What a day yesterday was as a spectacle for the Home Nations. England got themselves out of a hole thanks to some inspired substitutions from Roy Hodgson whilst Northern Ireland gave themselves a great chance of qualification following a 2-0 win over Ukraine.Embed from Getty Images
From a punting point of view the 5/4 for BTTS was a nice winner on the England v Wales match but the Northern Ireland game was an abject fail for betting. At least the Germany v Poland game rekindled the profit with an 11/2 winner. That match had 10 corners and six cards to land that bet. I hope you were on.
The P/L total for the tournament now stands at +5.78 and hopefully it’ll continue to grow.
Today looks like a feast of sumptuous football and one of the better days with the nations involved.
Italy v Sweden
Venue: Stade Municipal, Toulouse
Kick Off: 14:00
Referee: Viktor Kassai, (HUN)
Italy were the most impressive team in the first group matches in my book putting in the complete performance. They nullified Belgium for the large majority bar the one Romelu Lukaku chance and the Azzurri controlled the game.
Sweden were very fortuitous in their opening match against the Republic of Ireland. Erik Hamren’s men failed to register a shot on target but managed to get a point courtesy of a Ciaran Clark own goal.
If you aren’t having shots on goal against the men from the Emerald Isle then you’ll struggle against a very resilient Italian side, who pride themselves on clean sheets.Embed from Getty Images
So far in this second round of matches we have seen goals, as teams go in search of points and the Swedes will need to do that here but it could leave them exposed to the Italian frontline.
These sides met in a friendly back in 2009, which Italy won 1-0 but prior to that Sweden had scored in their previous six matches and overall, in the majority, held sway over the 2006 World Champions on the recent records. In Euro 2000 and 2004 they came head to head with both matches seeing both teams scoring – in the 2004 contest it was Zlatan Ibrahimovic who netted a late equaliser.
It was Ibrahimovic who crossed for the Clark own goal in Paris on Monday but bar that he was ineffective. At club level he has had a strong support cast, here it isn’t of he same quality.
On the basis of the performances in the first group matches I can only see one result and that is an Italy win. It’s a shade of odds-on, which is a good price if you think similarly but for a better price I’m backing them to keep a second clean sheet too.
Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai is the first official be given a second outing. He took charge of the opening match between France and Romania where he awarded a penalty – just one of two so far.Embed from Getty Images
He’s the typical referee that falls into the 4-6 cards bracket and that was shown after he carded four players in his first match. The total match cards market on William Hill might be worth a look with 4-6 cards at 5/4.
I mentioned the friendly back in 2009 that Italy won 1-0. Giorgio Chiellini scored the goal at the back post with a header. The Swedes looked vulnerable against Republic of Ireland from balls into the box and with some of the players on show it may be worth taking a look at a header to be scored.
Graziano Pelle got off the mark against Belgium and is a candidate to score once more. The Southampton man scored 11 goals last season for the south coast club and five of them came with his head.
The Blue-Yellow have work to do to stand any chance of getting out of the group stages but they look up against it here in Toulouse.
Italy to win to nil – 28/17
Graziano Pelle to score a header – 10/1 (0.5pt)
Czech Republic v Croatia
Venue: Stade Geoffrey-Guichard, Saint-Etienne
Kick Off: 17:00
Referee: Mark Clattenburg, (ENG)
Croatia have a lot going for them on paper and after that stunning Luka Modric strike gave them the three points against Turkey it only has enhanced their claims of a big performance in this tournament.Embed from Getty Images
Gerard Pique head home a sumptuous Andreas Iniesta cross to break Czech Republic hearts and once more they’ll look to be resolute and blunt this Croatian front line.
Off the pitch it has been a difficult time for the Blazers captain Dario Srna, whose father passed away on the same day they played Turkey. He has been home since and has managed to re-join the squad but you have to see whether he’s emotionally ready to take part in this game.
That will be a big call for Ante Čačić to play him or let him sit out of this crucial match because if they win then qualification is all but secured going into their match against Turkey.
These sides have only met once previously and that was back in 2011 when Croatia won 4-2 and former Blackburn striker Nikola Kalinić netted twice but he is likely to start on the bench and be used an impact player if required. He maybe on to look at for an in-play punt.
The Czechs allowed Spain to dictate and have the majority of the ball then tried to crowd them out when the ball came into central areas. The concern is here that width could be their Achilles heel and coming up against a team that has Mario Mandžukić in their team they could struggle.
That was potentially highlighted by the fact full back David Limbersky was the only player to collect a card in that game against the Spanish. If the 32 year old saw another here he’d miss the final group game against Turkey.
Familiar face Mark Clattenburg gets his second assignment following his effective handling of Belgium v Italy.Embed from Getty Images
In that match he dished out five yellows – all in the second half. The north east official took charge of Croatia in qualifying where he showed three yellows in total, two of which went their way. The names entering his notebook were Ivan Perišić and Milan Badelj, so possible parallels could be drawn.
The corners were low in the opening match for the Croatians, in total just eight, of which they took five. Czech Republic had just the three of 17 against Spain and it could be a similar tale this evening.
Despite the need for points Czech Republic I can still see them setting up to keep Croatia quite but Cacic’s side should have enough to get over the line in the end in what looks to be a tight game and that’s the way my advice highlights.
Croatia to win by a goal – 5/2
Half Time/Full Time – Draw/Croatia – 15/4 (0.5pt)
Spain v Turkey
Venue: Allianz Riviera, Nice
Kick Off: 20:00
Referee: Milorad Mazic, (SRB)
It took Spain a while but they did finally break down the Czech Republic defence, thanks to Andreas Iniesta’s wonderful cross that not many teams would have kept away from danger.Embed from Getty Images
Turkey succumbed by a goal and what a strike it was from Luka Modrić. Otherwise I was quite disappointed by their performance where they failed to create anything once going behind.
The Crescent Stars had a glorious chance when it was goalless to take the lead but Ozan Tufan headed straight at the goalkeeper. Either side and the game may have been completely different.
The Turks haven’t beaten Spain since 1954 – in the four matches since then Spain have been victorious in three, two of which came in 2010 World Cup qualifying. In one of those meetings in 2009 Gerard Pique scored his first international goal for the Reds.
Fatih Terim will have to do something in this game with them in need of points otherwise they could be up against it going into their final group game, even though it is probably the easiest of the lot.Embed from Getty Images
The weather we saw in the Northern Ireland match versus Ukraine reached Nice just prior to Spain training at the stadium and you have to feel that will add extra zip to the surface, which will help their passing and possession play.
The Spanish press have been busy penning their stories and previews ahead of this one and Mundo reckon Vincente Del Bosque will name an unchanged side, which slightly surprises me in all honesty.
Milorad Mazic takes charge following his first match where he was very lenient indeed. There were a few occasions in the first half he could have reached for a card but opted against it. In the end he showed just three.Embed from Getty Images
In qualifying in October he took charge of the Reds visit to Ukraine. Spain won 1-0 and he awarded them a penalty, which was missed by Cesc Fàbregas, and showed a total of six yellow cards – three to either side.
I’m finding it difficult to find a way in this match in all honesty. I can’t get away from Spain winning but surely Turkey can be as lacklustre as they were against Croatia.
I’ve looked at Spain to win to nil and Andreas Iniesta to be Man of the Match as potential ways in. It’s just one of those thought process where something at the back of my mind is telling me not to rule out Turkey.
Highest Scoring Half: Second Half – 6/5