Other than Portugal sneaking a win late in extra time against Croatia, who couldn’t replicate their performance in defeating Spain in the Group, and the two surprising results on Monday, the Round of 16 went largely to form. We now have the four quarter final match-ups over the next four days; here are some thoughts on how they may shape up.
Poland – Portugal – possibly the least attractive of the four fixtures, had he shown any kind of form in the tournament this would have been billed as Lewandowski v Ronaldo, however the former has been badly out-of-sorts and has looked incapable of getting on the scoresheet let alone challenging for the Golden Boot. Ronaldo and Portugal started the tournament slowly but have looked better in their last two matches; however take the crazy 3-3 draw with Hungary out of consideration and taking their chances has been a major issue. Having said that, Poland seemed to fade against Switzerland and I would expect Portugal to get through, although it may need more than the regulation 90 minutes.
Wales- Belgium – other than the opening round defeat to Italy, Belgium have looked fairly impressive especially against Ireland and in the last round against Hungary. Wales have exceeded expectations in getting to the Quarter Finals but I suspect Belgium will have too much for them.
Germany – Italy – this is the real stand-out tie of the round, Germany looked very comfortable against Slovakia and have probably looked like the best side so far. Italy however have shown that they are capable of implementing effective game plans to stifle more talented opposition and that they are capable of scoring themselves. Add in the fact that Germany have never beaten Italy in a finals tournament in eight attempts and this tie almost becomes too close to call. If I had to stick my neck out I would say Germany to sneak it, possibly on penalties, where their record is better than the Italians, I won’t however be putting any money on it!
France – Iceland – after being shocked into action after going down to an early goal to Ireland, surely the hosts won’t fall into the same trap as England and underestimate the threat of the tournament’s fairy-tale side? While Giroud hasn’t convinced at centre forward, the way he plays should cause more problems for the Iceland defence than Kane, Vardy and Sturridge could. Factor in the creativity and goal-threat of Griezmann and Payet, other attacking options from the bench and midfield as well as Deschamps’ ability to change the tactical approach and Les Bleus should be able to score the goals they need.