England fell far short of expectations once again as debutants Iceland and Wales reached the quarter-finals as Germany, Italy and Belgium made their mark in the second round. Here’s how I rank the remaining eight nations:
1. Germany (4.1 to win Euro 2016)
I’ve tipped Germany from the start and their quarter-final is basically the final in my mind – if they beat Italy they will 100% win Euro 2016. They are simply too good for France, Belgium and Portugal. I also fancy them to beat Italy on Saturday but must admit Italy are a lot better than I thought heading into the second round. However, they did seem to tire badly in the final 20 minutes versus Spain and have Thiago Motta suspended. Realistically, if Germany keep a clean sheet in this match they may very well go through the entire tournament without conceding a single goal.
Toni Kroos has been the player of the tournament so far, Manuel Neuer has barely been tested and Mario Gómez looked much sharper versus Slovakia than in his first start against Northern Ireland, but he scored in both regardless. Thomas Müller will eventually score and Julian Draxler is looking ace. The full-backs bombing forward should cause Italy problems in the quarter-final with their back three.
2. Italy (8.0 to win Euro 2016)
If Germany aren’t going to win Euro 2016 then Italy will. I’ve put the odds up in case you fancy them to beat Germany because they will be half that heading into the semi-finals. Gianluigi Buffon has not conceded in his three games in France and remains one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He’s well protected by his three Juventus teammates. However, they are going to have a very tough game against this German attack which is the best attacking unit in world football right now.
Italy still look weak going forward for me – they’ve scored five goals in four games of which two have made it 2-0 in stoppage time on the counter-attack whilst their opponents have been in the opposition half. Their opener versus Spain came through a David de Gea mistake, their opener versus Belgium came after a Toby Alderweireld mistake and it took them 88 minutes to open the score versus Sweden. Will this efficient German side make mistakes for Italy? I think not.
3. Belgium (2.3 to reach final)
With Croatia’s loss Belgium have a nice route to the final now with Wales and then Portugal/Poland. Their odds aren’t bad to beat Wales in normal time but they weren’t as good as the 4-0 scoreline suggested versus Hungary. It was 1-0 until the 78th minute and they had been hanging on for most of that second half before Michy Batshuayi scored. Wales will stuff men behind the ball which is not what Hungary did – Belgium were very wasteful prior to their second goal.
Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne have more assists than any other players in the tournament but with five defenders to beat it will be interesting to see how much space and time on the ball they get. Defensively they haven’t been as solid as their three consecutive clean sheets suggest – Sweden came close in the final group game and Hungary fired several shots narrowly wide. It won’t be a breeze unless they improve their performance.
4. Portugal (3.3 to reach final)
I never expected Portugal to eliminate Croatia but credit them for doing so. Admittedly I thought Ante Čačić’s side bottled it as much as anything else. Cristiano Ronaldo has now been involved in their last three goals and is only one goal shy of tying Michel Platini’s European Championships goalscoring record.
Poland won’t be a rollover for Portugal but I am edging them to overcome them to set up a potential semi-final with Belgium. I give them more chance of progressing to the final than France beating either Germany or Italy. They didn’t allow Croatia a single shot on target in 90 minutes with José Fonte replacing Ricardo Carvalho at centre-back.
The hosts had to come from behind to beat a tired Republic of Ireland in the second half and despite playing the final 25 minutes against 10 men they couldn’t add to the 2-1 scoreline. Antoine Griezmann has come good though – scoring both goals to take him equal top scorer at the tournament. It must be nice for the French fans to be able to rely on someone more than just Dimitri Payet. I can’t believe they’re the tournament favourites once again but this is because they face Iceland in the quarter-finals whilst Germany and Italy meet each other.
N’Golo Kanté and Adel Rami get a rest as they are suspended but I can’t see France being eliminated by Iceland, but I thought that about England too! France are better than England and Iceland have now started the same XI for four consecutive games, have had a few days less rest than their opponents for a second consecutive game and have spent the majority of their matches chasing the ball. Fatigue anyone?
Xherdan Shaqiri is the only player to have scored versus Poland in their four games which includes a 0-0 draw against Germany. I wouldn’t rule out their quarter-final against Portugal being a 0-0 after 90 minutes but they have to deal with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani who has found some form in France.
Robert Lewandowski has not found the net yet and not looked like doing so as one of the biggest flops of the tournament. Arkadiusz Milik has not scored since their opener versus Northern Ireland either with the Ajax striker looking wasteful. Jakub Błaszczykowski is looking good at least.
Wales got a 1-0 win and 0-0 draw versus Belgium in their qualifying group with the two teams meeting in the quarter-finals on Friday. However, their goal came via a defensive howler. I expect Belgium to win this time around but I respect Chris Coleman’s tactics. They’ve kept back-to-back clean sheets though but have not faced a good team in the tournament so far – the only team to lose to England too.
Gareth Bale has been very overrated so far but I think he’ll find space versus this Belgium defence and midfield which has left space open for opposition attackers. Aaron Ramsey is similar – he’s played well to this point though but I can see him finding holes in the Belgium defence. How much possession Wales will see remains to be seen though as they hardly dominated Northern Ireland. It could work a treat though as Belgium have looked best on the counter-attack. I still fancy the Red Devils though!
Congratulations to Iceland beating a terrible England side but they have a tough draw now. Facing the hosts on Sunday will be their toughest task yet. For a team that hasn’t tested the opposition goalkeeper too often – France have only allowed three shots on target in this tournament – two of them from the penalty spot. Adel Rami is missing but Laurent Koscielny is good enough to make Eliaquim Mangala look adequate in this match.
Goalkeeper Hannes Þór Halldórsson has been tested more than any other goalkeeper in this tournament and with Antoine Griezmann showing form and Dimitri Payet a constant threat, France are going to end the Nordic nation’s dream at the Stade de France.