After a two-day break the football is back with the first three Round of 16 matches.
The final Group matches in F were entertaining and went against the grain of the tournament so far. In the Hungary/Portugal game a 19/4 bet was landed with the HT/FT result market being Draw/Draw.
A winner with the last kick of the game for Iceland meant they qualified to face England on Monday meaning the Three Lions avoided Portugal.
Group E was a quieter affair, unless you were of Republic of Ireland affiliation following Robbie Brady’s late winner to put them through. In the other game a Radja Nainggolan strike was enough to earn Belgium another win and win the 13/10 shout.
So after the group stages the profit for the blog stands at +14.43.
Switzerland v Poland
Venue: Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Etienne
Kick Off: 14:00
Referee: Mark Clattenburg, (ENG)
Two runners up from their respective groups where Switzerland won once and drew twice compared to Poland’s two wins and a draw against world champions Germany.
Adam Nawalka will be forced into one change due to the suspension of 19 year old midfielder Bartosz Kapustka. There is still a doubt over goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny meaning Lukasz Fabianski is set to retain his position.
In comparison Vladimir Petkovic has a full strength squad to choose from for this knockout match but his selection headache will come in the front line. He started Breel Embolo against France but he failed to test Hugo Lloris, so will he continue with the Basel youngster or bring back Haris Seferovic?
The White Eagles have a good record against Die Nati having won four and drawn five of the meetings. Switzerland’s sole victory came in 1976.
On paper Poland are the side with the stronger squad and proved their resilience by not conceding a single goal in their group campaign. However they only managed to score twice in three matches. Robert Lewandowski was dropping to deep to pick up the ball and for Poland to continue in this tournament then he needs to be their focal point.
Their most influential player so far has been Arkadiusz Milik, who scored against Northern Ireland and assisted their goal versus Ukraine. His presence in behind Lewandowski is another reason they should now go deep into this tournament.
The Swiss have netted twice so far but have been wasteful in front of goal. They’ve had 42 attempts but registered just 13 shots on target. This is the selection headache facing Petkovic, especially coming up a side that will be hard to break down.
So far their flair players like Xherdan Shaqiri and Admir Mehmedi have offered little to supply the lone striker. They need to up their game to cause this defence trouble.
UEFA are certainly Mark Clattenburg busy. This is his third assignment at the competition where he has shown nine yellow cards and awarded a penalty.
Both sides have four players a caution away from a suspension if they progress into the next round and unsurprisingly one of the names on that list is Valon Behrami. If Switzerland are chasing the game and leave themselves open to a counter attack then you wouldn’t be surprised to see a cynical foul from him.
Five goals in total over their respective six group matches and four of those goals came in the second half, so that market is worth looking at and is available in places at 13/10.
If you’re having an acca over the three matches then throw in Under 2.5 goals as a small boost option. That looks quite safe considering all of Poland’s nine European Championship matches have been under.
The two markets that I’ve looked at are Poland to win to nil and Poland to win and Under 2.5 goals. Surprisingly it is the latter that is the bigger price and do think the White Eagles will claim a narrow victory.
Poland to Win & Under 2.5 goals – 13/4
Half Time/Full Time: Draw/Poland – 5/1 (0.5pt)
Wales v Northern Ireland
Venue: Parc des Princes, Paris
Kick Off: 17:00
Referee: Martin Atkinson, (ENG)
Wales did what England couldn’t and beat both Slovakia and Russia, which saw them top Group B. In their final game against the Russians they came out with a high intensity, similar to England, but they had the cutting edge to put them to the sword.
Northern Ireland fell to two 1-0 defeats in their group but sandwiched in between them was a 2-0 win over Ukraine, which was enough to see them take a best third place finish to set up the all-British encounter.
This is a first for both sides in reaching this stage of a European Championship and it could come down to that one moment of magic or whoever holds there nerve.
If the Dragons continue from where they left off the other night then Northern Ireland are in for a long evening. Gareth Bale was in his usual top form but he was also accompanied by other outstanding performances from Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey.
Michael O’Neill hasn’t been scared to change it up so far and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him play five across the midfield to try and flood it to nullify the aforementioned triumvirate.
Playing Wales should be slightly easier than playing Germany and Poland but it is another game where they won’t see much of the ball. If O’Neill brings back anchor Chris Baird and leading scorer in qualifying Kyle Lafferty will only become clearer closer to kick off.
The Welsh have scored six goals from 21 shots on target whilst The Green & White Army’s two goals have come from just eight shots on frame.
The other English official at the tournament has been appointed to this making it an all British affair. Martin Atkinson has shown five yellows in his two matches but the fact he knows the majority of these players should help his control and general flow of the game.
He took charge of Northern Ireland’s pre-tournament friendly win over Belarus and did caution Jonny Evans, so with the threat the Welsh have going forward he could be one to enter the notebook.
We’ve seen how Northern Ireland have defended throughout the tournament without conceding too many goals. However they can thank Michael McGovern and the woodwork it was only a 1-0 defeat against Germany.
Today coming up against this Welsh side I reckon they could concede at least twice and that is a way I’m looking into this fixture. Gareth Bale is joint top scorer with three goals so far and two of them have been free kicks. Northern Ireland will have to remain disciplined not to give cheap fouls away from shooting positions but there is a potential value bet to take here.
Wales to score 2+ goals – 7/4
Gareth Bale to score from outside the box – 8/1 (0.5pt)
Croatia v Portugal
Venue: Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens
Kick Off: 20:00
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo, (ESP)
Croatia managed to top Group D thanks to an 87th minute winner from Ivan Perišić. They would have had nine points if it wasn’t for the late collapse against Czech Republic but now they have got themselves onto this side of the draw they look likely to go the whole way.
Portugal haven’t convinced in any of their group games – which they drew all three to only finish third. They should really be winning a group like this and it could have been worse if it wasn’t for Cristiano Ronaldo against Hungary and Iceland’s late winner.
Ante Čačić still hasn’t lost a match at the helm of the Croatian national side and I’m not expecting that to change here.
Portugal’s defence is vulnerable and it looks weak in the full back positions. If Perišić and either Marko Pjaca or Marcelo Brozović can trouble the Portuguese in those areas then they’ll have plenty of joy, especially with one of Mario Mandžukić or Nikola Kalinic in the box.
It does look like Luka Modrić will be fit for the Blazers, which is a huge boost for them throughout the rest of this tournament.
Renato Sanches has done well off the bench for the Selecao but one name that has to be on the team sheet is Ricardo Quaresma. The Besiktas man can come up with that inch perfect cross or piece of magic that will be needed in this game. His inclusion should be able to take some of the pressure of Ronaldo and Nani to do a lot of the forward work.
Eight Croatia players will have to watch their step here and two for Portugal, as they have yellow cards to their name.
Good luck to those ten players considering Carlos Velasco Carballo is the man in the middle. He has dished out eight yellows and a red card so far, but to be fair he did show restraint in the England v Slovakia game on his last outing.
The 45 year old Spaniard took charge of Croatia’s 5-1 qualifying win over Norway where he awarded a penalty to Norway and sent off Vedran Ćorluka for a second bookable offence.
This game would appeal from a corners perspective. The Selecao have taken 30 so far in the tournament whilst Croatia have had 19. Roughly that’s ten for Portugal and around six per 90 minutes for the Blazers. Over 11.5 corners at 6/5 doesn’t look too bad.
If you are ever taken by a novelty bet or a Sky ‘Request a Bet’ then look for one with woodwork to be hit. In the tournament so far between these two they’ve rattled the frame of the goal five times.
A worry is that Croatia have failed to beat Portugal in their three head to head’s – losing 6-0 on aggregate. However this looks like a golden opportunity for this Croatia to amend that record and go on a run into this tournament.
On paper with two defences that aren’t the best I’m expecting to see goals in this one, especially with the attacking talent on show. With that then there should be plenty of action in the final third. Croatia have given away two penalties in as many matches and for another to be awarded here is 7/2.
Both Teams to Score – 23/20