AS English's Euro 2016 last 16 predictions - verified
The runes were out again as AS English tried to guess the result of every last 16 encounter at the 2016 European Championship. We didn't do that bad!
Poland were considered dark horses going into the tournament, but that was based largely on having Robert Lewandowski leading the line. But the Bundesliga top scorer has so far been overshadowed by strike partner Arkadiusz Milik, who has a goal and an assist to his name after the group stages. Lewandowski hasn’t even managed a shot on target and Poland have so far been reliant on support from midfield in the shape of Jakub Blaszczykowski (one goal, one assist) and impact sub Bartosz Kapustka.
Switzerland have so far met expectations, finishing second in Group A and nicking a point from hosts France. Vladimir Petkovic’s side stand third in terms of pass completion after the opening round, behind Spain and Germany, and fourth in total possession, behind the same two and Portugal.
It’s likely to be a close encounter in Saint-Etienne. The Swiss have been the more attacking of the two teams in France but the Poles hold the historic advantage, with four wins and five draws in the 10 previous meetings between the nations. Penalties should not be ruled out.
AS prediction (after 90 minutes): 1-1 CORRECT RESULT/ CORRECT SCORE
Wales and Northern Ireland are in dreamland. Neither nation had ever qualified for the European Championship before and both find themselves in the last 16. Wales were tipped to get through a group featuring a woeful Russia side, Slovakia and England, but exceeded expectations by topping the pile. Northern Ireland were always going to duke it out with Ukraine for third and secured their last 16 place with a 2-0 win over Mikhail Fomenko’s strugglers.
Norn Iron keeper Michael McGovern received rightful plaudits for his heroics against Germany and he will be needed again in the Parc des Princes if his side are to go through. Wales carved through Russia in a performance widely hailed as the country’s best ever in their last group game and Gareth Bale has found the net in every match so far. The last times the sides met, in a friendly in March, the result was 1-1. Bale was not in the squad that afternoon. He’ll be the difference between the sides.
AS prediction: 2-1 CORRECT RESULT / WRONG SCORE
Croatia shocked Spain in the final Group D encounter to leapfrog La Roja into top spot and may well have cursed their luck in landing Portugal, who were odds-on to do the same in Group F. That Ante Cacic’s side did so without Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic and two to three other starters is even more incredible and shows that 1: change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and 2: the depth of quality in their squad.
Portugal are not quite a one-man team – the midfield alone is worth some 200 million euros – but it will, inevitably, be all about Cristiano Ronaldo. If the Real Madrid forward has his day, Croatia could be in trouble. If he has another Austria, Portugal will be blunted. Hungary proved that Fernando Santos’ defence, which has been carbon dated to Before Christ, are capable of all manner of heart-in-mouth moments and Croatia’s solidarity could be the key element in Lens. Santos will be left to pray.
AS prediction: 2-1 WRONG RESULT / WRONG SCORE
The hosts have been odd to watch so far. Disjointed and seemingly held back by fear of a roasting from the national media, Didier Deschamps’ side only come to life at the tail end of their matches. France have scored four times at Euro 2016, in the 57th, 89th, 90th and 96th minute. Against Switzerland in their final group game, Les Bleus came to life. Paul Pogba was excellent, Moussa Sissoko imperious and Dimitri Payet a livewire from the bench. France could have won by three or four. Despite Ireland’s famous victory over Italy to go through to the last 16, aided and abetted by a Sweden side as flat as an Ikea warehouse, France have too much quality and too much fear of L’Equipe and co. to be at home here to monsieur le coq up.
AS prediction: 2-0 CORRECT RESULT / WRONG SCORE
Germany have been sluggish so far and only topped Group C by dint of scoring one more than Poland managed. Slovakia reached the last 16 with a third-place finish in Group B, thanks to the presence of Russia, but also showed against England that they are a very solid unit blessed with a genuine world-class talent in Marek Hamsik.
We suspect this won’t be a game particularly easy on the eye, especially if Joachim Löw chucks Mario Gomez on from the start. Germany will have too much big game experience to allow Slovakia many chances, while Slovakia will aim to keep a clean sheet and nick something on the break. Slovakia beat Germany 3-1 in a friendly back in March but a repeat performance is extremely unlikely.
AS prediction: 1-0 CORRECT RESULT / WRONG SCORE
Before the tournament, on paper at least, the odds on Belgium for the clash in Toulouse would be short indeed. But after Hungary topped their group ahead of favourites Portugal after the game of the tournament thus far, while Belgium laboured to second behind Italy, those bets are off.
Marc Wilmots has come in for plenty of justified criticism as to his tactical decisions. Belgium arguably boast the most talented squad at the Euros but seem unable to find a system to bring the best out of players like Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, while Wilmots’ insistence on playing Jan Vertonghen on the left of defence instead of partnering him with Toby Alderweireld in the centre, where the two play together for 2015-16 Premier League least-breached side Tottenham, is a constant source of bemusement.
This could go either way, and it could be the game of the last 16.
AS prediction: 1-3 CORRECT RESULT / WRONG SCORE
A repeat of the 2012 final was not forecast at the last 16 stage four years later. Many, including a large chunk of the Italian press, did not expect the Azzurri to even get out of a group including Sweden, Belgium and Ireland. The squad list was underwhelming and despite topping qualifying group H unbeaten, few tipped Italy to set the Euros alight. Their opening game against a heavily fancied Belgium changed all that and Italy secured a last 16 place with a game to spare at Sweden’s expense. That Ireland beat a second-string Italy on Wednesday should not alter perceptions. Spain at least will be very uncomfortable about this match at this stage.
The holders appeared to be cruising through to the knock-out stages after swarming over Czech Republic and putting Turkey to the sword in their second match. Croatia provided a reminder that possession isn’t king if it doesn’t result in shots and Vicente del Bosque – the only manager to field the same starting 11 for every group stage game -- may adopt a different approach against the tightest back four at the tournament.
AS prediction: 1-1 WRONG RESULT / WRONG SCORE
That big wall of ice in Game of Thrones? That’s what England will be up against when tournament surprise package and everybody neutral’s favourite Iceland attempt to keep their extraordinary run going. The stats have been flowing as freely as a melting glacier throughout the Euros, but one is worth a bit of repetition: Iceland has a population of 330,000 people, equivalent to England having a talent pool confined solely to Coventry.
Lars Lagerbäck and Heimir Hallgrímsson’s side would have qualified directly for the finals under the old 16 team format and were fortunate in their group stage draw, but still deserve all the credit due them for beating Portugal to second place while only missing out on top spot on goal difference.
England have donned their traditional tournament suit in France – flashes of positive play coupled with long periods of desperate tedium. Roy Hodgson has match-winners in his squad but Iceland will be acutely aware that if they can prevent an early goal and hold on for 60 minutes, when half of England’s side usually run out of steam, they will have a real chance of adding a new date to their country’s bank holiday calendar.
AS prediction: 1-0 WRONG RESULT / WRONG SCORE
Correct results: 5 Wrong results: 3
Not too shabby if you take away the England result that very few people would have had on their coupon. And that Croatia-Portugal game was a real let-down and neither side deserved to win. Let's see how we do in our quarter final predictions which will be coming to you soon...