EURO 2016: My round of 16 predictions
Saturday, June 25
Switzerland vs. Poland — Saint-Etienne
Switzerland finished second in Group A behind host nation France, whilst Poland also finished second from Group C behind tournament favorites Germany on 7 points respectively. Poland only recorded two goals in the group stages with the leading marksman for the Poles, Robert Lewandowski yet to get on the score sheets.
I do not see much drama coming from this game especially with the tentative note the tournament has taken, hopefully the 2nd round will set things off proper. This game may go into extra-time and possibly penalties.
Verdict: I give the Poles a slight edge.
Wales vs. Northern Ireland — Paris
The battle of the Brits (let’s not get into the EU debate), Wales have turned up as one of the bright sparks of this tournament, topping their group which included rivals England with star player Gareth Bale already in the race for player of the tournament with 3goals in 3games.
For Northern Ireland, a second round place is enough reasons to declare a public holiday and for a team that has won none of its last eight games against Wales, drawing 4 and losing 4, this is almost certainly the end of the road for them.
Verdict: Wales to win in 90 minutes
Croatia vs. Portugal — Lens
For me, the 2nd round officially kicks off with this game, Croatia who have been one of the better teams thus far with Luka Modric running things in the middle of the pack up against his club-mate Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal team who are probably the biggest beneficiary of this new 24-team format progressing to the next round despite failing to win a single game in the group stages and finishing third in a group that they were odds favorite to win.
With Cristiano finally getting on the score sheet in the game against Hungary, the fear for opponents now is, are the shackles off for the three time world footballer of the year?
Croatia topped Group D including ending a long unbeaten run at the Euros for Spain despite resting couple of their players. This is a well balanced fixture where goals are expected considering the attacking talents on display and Portugal’s poor back line.
Croatia has however not won a knockout game in any major tournament for 18 years and whilst this is a game that could go anyway, I expect Ronaldo to continue his goal-scoring form and edge Portugal into the quarter finals.
Verdict:Portugal to win
Sunday, June 26
France vs. Ireland — Lyon
The last time both sides met in 2009 en-route to qualifying for the World cup in South Africa, it ended bitterly following Thierry Henry’s controversial goal.
7 years later, in a totally different scenario and team make-up, France has a chance to go a step further to hosting and winning while the Irish have revenge on their minds.
Payet has proven to be worth the pre- tourney hype, the Irish will come with all the passion, commitment and brute but the French have enough in their arsenal to roll by on this one.
Verdict :France to win
Germany vs. Slovakia — Lille
The Germans haven’t been near impressive, struggled with formations and players playing below their usual level, Slovakia has played as a unit thus far especially defensively but say what you want of the Germans, they have made the semi- finals of their last 6 major tournaments and I expect no shock from this game.
However, we must not forget that the Slovaks defeated Germany en-route to the Euros in a game that raised doubts on how far this German side can go in this tournament.
Verdict: The Slovaks will defend with all they got but Germany to win.
Hungary vs. Belgium — Toulouse
Hungary, another team that has thrown up couple of eye catching performances especially with their attacking brand of football against a Belgium team that despite its potential looks very unconvincing
It is one of those games that promises to be open and might give way to goals aplenty. This is another chance for the golden generation of Belgian football to prove that there is substance to its noise whilst being wary of a free Hungarian team led by their exceptional captain Balazs Dzsudsak.
Verdict: Another game that can swing either way but I do expect Belgium to go through.
Monday, June 27
Italy vs. Spain — Saint-Denis
Easily the game of the 2nd round, a repeat of the last edition’s final which saw Spain winning the trophy for the third time. The Italians came into this years’ Euros on the back of many pundits claiming the dearth of talent in the squad and a manager set to exit, but two games in and they were looking the part; efficient, decisive, stingy at the back and quite tidy with their passes which is everything the typical Italian team presents at tournaments. Spain on the other hand impressed in their opening two games with striker Alvaro Morata looking the part, though they suffered a shock defeat in the hands of Croatia; that can always be tied to complacency knowing they had qualified.
This is a pretty close game as Italy manager, Antonio Conte has proven that tactics at-times triumph talent and with a pretty strong backline lead by Bonucci and Chiellini, they may not need to score much to progress but Spain didn’t walk into their favorite status, they earned it and if the likes of Iniesta, Silva and Fabregas have their day, they could be almost unstoppable.
Verdict: Spain to edge this, may go into extra-time.
England vs. Iceland — Nice
Two World Wars, One World cup, One EU referendum and the little matter of a tiny nation Iceland, this should be easy, right? Despite qualifying with a tidy record, the English struggled against a poor Russian team and couldn’t break a disciplined Slovakia side. They have had more possession in most of their games but creativity in the final third has been a headache for Roy Hodgson’s side. Iceland qualifying second in a group that had Portugal is no mean feat with a memorable victory over Austria in the last minutes of the final group game which sent the nation into a frenzy.
For Iceland, making this round is an achievement, but that doesn’t mean they will lie down for England to roll past them, the three lions have to find that creative spark in the midfield, need to get Harry Kane going and should be ready not to let their heads down if things are not going their way for long periods in the game.
Verdict: Slim victory for England