothingness before Ricardo Quaresma put those watching out of their misery with his goal (which was just the second attempt on target in two hours of play, the first being a Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot that was punched into Quaresma’s path for the goal, a second earlier). This was turgid, unambitious and embarrassing. Both sides were seemingly competing to see who could bore the watching world most and watching paint dry, would have honestly been better than what we witnessed. This game should be packaged and sold on DVD by our ‘Alaba’ friends as a cure for insomnia, totally terrible.

Poland and Portugal will kick off this round tonight at the Stade Velodrome in Marsielle. Poland qualified for the quarter final stage of the competition via penalties against Switzerland after both teams could only breach each other’s net once in 120 minutes of action. Robert Lewandowski still needs to prove his worth as he has failed to impress in the first four games of this tournament, however he is still their only world class player and will be instrumental for their hopes of getting into final four. Poland have what it takes to fight for victory in this fixture, they have a good team spirit and seem to have a defence line that can hold off Cr7 and his cohorts, if Lewandowski picks up to the level we expect from him, then they have a big chance of going through. Meanwhile Portugal have failed to win within regulation time in all their games so far in this tournament, but amazingly have managed to keep their record of reaching at least the quarter-final stage in all their appearances at this tournament. They are slight favourites in this fixture despite them falling short of expectations, they seem to lack team spirit but they have a lot of individual quality and talent in their team. Few people have been expecting the Portuguese to turn up and they just might today. Matches between these sides have always been cagey, they have met in 10 previous games with four wins for Portugal, three for Poland and three stalemates. My tip for this game is a double-chance bet on Portugal and Over2.5 goals .

Wales will lock horns with Belgium in the second quarter final at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille tomorrow evening, hoping not to be the victims of a fourth consecutive win for the Belgians. The Dragons didn’t look as comfortable as they had been in the group stages, when they came up against a well-organized Northern Ireland in the round of 16, where they needed Gareth McAuley own goal to book their quarter final ticket. However, the Belgians can only underestimate the fighting spirit and ability to cause an upset in this team at their own peril. The Red Devils are now playing like second ranked team in the world that they are, with skipper Eden Hazard in irresistible form, they are going to take some stopping. These two sides were grouped together during the qualification phase for Euro 2016 and Wales got the better of their opponents, winning the home leg 1-0 before holding Belgium to a 0-0 draw in the away leg. The last four meetings between these two teams have seen under 2.5 goals, with both teams scoring only once, but for this particular game, my tip will be an outright Belgian win, Over2.5 goals and both teams to score.

Germany have never beaten Italy in the knockout phase of a major tournament and will definitely need to buck that trend if they intend to keep their hopes of winning a fourth European title, alive. Overall in twenty encounters against the Azzurris, they have managed only five wins, drawn four times and have lost eleven times to the Italians. Germany are yet to concede a goal in this tournament and have been the most dominant team, in terms of possession, while the Italians team is built on the back of a tried and tested Bianconeri defensive unit, sacrificing possession to favour quick counter attacks. However, they surprisingly dominated and created more scoring chances than the Spaniards in their last match. The Italians ended their barren run in major tournaments against Spain last time out and that might give the Germans the belief that they could also emulate them and end their own barren run in major tournaments against the Italians on Saturday in Bordeaux. It will be extremely difficult to separate the two sides, considering their strengths and weaknesses and this could go either ways. We might likely witness extra time and penalties to decide who goes through. My tip for this game will be a double chance bet on Germany, Under2.5 goals and both teams to score.

The host nation, France, will round off the quarter final matches, when they take on the Cinderella team of the tournament, Iceland. The French team have not particularly impressed so far in this tournament, but have shown some character and fighting spirit to get the needed result. This trait was glaring in their last match, when they had to come from behind to defeat a resolute Irish side.

That being said, they should try to avoid finding themselves in such a situation against this Icelandic team, which will be looking for their third consecutive victory of the championship. Iceland will be a very very dangerous opponent for France as they will go into the game on Sunday night without any pressure and nothing to lose, a situation that will be the complete opposite for France.

Didier Deschamps has a number of pertinent selection questions to face ahead of this fixture with Adil Rami and N’Golo Kanté suspended, it seems likely he will go to a 4-2-3-1/4-2-4 formation to face the huge, emerging underdogs in this tournament. Samuel Umtiti currently is out in front of Eliaquim Mangala to play alongside Laurent Koscielny at the back, with Koscielny going to the right-hand side and Umtiti slotting in on the left, while either one of Moussa Sissoko or Yohan Cabaye will come in for the suspended Kante. There are nine Icelandic players on yellow cards, but this is hardly going to influence the team selection for Sunday’s quarter final clash in Paris. France have never lost to Iceland, winning eight and drawing three of their previous eleven encounters and i don’t see that trend changing. My tip for this game will be a French win, both teams to score and Over2.5 goals.
There was a major upset in the last round of games and anyone, who had the guts to bet on Iceland would have been rewarded big on For this round of matches a lot of people might be tempted to bet on Iceland again and for all we know we might see another upset. offers a variety of scenarios for you to place your bets and that advantage should be taken to make some cash as EURO2016 gets to its business end.

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