This year’s European Championship has presented stories to fill the history books for many a years, some have criticized the idea of having 24 teams in the tournament, but the likes of Iceland and Wales have proven that they truly deserve to be among Europe’s Elite.
A 75% performance from me in the round of 16 has given me the increased desire to try my hand on the quarter final pairings, here are my predictions;
EURO 2016: Quarter Final predictions
Thursday, June 30
Poland vs. Portugal — Marseille
In what has been a weird tournament for both sides, with Portugal qualifying for the second round without winning a group game and their only real shot on goal which came in the 117th minute of their round of 16 game against Croatia leading to the winning goal and saw them progress at the expense of one of the better teams in the tournament, the Cristiano Ronaldo led team somehow find themselves not only in the quarter finals but in a favorable side of the draws that if carefully managed, could see them get to the finals.
For the Poles, they needed penalties to see off a hard fighting Switzerland and top marks man Robert Lewandowski is yet to find the back of the net after four games.
Is this the game Ronaldo achieves immortality at the Euros and maybe go a step further by breaking Portugal’s trophy drought or is this the one where Lewandowski finally comes to the party. I expect a tight and not too eventful game as we kick-off the quarter final fixtures.
Prediction: Portugal to win in 90mins
Friday, July 1st
Wales vs. Belgium — Lille
The Welsh have done well in their first major tournament in ages, impressive in the group stages and doing what they need to do in the second round with the aid of an own goal.
For the Belgians, they seem to have finally found their rhythm with an impressive display against Hungary with star player and captain Eden Hazard bringing back the form which saw him win the PFA award two seasons ago in England. It will be recalled that both sides met in the qualifiers where Wales surprisingly took 4 points off the Belgians.
This is a game where two star names (and likely club teammates next season) will be on focus, its Gareth Bale’s Wales up against Eden Hazard’s Belgium with the back-up cast in the form of Aaron Ramsey and Kevin De Bryne also bound to have a say. The Welsh will be tidy and spirited but the Belgians will dominate possession and pray Lukaku has the right boots on this time around.
Prediction: Belgium to win
Saturday, July 2nd
Germany vs. Italy — Bordeaux
This is easily the biggest game of this round, defending World cup champions up against the slayer of the defending European Champions.
The Italian team does the Mafia job exceptionally, lead by a maverick in Antonio Conte, he has been able to build a system where every players role is defined and played out to the latter, his tactics which saw Spain’s creative players closed out and unable to influence the game, he has created a spirit of efficiency and adaptation to his squad, but for all that Conte has done, the lack of quality in his side still shone on several occasion in the game against Spain with missed chances which could have killed off the game earlier.
For the Germans, the machine seems to have finally gotten well oiled, a commanding performance against Slovakia, who prior to that game had put up a decent shift defensively, but the change of tactics by Joachim Low which saw Mario Gomez recalled to the starting 11 brought a balance to the side with Julian Draxler dictating play and scoring a beauty himself.
The Italians have been enjoying the underdogs tag thus far in the tourney and after seeing off Spain, a victory over Germany will send Conte flying over the technical bench but with injuries to key players in the midfield like De Rossi, he may have to come up with some hard changes yet again. The Germans have shown that they can mix it, they can be fluid when they need to, they can play possession if the opposition allows and they can also chose to break on the counter especially with players like Ozil and Draxler upfront. It promises to be yet another interesting game and this might stretch beyond the regular 90mins.
Prediction- Germany to edge it
Sunday, July 3rd
France vs. Iceland — Paris
The last time the French played a game in this tournament was on a Sunday and it turned out to be a good day though they had to do it the hard way courtesy two Antoine Griezmann goals, for the Iceland, this is heaven on earth after upsetting England in the round of 16, and no matter what happens at this stage, a public holiday awaits the tiny Island.
Having nothing to lose makes the Iceland team a dangerous side but I fully expect the French to roll past on this one.
Prediction- France to win in 90mins