Thanks to UEFA for allowing teams to play for draws to make sure they qualify as third placed teams. That’s what Slovakia did and managed to blunt a toothless England side.
Whilst in Toulouse Gareth Bale was running the show and scored in a rampant 3-0 win against a very poor Russia side. With the Welsh wizard scoring it landed the 4/1 enhanced special.
The blog so far now stands in profit at +7.90.
Today sees the conclusion of Group C and D, so there are four matches in total.
Ukraine v Poland
Venue: Stade Veldorome, Marseille
Kick Off: 17:00
Referee: Svein Oddvar Moen, (NOR)
Ukraine have fallen to two 2-0 defeats so far and they’ve been very underwhelming in terms of performances. They gave Germany a few problems but were poor against Northern Ireland. Sitting bottom with zero points they need a miracle to stand a chance of claiming a best third place spot.
Poland won their opening game before holding world champions Germany to a goalless draw in Paris. The second half of that match opened up and they had chances to take all three points. You feel even a point here would be enough for second with Northern Ireland playing Germany.
There’s been a bit of a blow for the Red & Whites coming into this fixture. Manager Adam Nawalka has ruled out former Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny due to injury; Swansea stopper Lukasz Fabianski is likely to deputise. The outfield zaplayers are all fully fit.
Zbirna manager Mykhaylo Fomenko has no such concerns surrounding his squad and for them it is must win and by a big margin to have any chance of taking that third place spot.
In competitive matches it is Ukraine who have held sway. They are unbeaten in the last four, including two wins in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Andriy Yarmolenko has two in his last two against the Polish opposition.
As you know there has been plenty of action in the second half and that’s when the majority of goals are scored. These two teams typify that.
Three of the goals Ukraine have conceded have been in the second 45 minutes, and then two of them came in stoppage time.
Poland have only netted once through Arkadiusz Milik and that came in the 51st minute. If there’s going to be action then it’s going to be after half time, which provides many betting opportunities from half time result, half time/full time and of course the highest scoring half.
Eight players come into this match having yellow cards by their name and they will have to be careful with Svein Oddvar Moen being the man in charge.
He dished out five yellow cards in his opening assignment, which was Wales v Slovakia and four of them came in the second half.
When looking back on their past meetings then they have been feisty encounters. Those two World Cup qualifiers saw 12 yellow cards split evenly at six per match – and in both it was Ukraine who collected the most booking points.
I’d be very tempted by the 9/4 on offer for Over 4.5 Cards based on the stats I’ve just stated. Two teams that collect them and a referee that’s more than happy to show them.
The Red & Whites have been consistent in terms of corners featuring in games with nine then ten respectively whilst Zbrina have a bit of a disparity in their figures – 18 when they played Germany but just five against Northern Ireland.
Highest Scoring Half: Second Half – 6/5
Under 2.5 Goals & 4-6 Cards – 23/10 (0.5pt)
Northern Ireland v Germany
Venue: Parc des Princes, Paris
Kick Off: 17:00
Referee: Clement Turpin, (FRA)
Michael O’Neill has really worked miracles. Not many, included myself, gave them a prayer of winning a game let alone getting past the group stages when the draw was made. However they sit in third place and are on the verge of reaching the Last 16 thanks to a 2-0 victory over Ukraine, which was fully deserved.
World Champions Germany haven’t really got into gear just yet. They controlled proceedings against Ukraine but it took them to the second minute of stoppage time to kill off the game then they didn’t really commit to securing their position at the top against Poland.
The Green & White Army could be in for a long evening in the French capital, as you’d expect Die Mannschaft to play possession football and try to break down a resolute back four. Counter attacks and set pieces will be the way forward for the Irish, who will have to remain vigilant to get anything from this clash.
Michael McGovern was absent in training yesterday but the Irish FA have insisted that was a ‘rest day’ for the goalkeeper. Something to note in the German camp was they set up in a 5-3-2 in yesterday’s training meaning Joachim Low could make changes to combat Northern Ireland’s threat and expose their vulnerabilities.
O’Neill made five changes prior to the side that started against Ukraine, so he could do similar here if he’s found a way to nullify the threat from the likes of Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, Mario Götze and Mesut Ozil.
Four Northern Irish players and three Germans come into this one with yellow cards. Inexperienced official Clement Turpin gets his second match after harshly sending off Austria’s Aleksandar Dragovic in his first.
He did only show two cards before dismissing the full back but he did make some questionable other decisions regarding the flow of the game.
This is a different calibre of opposition for the Green & Whites to come up against when you look at their qualifying campaign. They handled Poland for the large majority of the game but this is another slight step up.
Northern Ireland did a famous double over West Germany in the 1984 European Championships and they are the only two occasions they’ve come out on top. They’ll be happy to keep this tight for as long as possibly and in all honesty if they keep the score down they’ll be in a great position to claim a best third place spot for the Last 16.
Germany to win 1-0 – 11/2 (0.5pt)
Czech Republic v Turkey
Venue: Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens
Kick Off: 20:00
Referee: Willie Collum, (SCO)
This is the battle for third place in Group D but a draw is unlikely to be good enough to see Czech Republic through. They fought back in spirited style to earn an unlikely point against Croatia and if they carry on from where they left off then they are likely to have a chance here.
Turkey were outplayed by Spain and at 2-0 down they were mentally gone. It didn’t help that the fans were on the backs of certain players from an early stage either. If they win and take third it would be very interesting to see if they were still able to progress.
Pavel Vrba’s side will be forced to make one change as Tomas Rosicky is out for the rest of the tournament with a hamstring injury.
This is a difficult match to get your head around. The Czech are usually defensively resolute but were cut apart by Croatia but they aren’t playing a team here with that attacking threat. Whilst Turkey have shown very little in two matches and have something to prove.
These sides met in qualifying for this tournament and it was a group that the Czech Republic topped with Turkey claiming third spot. In their respective matches it was the side who were away that came out on top with the scorelines being 2-1 and 2-0. In historical meetings at least one side has scored two goals in this fixture.
Scotsman Willie Collum is the man in the middle and he took charge of France v Albania in his opening match, showing just the three yellows. This could be a more testing evening for him after the second qualification match saw six yellows dished out.
Seven players come into this match on yellow cards – five from Turkey and two from the Czech Republic, so they better be on their best behaviour.
The 37 year old official took charge of the Czech Republic’s 2-1 defeat in Iceland during qualifying. In that match he showed two yellow cards both to Vrba’s side.
Turkey have only had two shots on target in their opening two matches. Yes they were against a slightly better opposition but they not a side I could trust mentally with the way they surrendered against Spain.
Tomas Necid got off the mark from the spot against Croatia and the Bursaspor striker will face a few of his team mates here. He or Borek Dockal are the most likely scorers in this Czech side and I can see them holding stronger before edging out the Turkish side.
Tomas Necid to score & Czech Republic to win – 9/2 (0.5pt)
Croatia v Spain
Venue: Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
Kick Off: 20:00
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers, (NED)
Croatia capitulated late on against Czech Republic to throw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2. Whether it was the lose of Luka Modrić after an hour or the antics of their fans it was incredible to watch.
Spain clicked against Turkey and played them off the park albeit a very poor Turkish side. That took them into favourites in the betting and they have looked the most complete side, especially after they found their shooting boots.
The Blazers Achilles heel if their defence and that was highlighted by the Czech Republic attack. The lose of Modrić for this game is huge considering if they lose and the Czech’s win with a two goal swing then Ante Cacic’s side would finish third in Group D.
Cacic may also be without Mario Mandžukić who is suffering from a muscle injury but he may be risked to make sure of qualification.
On the opposite side Vincente Del Bosque’s side have a clean bill of health and he can chose from every member of his squad. Sergio Ramos’ caution in the previous game puts him in danger of missing their next match if collecting another here.
La Roja have been the best side for me so far in this tournament and think they will find a way of winning this. Alvaro Morata found the net twice against Turkey, so hopefully he goes on a run and everything in their previous game just seemed to click.
Bjorn Kuipers has the whistle and he wasn’t afraid of dishing out the cards in his opening match between Germany and Poland – showing six yellows equally.
The Dutchman is likelier to have an easier night with Spain likely to dominate possession and dictate whilst Croatia will try to stifle and get bodies behind the ball.
Four Croatians are walking that fine line between playing in the next round or being suspended and list includes defenders Ivan Strinic and Domagoj Vida.
Spain have dominated the corners markets in their two matches and with how this one is expected to go then it might be worth a punt on the corners handicap. La Roja took 11 more than Czech Republic in their first match then four more than Turkey last time. This is an area I feel they will dominate once more.
Spain -2 Corners – 7/5