Friday, June 24, 2016

Euro 2016 - Croatia can tame Ronaldo and Portugal

The round of last 16 start on Saturday with 3 seemingly even matches on offer.

Switzerland and Poland have not shown great brilliance in the group stages and it would not surprising if this match ends up in a drab goal-less draw to be decided on penalties. Those 2 teams should not go far down the line. The Swiss kept hosts France to a draw in their last match and they seem to lack that killer instinct in front of goal; they simply don't have an out-and-out striker that can make a difference at this level. The Poles do have one in Lewandowski but the Bayern striker has yet to make an impact in the tournament. They labored to beat the weak Ukrainians by the strict minimum in their last match, which is a worrying sign against stronger opposition. A low scoring result seems on offer here and I will side with the Poles to make the difference in extra time or penalties.

Wales against Northern Ireland is an intriguing battle of British sides. I give the edge to the Welsh because of Bale who's scored in the 3 group matches. The Irish are a very homogeneous team though and will give Coleman's team all they can handle.

Finally, I see Croatia overcoming Portugal on the basis of what they have shown in the group stages. The Croats were arguably lucky to beat Spain as they were second best for most of the match and survived a penalty before scoring on a counter in the dying stages. Still, they impressed in their matches with their composure and organization and they are a threat to any other team. Portugal had to come behind 3 times against Hungary and without Ronaldo, they would simply have been out of it by now. If Hungary can rock them 3 times, one has to wonder what Croatia will do Pepe and his defence. I think the Ronaldo factor is overplayed here and he will be sent packing for holidays for a well-deserved rest after this match.

To qualify: Poland, Wales, Croatia

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