Yesterday was disappointing in terms of betting, especially with the Poland v Northern Ireland game falling 1 corner short. Overall it was -0.20 despite 11/4 and 21/20 winners.
That puts the overall total for this tournament at +4.10.
Spain v Czech Republic
Venue: Stadium Municipal, Toulouse
Kick Off: 14:00
Referee: Szymon Marciniak (POL)
Spain suffered a shock exit at the 2014 World Cup in the group stages and Vincent Del Bosque was under pressure to rebuild this mighty footballing nation.
Despite not having the likes of David Villa, Xavi or Xabi Alonso to call up the Spanish still have a wealth of experience with a fine blend of youth.
They topped Group C losing just one match – away to Slovakia, but they come here without top scorer of that campaign Paco Alcacer, who has been surprisingly excluded.
Despite getting here with relative ease some of their performances showed signs weakness and they’re known for their fluid passing style, which hadn’t yet seemed to gel. That has to be a concern when coming up against some of the better nations in this tournament.
The Iberian nation conceded just the three goals, which is no surprise considering their top class defence with the likes of Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique.
Czech Republic sprung a bit of a surprise after topping Group A but they look up against it in this tough Euro’s group. But could history repeat itself as the Czech’s won their group a Euro 2012?
The Lions got off to a flyer scoring a late winner to beat Netherlands and that started them on a four game winning run before dropping points against lowly ranked Latvia.
They fell to two defeats, one at home to Turkey and the other away to Iceland – both of whom feature at this competition, so they did come through a strong group.
You do have to worry about the end if their golden generation is gone. They have lost players such as Patrick Berger, Jan Koller or Pavel Nedved. Where there is quality it is ageing in the shape of Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky.
In their ten games they scored 19 goals yet they shipped 14, which was the highest of those teams to have qualified and that has to be the concern coming into this tournament for Pavel Vrba.
When it comes to major tournaments then Spain are slow starters, which must give Czech Republic some hope.
Despite losing their final friendly 1-0 to Georgia, the expectation is still going to be on the defending champions.
If Alvaro Morata has overcome an injury that saw him sit out of that friendly then he is likely to lead the line for the Spaniards and with him up top then they could be a strong proposition.
Czech Republic have an ageing squad and it looks a particularly weak squad without the likes of Reading player Matej Vydra to call upon. Rosicky will be their key man but after an injury hit season, how much can they rely on the Arsenal man?
The four named strikers in the squad only managed to score five goals between them in qualifying. Their top scorer was Borek Dockal, who popped up with four goals from midfield.
Vrba’s side tend to be involved in high scoring matches whilst La Rojas are 50-50 for over 2.5 goals in their last 26 competitive fixtures. So far in this tournament matches have been tight encounters, which has to be brought into the equation.
These two sides met in qualifying for Euro 2012 and on both occasions Spain were triumphant. They won those games scoring two goals in those games.
The man in the middle is Szymon Marciniak from Poland and in his homeland he is not shy of showing his cards. In the 30 matches he oversaw in the Ekstrakalsa he issued 130 yellows.
On the sample of his last 20 matches in all competitions he has booked 81 players, at an average of 4.05 per game, whilst just sending off the one player. With Spain’s style based on possession it could frustrate the Czechs and them to earn most booking points could be a way in.
Fingers were burnt on the corners market in the Poland v Northern Ireland match but once more both of these averages high in this area. In qualifying Czech Republic had an average of 9.3 whilst Spain’s was higher at 11.1.
Five of Spain’s last eight have seen the corner stats reach double figures whilst it is four in eight for the Lions.
Spain to win by a goal – 5/2
Over 8.5 corners – 1/2
Republic of Ireland v Sweden
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick Off: 17:00
Referee: Milorad Mazic, (SRB)
Republic of Ireland doesn’t do things easily but considering their qualifying group they did well to finish third behind Germany and Poland.
Despite finishing third they lost the same amount of matches as Germany (2) and conceded fewer goals than the world champions – just seven, which gives you the idea that Martin O’Neill’s side will be defensive and feature in games few of goals.
In their 3rd place play-off they came up against a dangerous Bosnia and Herzegovina side filled with talent but they were able to overcome them courtesy of a Jon Walters double at the Aviva Stadium.
Sweden also qualified through the 3rd place play-off after denying Scandinavian rivals Denmark a place at this tournament.
They lost twice in their group – away to Russia and were trounced 4-1 at home to Austria.
Erik Hamren’s side don’t look the best defensively, especially from set pieces, which is great news for Republic of Ireland, and they are reliant on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored eight of their 15 goals in qualifying.
Sweden will be hoping for something special in Hamren’s final tournament in charge and his squad has the perfect blend of experience and youth. Six members of the squad were part of the nations Under 21 team that were successful in that age groups European Championships in Czech Republic last summer.
This game is likely to follow the trend of the tournament so far in that it will be close. It has the look of either side winning by a goal written all over it but which way will come down to who defends better and perhaps a moment of magic. Either side to win by a goal is 23/20 with Betway, which looks a good price all things considered.
Republic of Ireland have scored in each of their previous 11 matches, including in matches against better opposition such as two against Germany (one in both matches to remain unbeaten in their two matches against them), Poland and in a recent friendly against the Netherlands.
There have been three meetings of these nations and to cloudy the waters even more each outcome has occurred. In 2006 the Boys in Green were 3-0 victors but more recently they faced off in World Cup qualifiers, which saw a goalless draw in Stockholm followed by a 2-1 for the Swedes in Dublin.
It’s been a market with success so far and it’s pulling me in once more. Yes corners!
In qualifying both sides averaged over 12 corners, which gives us an indication that both are ready to attack. This sort of method of play is likely to suit the Irish much better, as they contain more aerial prowess compared to the Swedes who have shown frailty in this area.
Our Serbian match official Milorad Mazic must be up there with our Spanish friend in terms of cards shown. In his last 20 matches Mazic has been very busy showing 92 yellow cards, at an average of 4.6 per match.
In that same period he has dismissed three players and when you narrow it down to just international football he isn’t card shy either. With a few walking yellow cards on the field booking points is definitely a way into this fixture.
A leading candidate to see yellow would be Swedish defensive midfielder Kim Kallstrom. The former Arsenal man picked up four cautions in qualifying and saw 11 during the Swiss League campaign for Grasshopper.
Over 40 Booking Points – 11/10
Kim Kallstrom to be shown (half a point) – 7/2
Over 10.5 Corners – 7/5
Belgium v Italy
Venue: Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon
Kick Off: 20:00
Referee: Mark Clattenburg, (ENG)
These two nations topped their respective groups but it was Italy who remained unbeaten – winning seven and drawing three of their matches.
They conceded seven goals along the way, one of which was an own goal, but considering they can call upon players who featured in Juventus’ title winning season they should be much tighter, especially in tournament football.
Southampton striker Graziano Pelle netted three goals during those ten games, which also suggests the Azzurri have a goal-scoring problem too.
Marc Wilmots’ Belgians lost just the once in their campaign and that was down to a Gareth Bale strike against Wales.
24 goals were scored by the Red Devils, who have an array of attacking quality and talent to call upon, in the shape of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku plus Liverpool pair of Divock Origi and Christian Benteke.
It was De Bruyne and Hazard that lead the way in terms of goals sharing ten between them but it is far to say that plenty of others chipped in along the way. Marouane Fellaini got four, whilst Dries Mertens helped himself to three.
On top of that they only conceded five goals and kept five goals meaning Thibaut Courtois had a quiet time of things.
Will it be a dream ending for Antonio Conte before he leaves his national side for pastures new?
If you go off the friendly these two played back in November then Italy may struggle to get off to a good start. The Belgians won 3-1 despite falling behind to an early Antonio Candreva goal.
On recent friendly form both sides have been involved in games that have seen goals – BTTS would have landed in Belgium’s last seven while it has landed in six of eight matches for Italy.
The Azzurri are proverbial grinders and in traditional Italian style of play they look to keep it down and nick the game 1-0. With this team against this opposition I can’t see that being the case.
Conte has no Sebastian Giovinco, Andrea Pirlo, Mario Balotelli, Claudio Marchisio, Marco Verratti and Riccardo Montolivo – yes that’s a long list of talented players who have been excluded or are injured.
On top of that the Italians have exited their last two major tournaments at the group stages since winning the 2006 World Cup and in friendlies they’ve struggled against the bigger nations.
I don’t Belgium will go too far into this competition in all honesty but the more I weigh up this game I can’t see them losing today despite the defensive issues they have without Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Lombaerts and Dedryck Boyata.
I’ve touched upon their most recent clash and they met in 2008 when Italy were 3-1 victors, which suggests there is a high chance of goals in this match.
Once more it is worth pointing out these two have high corner averages – like most at this tournament. The Red Devils matches average 10.4 whilst The Azzurri is lower at 9.2.
A well-recognised figure will oversee proceedings in the shape of this year’s FA Cup and Champions League final referee Mark Clattenburg. For me he’s the best in the country by a long stretch and has deserved those appointments.
He did a good job in the Champions League final keeping control of both Madrid sides because we’ve seen them spill over when there has been a Spanish official in charge.
Excluding extra time of those two finals, then the north-east based official has dished out 90 yellow cards in his last 20 matches at an average of 4.5 per game. Considering 12 of them came on that feisty night at Stamford Bridge is would be slightly lower. He has also sent off three players in that time frame too.
Both Teams to Score – 6/5
Kevin de Bruyne Anytime (half a point) – 16/5