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