By Liz Manning (Poland), Dan Eales (Wales), Scott Brotherton (Portugal), Jack Rodway (France), Aidan Slinn (Germany), Jake Foxford (Belgium), Oliver Marsh (Italy) & Francisco Cardoso Pinto (Iceland)

_90132707_polandport

Poland (Liz Manning)

lew

Will Lewandowski finally score?

Well look who finally showed up to the party? Or so I thought anyway… I was just congratulating Robert Lewandowski on finally scoring a goal after I’ve been bigging you up for weeks. But apparently scoring in an AET penalty shoot-out doesn’t quite count, so his barren run continues. It went in the net didn’t it?? Still, it’s a start…

I didn’t actually watch the game (sorry Poland) but I hear it was dramatic. I reckon I would have enjoyed it, because it went to penalties which is always tense, and of course because Poland won. Good on ya, Poland!

Prediction: Poland 2-1 Portugal

Poland are my last chance at winning the sweepstake now, after my beloved Iceland beat England 2-1 on Monday night. Oh, hey, with the exact score that I predicted! I overheard my dad saying “perhaps lack of expertise was actually an advantage” on the phone to my step-mum about it. Excuse you, Dad. I do my research and everything.

My prediction is Poland 2-1 Portugal (and my dad agrees, probably just glory hunting). No pressure, Poland, but it’s all down to you now. Unless you meet Iceland in the final. Then I’m jumping ship.

I’m still at Centerparcs in the Lake District, so I will be searching for a telly to keep up with this one!

Portugal (Scott Brotherton)

Quaresma

Quaresma was the hero against Croatia

Fernando Santos‘ men certainly surprised a few with their triumph over Croatia in the last 16. Ricardo Quaresma‘s extra-time winner, after the goalkeeper Subasic parried Cristiano Ronaldo‘s strike, came with three minutes to go. Croatia had little time to respond and looked a shadow of the team that had seemed to be championship contenders.

The match was a poor one in truth. Both defences were well on top and it was pretty tough to sit through! It only really opened up at the end of extra-time with plenty of tired legs stretching the game, leading to Quaresma’s vital goal.
At centre-half the combination of Pepe and Southampton’s Jose Fonte worked very well, while the latter’s Saints teammate Cedric Soares impressed at right-back. Santos will be hard pressed to reintroduce Ricardo Carvalho and Vieirinha to a backline that was so solid, and now has the likes of Blaszczykowski and Lewandowski to contend with against Poland.
In midfield William Carvalho has to start in the quarter-final. The enforcer was unbelievable in his man-marking of Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic and kept the Barcelona man completely out of the game. And youngster Renato Sanches was a real highlight. The 18-year-old only came on in the 50th minute but the midfielder lit up a dull game and could have earned himself a start against Poland.
Prediction: Poland 1-1 Portugal (Poland win on pens)
I see this being another cagey game, with the sides largely cancelling each other out. I’m still hopeful of a few goals though and, after watching their spot kicks against Switzerland, I’d have to plump for Poland if it goes to penalties.

_90132708_walesbelgium

Wales (Dan Eales)

Led by Gareth Bale - Wales have an excellent tournament

Led by Gareth Bale – Wales have had an excellent tournament so far

After England’s humiliating defeat to Iceland and with both Irish parties exiting the tournament, Wales now find themselves flying the flag for Great Britain. It may turn out that the disgruntled english fans, trying to brighten up their Euros experience, may quietly root for the Welsh. However it could be the same case as Andy Murray at Wimbledon. Whereby If they succeed they are British, but if they fail they are just the Welsh. I for one have been thrilled with the way Coleman’s men have approached each game with a ‘last hoorah’ mentality. I might even be tempted to have a flutter on Wales to win the whole competition, after all it has been a tournament where the underdogs have beaten the odds and slain the giants. hopefully my 12 year underdog cycle prediction comes true.

Prediction: Wales 1-1 Belgium (Wales win on pens)

Unfortunately, like a fool, I agreed to work late on Friday night so i will only be able to watch the second half. Although I’m sure 5live or talkSPORT will have live radio coverage. This game will depend heavily on which Belgium side turn up on the day. As we’ve seen they are vey hit and miss. Wales beat the Red Devils in qualifying so won’t be scared of Hazard and Co.

Belgium (Jake Foxford)

The boys in red stand the best chance of any remaining team of reaching the final now. With Wales to overcome on next they go into the match heavy favourites, especially now they appear to have gelled into a formidable goal scoring machine. Their first shaky game against Italy is a distant memory, so Wales, Portugal & Poland, whose talismanic marksmen are their most prominent threats, still have something to worry about.

Eden Hazard was back to his best against Hungary

Eden Hazard was back to his best against Hungary

With only two goals conceded, Marc Wilmots and his back line have reasons to come into this game confident, but Wales’ counterattacking ability could make a mockery of a poor formation or a weak defence, so this is not the game to conserve his players’ energy. Up front, Batshuayi finally got onto the pitch against Hungary and scored on his first Euro 2016 touch, so it may not come as a surprise to returning readers that I’m advocating a start from the young Marseille forward, but he was equally threatening after the goal and deserves the pitch time to do it again. Hazard has also put his boots on the right feet since getting out of the group stage and would have been starting regardless, but it will be interesting to see how the Welsh will possibly contain such an on-form, world-class player.

While at the World Ultimate Frisbee Championships, I did not manage to get a Belgium players shirt. I know, I’m bummed too.

Prediction: Wales 0-2 Belgium

_90132709_germanyitaly

Germany (Aidan Slinn)

Germany made short of Slovakia in the round of 16

Germany made short of Slovakia in the round of 16

So I am now giving my sweepstake hopefuls my full backing, due to the outcome of that thing that happened earlier in the week, which I’m still not ready to talk about. Die Mannschaft meet Italy in the quarter finals on Saturday in Bordeaux.

I am excited by both teams this year and think this fixture could produce one of the games of the tournament. Germany looked solid if not breath taking to get the job done in the group but stepped up to their usual level in their last 16 clash with Slovakia last weekend, which they won 3-0. This game will be their biggest test yet however, their opponents Italy topped their group with a game to spare and then dominated holders Spain on Monday night to book their place in the quarter finals.

Prediction: Germany 2-2 Italy (Germany win on pens)

fanzone

The Hyundai Fan Dome in London

I’ll be watching the game in the Hyundai Fan Dome which has been set up near the Kings Cross area in London. It promises an ‘Immersive football experience’ with food and craft beer on sale. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’m predicting this one to go to the wire, 2-2 with Germany winning the shootout.

 

Italy (Oliver Marsh)

Italy were impressive in their demolition of Spain

Italy were impressive in their demolition of Spain

It happened again. Every time I write off Italy I am proven wrong, but then again the two times I predicted comfortable wins for them they scraped through with a last minute goal, and then lost the other one. They were absolutely fantastic against Spain, and could have won by even more. So I am determined not to write them off again… Expect, I am.

Germany must now be the favourites for the tournament, and while I think that the Italians will put up a great fight, it will take a monumental effort to overthrow them. Then again, most will have thought that in Euro 2012 when the two sides met in the semi-final, and Italy ended up winning that one comfortably. In my opinion this is the game of the weekend and I’m hoping for an absolute cracker.

Prediction: Germany 1-1 Italy (Germany to win on pens)

This will be the toughest test for both sides, and could arguably be the toughest game that both teams have in the tournament as a whole, semis and final included. I would go so far as to say whoever wins this match is the favourite to win the tournament, and I can see the game going down to the wire. Germany to score first, Italy to respond, lots of horrible tense edge-of-the seat mayhem, and then Germany to pull through in penalties.

I’ll be watching on the sofa with my feet up. I’ll be honouring both sides by drinking Franziskaner Hefe Weissbier, Birra Moretti and Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier to enjoy the match, as a part of a quarter-final beer marathon that I’ll be writing about (and recovering from) next week…

_90132712_franceice

France (Jack Rodway)

Well, almost everyone had this game pencilled down as a France vs England quarter final showdown before a ball was even kicked in the previous round. France held up their part of the deal, beating the Republic of Ireland 2-1. But then everyone realised England are just not very good… as Iceland comfortably saw off their inept opposition by the same score line, sending them onto the plane and out of France.

Griezmann was the star against Ireland

Griezmann was the star against Ireland

It would be simply incredible if Iceland could knock out the host nation, but France are certainly not England. Their second half display was easily the best they have produced so far in the tournament and if it wasn’t for some suspect finishing the score line could have looked a lot more handsome. Antoine Griezmann was the hero of the hour grabbing the crucial match winning brace, bringing his total to three goals so far. My tip for Griezmann to be this Euro’s top scorer isn’t looking too shabby now, is it?

Patience will be key for the French as everyone, bar Roy Hodgson, knows Iceland’s threats and how they will set up. It will be down to Didier Deschamps to find the answers to the questions that Iceland will pose, which I’m sure he will. Unfortunately this is where we say goodbye to everyone’s second team.

Prediction: France 2-0 Iceland

Iceland caused the shock of the tournament by beating England

Iceland caused the shock of the tournament by beating England

Iceland (Francisco Cardoso Pinto)

I will sadly miss this one as I have a big exam coming up!

Prediction: France 1-2 Iceland