Euro 2016 Round of 16 Predictions

Euro 2016

So that went well. The Group Stage of Euro 2016 is complete and once again showed why I don’t gamble. Really? Iceland, Hungary and Northern Ireland advanced? Wales topped their group? Albania won a game? Yes, Euro has been full of surprises so far.

The Round of 16 starts this weekend and there may be more shocks on the way. Once again, I’ll attempt to predict the outcomes. Once again, my picks will be laughable. At least I won’t lose money or have the mob come after me. I’ll just lose some pride. Here we go:

Switzerland vs Poland

Robert Lewandowski

Prediction: Poland

Why? I don’t trust the Swiss to score any goals. They lack finish and have struggled to create chances in the midfield. Poland do have a pure striker in Robert Lewandowski, but he’s yet to find the back of the net in the tournament. Expect that to change and Poland should see the quarterfinals.

Wales vs Northern Ireland

Gareth Bale

Prediction: Wales

Why? Gareth Bale! OK, there’s more to the Welsh but still, Gareth Freaking Bale.

Croatia vs Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo

Prediction: Portugal

This is a risky pick but call it a hunch. Croatia are coming off a famous win over Spain to place them atop of Group D. Portugal drew all three matches in Group F, including a wild 3-3 draw with Hungary, the best game of the tournament so far. Croatia have a great player in Luka Modric while Portugal has the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo. Will take a flyer on Ronaldo continuing his breakthrough he started in the Hungary fixture.

France vs Ireland

Paul Pogba

Prediction: France

We haven’t seen the best of Les Bleus yet but they can still make their mark at home. Ireland are a great story. Their 1-0 victory over Italy is one of the greatest triumphs in Irish football history. They also want revenge from the hand ball debacle that cost The Green Army a spot in the 2010 World Cup.

That being said, Ireland lacks quality to compete with France on their home soil.

Germany vs Slovakia

Thomas Mueller

Prediction: Germany

Die Mannschaft have yet to find their groove at Euro but everyone knows they’re capable of turning it up to the next level. Slovakia are a mild surprise to be here but it will be a massive shock if they make the quarters. Don’t count on it.

Hungary vs Belgium

Gabor Kiraly

Prediction: Belgium

Hungary have been a great story at Euro 2016 and keeper Gabor Kiraly has become one of my favourite players in the tournament. (Long live track suits on fat guys.) But Belgium have too much firepower and players such as Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard are poised for a breakthrough. In the end, the track suit can only do so much.

Italy vs Spain

Alvaro Morata

Prediction: Spain

The marquee fixture of the Round of 16 as well as a rematch of the 2012 Final. Italy have been impressive even though expectations weren’t that high. Spain looked the favourites until they’re loss to Croatia planted some seeds of doubt.

The tactical matchup is intriguing. Can Italy’s 3-5-2 formation keep the ball away from the creative Spanish midfield? Does Andres Iniesta have any magic left? Does Italy have revenge on their minds after the 2012 Final saw Spain thrash Italy 4-0? This is tough but I’m going with the defending champions.

England vs Iceland

Jamie Vardy

Prediction: England

The game plan for Iceland is simple. Put ten men behind the ball and frustrate the English. It might work. Slovakia did it to perfection in the Group Stage. However, Iceland has never been on a big stage like this before. It may take a while but look for England to slide a winner home and advance to the quarters.

You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973

Posted in Soccer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Euro 2016 Group Stage Predictions

Euro 2016

If you’re looking for tactical analysis, insider news or interviews from coaches or players leading up to Euro 2016, you came to the wrong place. This particular article will be used for predictions and predictions only. So if you’re planning to lose money in either Las Vegas or Monte Carlo, then read my Group Stage picks here.

Group A:

France, Switzerland, Romania, Albania

Paul Pogba

France will go in as big favourites in Group A and should top the table. The battle for second place will be between Switzerland and Romania. Albania are in their first ever major tournament and will probably just be happy to be there. Take France in first. The Swiss eke out second place. Romania slides into third. Albania brings up the rear.

Match To Watch: France vs Romania June 10.

The match to kick-off Euro will be very emotional. This will be the first football fixture to be held at Le Stade de France since the terrorist attacks last November. Expect a stirring rendition of La Marseillaise prior to the match itself.

Group B: England, Russia, Wales, Slovakia

Harry Kane

A fascinating group headlined by perennial underachievers England. While expectations aren’t as high for the Three Lions, they know that the ruthless British press are ready to pounce when England slip up. Russia want to impress as they get set to host the World Cup in two years. Wales could be the darlings of the tournament. Slovakia are a dangerous foe that could pull a shocking upset or two. England tops the group. Russia ekes out Wales for second. Slovakia will have tough luck getting out of the basement.

Match To Watch: England vs Wales June 16

Whenever two nations from the United Kingdom square off in a football match, fireworks usually happen. This fixture has potential to grab the spotlight. England will be favoured but don’t discount the Welsh. The city of Lens should prepare accordingly.

Group C: Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Northern Ireland

Thomas Muller

Germany are the clear favourites in Group C. Poland will be a formidable opponent. Ukraine survived plenty of distractions in their homeland to qualify. Northern Ireland will play in their first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup. Germany tops the group. Poland finishes second. Ukraine ends up third. Northern Ireland ends up bottom.

Match To Watch: Germany vs Poland June 16

Whenever Germany and Poland collide you’ll hear the obvious and somewhat tedious World War II references. But this match should have a major impact in Group C. Add to the fact Poland’s best player, Robert Lewandowski plays his club football at Bayern Munich, Germany’s most successful club and you have a recipe for a fascinating fixture at Le Stade de France.

Group D: Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, Croatia


Some may call it Spain and three mysteries. There’s no doubt the defending Euro titleholders are the favourites but after a poor showing in the 2014 World Cup, Spain do face questions heading to France. A serious argument could be made for either the Czech Republic, Turkey or Croatia to finish either second, third or fourth. I have Spain first. Czech Republic second. Turkey third. Croatia fourth.

Match To Watch: Spain vs Czech Republic June 13

Spain’s first tournament match since their epic failure in Brazil two years ago while the Czechs are looking to escape past disappointments. Toulouse will be the site for this interesting fixture.

Group E:

Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Ireland

Eden Hazard

If there is a Group of Death at Euro 2016, it may be Group E. Belgium are looking to build off an impressive showing at the 2014 World Cup. Italy reached the Final at Euro 2012 and are hoping to have a similar run but with a happier ending. Sweden are dangerous thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Ireland may lack skill but they don’t lack spirit. Belgium tops the group. Italy finishes second. Sweden gets third while Ireland are in tough.

Match To Watch: Belgium vs Italy June 13

A team on the rise versus a team on the decline. Or so they say. Belgium’s stock keeps going up while Italy’s is falling. This will also be a fixture of contrasting styles. The free flowing Belgians clash with the structured Italians. Lyon will be the site.

Group F: Portugal, Austria, Hungary, Iceland

Cristiano Ronaldo

This is Portugal’s group to lose. Cristiano Ronaldo and company should breeze through but stranger things have happened. Austria are slowly improving. Hungary is in its first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup. Iceland is in its first major tournament ever. Portugal tops the group with Austria the runners-up. Hungary sneaks into third. Iceland will finish last.

Match To Watch: Portugal vs Austria June 18

The key to this match will be can Austria contain Ronaldo? Group F may hinge on that factor as a disciplined Austrian side try to shut down one of the best players in the world. Parc des Princes in Paris will be the setting.

One last note. There will be four third place finishers who will advance to the knockout stage with the top two sides in each group. This is difficult to pick but I’m going to try. I have Romania, Wales, Turkey and Sweden to get through to the Round of 16.

You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973

Posted in Soccer | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Players To Watch At Euro 2016

Euro 2016

Euro 2016 is fast approaching and as usual, it is a time to see which players rise above the crop to become international superstars. It is one thing to achieve stardom at a club level but only the legends of the sport reach the dizzying heights of greatness at the international level. Here are 10 potential stars that may make a huge impact in France this summer.

Cristiano Ronaldo:

Cristiano Ronaldo

This one is an obvious choice. The Portuguese megastar is already deemed one of the best players on the planet and is the singular reason why Portugal is a contender at Euro.

Ronaldo has pretty much achieved everything at the club level. Three Champions League titles (2 with Real Madrid, 1 with Manchester United). Premier League Golden Boot winner in 2007-08. Three time La Liga leading scorer. All time leading scorer at Real Madrid. Two time FIFA Ballon D’Or winner. The only thing missing from Ronaldo’s resume is a trophy from international competition. This may be his last chance.

Paul Pogba:

Paul Pogba

A rising star for Italian champions Juventus, Pogba is hoping to deliver similar results in his home country. A talismanic figure in the midfield, Pogba is a creative, dynamic force who can change the game in an instant with either a scintillating pass or a thunderbolt to the back of the net.

Pogba is following a terrific legacy of French midfielders. Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane are legends that won trophies and played marvellous football for Les Bleus. Pogba has difficult boots to fill but he is capable of adding his name to that glorious list.

Thomas Muller:

Thomas Muller

One of the stars of the 2014 World Cup, Muller is hoping to add to his international resume. The Bayern Munich forward scored a career high 32 goals in all competitions for the Bundesliga champions while demonstrating a versatility that makes him so valuable.

Muller had an outstanding 2014 World Cup for Die Mannschaft, scoring 5 goals including a hat-trick against Portugal. Muller added 9 goals in qualifying, cementing his status as an elite international player. Muller brings pace, a goalscorers’ touch and a knack for the dramatic that makes him a player to keep tabs on.

Harry Kane:

Harry Kane

It’s been a long time since England has lifted a trophy in an international tournament. 50 years to be exact. If the Three Lions are to finally end a half century of misery, they’ll need the Tottenham striker to showcase his skills. Kane did enjoy a sensational season with Spurs, topping the Premier League with 25 goals.

Kane does lack experience in international play. This will be his first taste of the glaring spotlight of international play. We shall see how Kane reacts to the pressure but if he performs for England like he did for Tottenham, England may see success come their way.



After a disastrous 2014 World Cup campaign, changes were coming for Spain. One change will be a more prominent role for the Atletico Madrid midfielder. With the legendary Xavi retired from international play and Andreas Iniesta on his last legs, it will be up to the youthful legs of Koke to lead Spain to repeat as Euro champions.

Koke has been excellent for Atletico the past three seasons and he will finally get a chance to shine on the global stage. He does have a little bit of experience with the national team but this will be his best opportunity to make a name for himself for country.

Gareth Bale:

Gareth Bale

If there’s a feel good story going into Euro 2016, it might be the surprise qualification of Wales, led by Bale. The Real Madrid winger is a superlative player who can beat you with blazing pace, quality service or a precise set-piece with his left foot.

Bale was enormous during qualification for The Dragons, scoring 7 goals despite having the opposition focused squarely on stopping him. Wales are a long shot in the tournament but if they do become the surprise of the tournament, it will be Bale leading the charge.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic:

Zlatan Ibrahimovic PSG

There may be no more spectacular player at Euro than the Swedish striker. Ibrahimovic is famous for some jaw-dropping goals that have left both opponents and teammates in awe.

Ibrahimovic may be playing for more than glory for country. There are reports suggesting that Manchester United are willing to pay a handsome sum to lure Ibrahimovic away from his current club, Paris St-Germain. A strong showing at Euro could make his asking price skyrocket. Stay tuned.

Robert Lewandowski:

Robert Lewandowski Poland

Another player that might see a big payoff if he shines at Euro. The Polish striker had a fantastic season with Bayern Munich scoring 42 goals in all competitions. His size and football sense around the net make him a lethal threat.

Lewandowski’s name has come up in transfer rumours as Real Madrid have expressed interest in acquiring the giant Pole. Bayern Munich have denied they are shopping Lewandowski for cash but if Lewandowski performs well at Euro, Real Madrid may put more money on the table which could make Bayern take the cash and let their leading goalscorer walk away.

Kevin De Bruyne:

Kevin De Bruyne

The Belgian winger isn’t known for goal scoring but De Bruyne is a creative dynamo that can deliver exquisite service to his strikers. De Bruyne had a satisfactory first season with Manchester City, especially in the Champions League. His sublime winner against Paris St-Germain in the quarterfinals is the greatest goal by any City player in European competition.

Belgium are expected to contend for the Euro title and they will need De Bruyne to be at his peak, if they expect to meet high expectations.

Stephan El Shaarawy

Stephan El Shaarawy

Most observers aren’t rating Italy very high in this tournament. For the Azure to prove the doubters wrong, they’ll need the diminutive forward to break through on the international level.

El Shaarawy spent the entire 2015-16 season on loan away from his club at AC Milan, splitting time with Monaco and Roma. Even though he didn’t have a permanent home, El Shaarawy still managed 34 goals in all competitions between the two clubs.

There are two lingering questions with El Shaarawy. How will he handle the pressure of a tournament like Euro? Also, will he be distracted by him not sure of where he will play next season? How El Shaarawy deals with both the expectations and distractions could determine Italy’s fate.

You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973

Posted in Soccer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment