Yesterday wasn’t the start to knockout football we were hoping for, with only three goals scored in normal time and two games going to extra time.
Wales saw off a plucky Northern Ireland through a Gareth McAuley own goal late in the day whilst Portugal scored with their second attempt on target, which came in the 117th minute.
The moment of yesterday came from Xherdan Shaqiri, whose bicycle kick from the edge of the box levelled the game against Poland and sent that game into extra time then penalties.
That game was decided by the miss of Arsenal’s new signing Granit Xhaka, who thumped his penalty wide, whilst the Poles taking the perfect five.
The profit now stands at +10.43 following a dry day yesterday.
France v Republic of Ireland
Venue: Stade de Lyon, Lyon
Kick Off: 14:00
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli, (ITA)
Shall we call this a grudge match following Thierry Henry’s antics during the World Cup play-off second leg back in 2010? His handball in the build up to the winner meant France went to South Africa rather than the boys from the Emerald Isle.
France topped their group after a goalless draw against Switzerland in a game where Paul Pogba looked to be trying to silence his critics and it was the Juventus man who went the closest by rattling the bar.
When Wes Hoolahan blew his one on one you felt it was curtains for Republic of Ireland. However the Norwich man got over that miss moments later to provide a wonderful cross for Robbie Brady to head past a hapless Salvatore Sirigu. That win sealed third spot and a trip to Lyon.
Les Blues failed to convince me at any stage of their group matches and the fact three of their four goals came after the 88th minute suggests expect late drama in their matches.
The Boys in Green only won once of their three group games but it would have been two if not for Ciaran Clark’s own goal against Sweden in their opening fixture. They were then well beaten by Belgium before being victorious up against a second string Italian side. Overall they are a hard outfit to weigh up considering there are no real star players in this side.
Martin O’Neill may be forced into at least one change with Stephen Ward missing training on Friday due to an ankle injury picked up against Italy but the Irish manager is able to call upon striker Jon Walters, who has returned to training following an ankle injury.
Adil Rami missed French training on Thursday as a precaution and the Sevilla man is still expected to take his place in the starting XI come kick-off. The French media are reporting that Didier Deschamps will revert to the side that beat Romania in the opening match of the tournament.
Italian Nicola Rizzoli is the man in black for this match and has issued eight yellow cards in his two matches and awarded Portugal a penalty in his last assignment.
The experience official took charge of Republic of Ireland’s qualifying match at home to Scotland, which ended in a 1-1 stalemate. In that match he booked both James McCarthy and Glenn Whelan and that pairing come into this with a yellow card to their names already – as do seven others.
West Ham’s Dimitri Payet has been the main man for Les Blues so far and he is 4/1 to collect the Man of the Match award. He came off the bench against Switzerland in an attempt to win the game and he very nearly did but his cushioned volley hit the bar. With France hitting the woodwork on five occasions it could be worth looking at one of their players to hit the goal frame once more.
Half Time/Full Time: Draw/France – 37/13
Germany v Slovakia
Venue: Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille
Kick Off: 17:00
Referee: Szymon Marciniak, (POL)
Germany’s seven points were enough to see them top the group meaning they are able to play a third placed side.
Slovakia are that team after collecting four points in their three games and as we saw against England they’re a tough side to break down.
These two sides met in a friendly prior to the tournament starting in Augsburg. Joachim Low fielded an experimental side it’s fair to say and despite Mario Gomez putting them in front from the spot, they fell to a 3-1 defeat.
Die Mannschaft will know what to expect from the Slovakians, so in a way that defeat might not be too bad considering they didn’t show their hand whereas Jan Kozak’s men did, with them playing a full strength side.
The world champions have a doubt over Jerome Boateng with a calf injury whilst Kozak has doubts over the fitness of winger Robert Mak and Dusan Svento, so both sides could be forced into changes.
Low could continue with Sebastian Kimmich at right back, which would enable Benedikt Howedes to fill in for Boateng, as he did for the final 15 minutes of the Northern Ireland game.
Germany’s only real test in the group stages came against Poland, which they drew 0-0. The Germans were efficient at the back and kept three clean sheets in the group phase and the last time they did that was at Euro 96, which they went on to win.
Former professional footballer Szymon Marciniak, who was fast tracked through UEFA’s centre of excellence takes charge of this one. Despite his lack of experience at this level I have been impressed by the way he has controlled his first two matches so far.
Just six yellows across those two games, five of which came in the dramatic Iceland v Austria game, in which he also gave a penalty. Ten players are a caution away from suspension – seven of them play for the Slovakian side, who you expect to be defending for the majority of this game.
The Germans have netted three times from their 21 attempts on target whilst the Slovaks have scored the same amount of goals from just seven shots on target showing just how clinical they’ve been.
That stat wasn’t helped in Germany’s previous game where they should have been out of sight if it wasn’t for Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern and the frame of the goal.
Slovakia have players who can do damage, as they found out in May, but you have to question if Kozak will be risking too much too soon in this game, so like two of the games yesterday, you have to expect the majority of action in the second half.
Germany to win to nil – EVS
Hungary v Belgium
Venue: Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse
Kick Off: 20:00
Referee: Milorad Mazic, (SRB)
This is a sentence I didn’t expect to be typing prior to the tournament – so far Hungary have been involved in game of the tournament following their 3-3 draw with Portugal.
The Magyars were able to take advantage of a poor Portuguese back line whilst showing their vulnerabilities as well but you’d expect them to be less expansive today in a game like this.
Belgium came through their group in second with two wins. Radja Nainggolan’s late strike was enough to beat Sweden to secure that spot. That was a game where there were plenty of dangerous balls into the box but nobody on the end of them, so that is an area where Marc Wilmots’ side need to improve.
Bernd Storck is without Attila Fiola and there is also a doubt over the fitness of Mihaly Korhut and Daniel Bode. Tottenham’s Mousa Dembélé is the only injury for the Red Devils and Wilmots told the media that this game would come too soon.
That old adage of one team looks stronger than the other on paper can be said here in favour of Belgium but they probably don’t play as much as a team compared to the collective unit of Hungary.
The last time they met was in a friendly back in 2009 when the Belgians ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. On that day Marouane Fellaini was on the scoresheet but he took no part in the game against Sweden and Wilmots is expected to go with the same side that started that encounter.
Eight Hungarians and four Belgians come into this on a yellow card, so they’ll have to watch their step with Serbian referee Milorad Mazic in charge.
He’s shown some restraint by only showing six yellow cards – three in each match, so far because he average is usually a lot higher.
A way to go would be corners. Belgium have taken 25, which is roughly eight per game, whilst the Hungarians have had 12, which is four per game. Therefore Over 6.5 Belgium corners at 8/11 would look a good bet in what is expected to be a tight encounter.
Belgium -3 corners – 7/5