Now the Euros get exciting. by Dan Smith
Apart from Wednesday night, which was an amazing evening of football, I couldn’t get motivated for the group stages.
It’s all because of this nonsense rule that you can finish third and yet still qualify for the knock out stages.
It meant that the likes of Wales ended up playing for a 1-0 defeat and Ukraine advance simply for beating North Macedonia.
In the old format where only the top two of each group would progress, imagine how more exciting this last week would have been.
Anyone else think UEFA should award a place in the last 16 to Hungary?
SIt sems harsh that Denmark and Ukraine advance with three points. What’s harder, defeating a Russia or drawing with France and Germany?
(Take Note: Predictions are based on 120 minutes. Penalties will not count, so if you envisage any fixture going to a shootout, pick a draw).
Denmark 1-0 Wales
When it looked like Wales’s opponents could be Finland or Russia, I fancied Welsh chances.
Denmark on the other hand are riding an emotional wave at the moment which could be crucial, with this in theory going to be played in front of a majority of Danes.
Travel restrictions means fans can’t fly to Holland directly from the UK. Some hardcore supporters will still find a way but in theory this could be like a home game for Denmark.
After the two weeks they had, can we begrudge Denmark some happiness
Italy 3-0 Austria
Based on the entire group stages, Italy have been the most impressive team so far.
Even based on how their players celebrate their goals, you can tell Mancini has built an incredible team spirit and togetherness.
This will be the Italians first game of the tournament outside of their homeland, but Austria should be straightforward.
Italy keep the possession, passing the ball side by side, patiently waiting for their opponents to get tired.
Holland 1-0 Czech
Sometimes you need luck that you can’t control. Still trying to win over fans, De Boer needed some luck to go his way.
Not taking any way from the Dutch but the draw so far has been favourable. If they win this, they face the winner of Wales and Denmark.
That’s hardly a daunting route to a semi-Final.
I still think there are a lack of leaders compared to previous generations so am interested to see how they respond to the pressure of knockout football and deal with adversity.
Should be okay here though.
Belgium 1-2 Portugal
Outside of England vs Germany this could be the tie of the round.
I have a personal dilemma. Pre-tournament I put 10 pound in Portugal to retain their trophy and 10 pound on Lukaku for the Golden Boot!
Something’s got to give!
While the Belgians are only one of three nations to win all their games so far, they are having to gently nurse De Bruyne and Hazard into the tournament which at this level you can’t do.
Portugal on the other hand are more street wise then the Belgians.
While technically gifted, they are willing to do the dirty side of things and know how to stay in games when things are not going their way.
Croatia 0-1 Spain
The narrative has been that Modric turned back the clock on Tuesday night just when his nation needed him most.
In reality he won’t have the ball as much against Spain as he did against Scotland.
He will be aware that Spain will dominate possession. That will stretch an ageing Croatia as you use up so much more energy when you don’t have the ball.
It’s just a case of whether Spain can turn possession into goals.
You can’t be confident. Yes, they scored 5 against Slovakia but in general they have missed some sitters.
France 3-0 Switzerland
You can look at things two ways.
You can say France have been below par or (and this is the camp I’m in) say they topped their group, beat Germany and drew with Portugal while in second gear.
I should mention Pogba who was outstanding on Wednesday.
Switzerland can be well organised so the earlier the French break the deadlock, the more straightforward it will be for them.
England 2-1 Germany
Some England fans have done nothing but complain throughout the competition.
The latest gripe is we should have played for second in our group to avoid the Group of Death.
Because of course there would have been zero critics had we drawn with the Czech Republic?
Take the emotion out of things, Germany at Wembley is a winnable fixture.
The Germans (like us) have an unforgiving fan base and media. That only intensified after they drew at home with Hungary and were so close to elimination. Unlike previous years, I’m not sure they have the leaders to respond this time.
Germany are there for the taking ,although this has echoes of the 2010 World Cup. In South Africa we convinced ourselves Germany had been average in the group stages ……they went on to thump us 4-1.
Not counting my chickens, but whoever wins here (on paper) has a kind route to the final.
Germany of course will be saying the same about England. Win at Wembley and they have a clear path to the Final.
Sweden 0-0 Ukraine
What a horrible fixture to end the last 16 on.
Zero disrespect to the Swedes but if you are Ukraine, Sweden for a place in the last eight Is a kind draw when you finished third with three points.
Sweden are conservative at the best of times. While Ukraine have individuals who can produce moments of magic, I can see them being shackled by the fear of failure.
Both will approach the game not to lose – rather than being brave and taking a chance.
Leave your predictions in the comments, but remember – Predictions are based on 120 minutes. Penalties will not count, so if you envisage any fixture going to a shootout, pick a draw).
Good Luck Peeps