By Matt Cowdock (Switzerland & Hungary), Liz Manning (Poland & England), Dan Eales (Wales), Dean Laughton (Northern Ireland), Ben Delaney (Croatia), Scott Brotherton (Portugal), Jack Rodway (France), Joe Proctor (Republic of Ireland), Aidan Slinn (Germany), Tom Clarke (Slovakia), Jake Foxford (Belgium), Oliver Marsh (Italy & Spain) & Francisco Cardoso Pinto (Iceland)

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Switzerland (Matt Cowdock)

Switzerland face Poland in their last 16 tie and I can foresee one of two things: firstly, it could be a bore draw. Poland are yet to concede and Switzerland are misfiring slightly, while they

Could Breel Embolo grab a goal for the Swiss?

Could Breel Embolo grab a goal for the Swiss?

also managed to keep out the hosts. Secondly, it could be where Poland really let loose. Robert Lewandowski is probably the best striker in the tournament and I think he’s itching to bet against a hapless Johan Djourou (sorry I keep mentioning him — he’s just really, really bad). However, I’ll be optimistic and go for the former.

Prediction

Switzerland 0-0 Poland (aet, Swiss on pens)

Poland (Liz Manning)

The opening match of the group of 16! No pressure Poland, but I’m going to start planning how to spend my prize money.

Expectations are high for Poland's Robert Lewandowski

Expectations are high for Poland’s Robert Lewandowski

I’ll be packing my suitcase for a trip to Centerparcs, so the game will be on my laptop. Whilst it may serve little more than background noise, this is the second game I’ll ever watch alone in my life, and the first was only last week. That’s like a 200% increase. No pressure, Poland.

Switzerland have won only 1 of their last 10 matches against Poland. Ok, whilst those are pretty good odds in Poland’s favour, I think the game could go either way, and Poland should not be complacent. I suspect (and certainly hope) that 0-0 draws will be a thing of the past now that we’re into the knockout stages of the tournament. I’m still holding out hope for Lewandowski (my prince that was promised), but the group stages have left me jaded, so I’m sticking with a modest 1-0 victory.

Prediction

Switzerland 0-1 Poland

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Wales (Dan Eales)

Wales' Gareth Bale is the tournament's top scorer

Wales’ Gareth Bale is the tournament’s top scorer

Having had one too many during the last set of Group B matches, I’ll be sat at home for this one. It’s set to be another cracking game of home nation football with both sides fancying their chance of progressing.

As much I would like all the home nations to progress as far as possible, this is the end of the road for Northern Ireland. Wales have been in dazzling form and the Russia demolition typified that. I really believe Wales could reach the semi finals. The Dragons have played Northern Ireland on 34 occasions and have won 15 off them. From there it is most likely they will meet the Belgians in the quarter finals. Yet despite Belgium’s wealth of talent they have shown frailties, Wales also took four points from them in qualifying.

Prediction

Wales 2-1 Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland (Dean Laughton)

I’m so proud of my Northern Irish warriors. After losing the opener, we (yes, we) did what we needed to do to triumphantly reach the knockout stage – beat a team who didn’t score a goal

Will Grigg has yet to be on fire at Euro 2016

Will Grigg has yet to be on fire at Euro 2016

and then lose to Germany. Nevertheless, we are here and we clash with another buoyant faction of the United Kingdom. I’ll be watching this with a real ale in an old thatched roof pub in Kent, and I predict that my Northern Ireland will battle with the Welsh all the way to a penalty shoot-out – which we will win.

Prediction

Wales 1-1 Northern Ireland (aet, Northern Irish on pens)

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Croatia (Ben Delaney)

Croatia look the real deal in France

Croatia look the real deal in France

Saturday is shaping up to be a lovely affair. It is my brothers biannual “Birthday Soiree”. An event where friends and family go to my mum’s house and eat copious amounts of pulled pork, washed down with beer and cider.

Croatia have staked a real claim to be the best side we have seen at this tournament, opposition Portugal have not. Unfortunately for my Croatia side Cristiano Ronaldo looks as though he has found his petrol, kindling and matches looking ready to set this tournament alight. I am going to stand by my sweepstake side and predict yet another 2-1 win. A tense, end-to-end game where the reward will be to see Ronaldo pouting at the harshness of life, at the inadequacies of his squad mates and at the world in general…. What more could you ask for on a Saturday night.

Prediction

Croatia 2-1 Portugal

Portugal (Scott Brotherton)

I really feel this could be THE game to watch in the last 16. Both sides have exciting attackers and, while Croatia are probably favourites, the Ronaldo factor means you can never count out Portugal.

Cristiano Ronaldo found his feet in the last game vs. Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo found his feet in the last game vs. Hungary

After the mad 3-3 draw with Hungary, Fernandos Santos will certainly be looking to sure up his defence. And with Cristiano now off the mark with a brace in that game, the Portuguese will be hoping he can drag them forward further into the competition.
But Croatia have proved themselves to be formidable opponents thus far. With quality in abundance and the likes of Modric, Perisic, Rakitic and Mandzukic in attack, they should have just to much for Portugal.

Prediction

Croatia 2-1 Portugal

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France (Jack Rodway)

Can Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba finally excel for the hosts?

Can Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba finally excel for the hosts?

The Republic of Ireland stand in the way of the host nation reaching the quarter finals. Looking solely at the results you would assume that the French cruised into the knockout phase…but the performances tell another story. Unconvincing in all three group stage games, relying on late goals to see them through, it is here where I believe the performance will match the result.

This will be no easy game against the Irish, who I am sure still harbour righteous resentment for that Thierry Henry handball. I am predicting a dominant display from France, where they finally lay down a marker, with player of the tournament Dimitri Payet running the show once again.

Prediction

France 3-1 Republic of Ireland

Republic of Ireland (Joe Proctor)

Finally some good news! It had not been the best the tournament for me up until Wednesday night, England’s campaign has been fairly disappointing and my other sweepstake side, Ukraine, were awful. For 84 minutes it looked like Ireland would also let me down, until Robbie Brady headed in a delicious cross from Wesley Hoolahan. Cue wild celebrations from the tournament’s best fans and a quarter final match up with hosts France.

Robbie Brady's late, late show sparked euphoria

Robbie Brady’s late, late show sparked euphoria

I’ll likely be watching Sunday’s batch of fixtures from a Bristol beer garden. It is a game I am looking forward to, I can’t help feeling this French side is slightly overhyped, and their group stage performances were not overly convincing. I called the 1-0 victory last time and I’m backing the same result again. Setting up a dream quarter-final against England Iceland. Come On You Boys in Green!

Prediction

France 0-1 Republic of Ireland

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Germany (Aidan Slinn)

Germany face Slovakia on Sunday in their last 16 clash, a team they lost 3-1 to in Augsburg just last month. It is going to be part of a triple billing that will hopefully entertain a few friends and I at a mate’s barbecue this Sunday (which I have been informed is ambitiously still going ahead, despite the forecast).

Could Mario Gomez net his first Euro 2016 goal?

Could Mario Gomez net his first Euro 2016 goal?

The victors will go on to face either Spain or Italy, which promises to be one of the games of the tournament. I am predicting Germany win with Gomez leading the attack again and Muller finally breaking his Euro goal scoring duck.

Prediction

Germany 2-0 Slovakia

Slovakia (Tom Clarke)

I’m in Australia.

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Hungary (Matt Cowdock)

Hungary. Dear, sweet Hungary. You don’t know me but I drew you in a sweepstake and I slagged you off relentlessly. I’ve never been happier to be wrong and your 3-3 draw with Portugal was something to behold. It was really quite surreal to see Zoltan Gera and Balázs Dzsudzsák go toe-to-toe with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, but by God it was exciting. I’ve got the utmost confidence you can do something similar against Belgium. If you keep your shape and take your chances, you’ll go through against these overrated prima donnas.

He may look silly but Gabor Kiraly has got results for Hungary

He may look silly but Gabor Kiraly has got results for Hungary

Prediction

Hungary 2-1 Belgium (aet)

Belgium (Jake Foxford)

I’m at the World Ultimate Frisbee Champions in Watford.

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Italy & Spain (Oliver Marsh)

So this feels a little weird. My two sweepstake teams face each other in the Round of 16, and I must write against… Myself? This seems like the beginnings of an existential crisis, so I’ll just look at the positives and say that at least this guarantees that one of my teams will be in the final.

Seven Czech players crowd Iniesta during Spain's 1-0 victory over Czech Republic

Seven Czech players crowd Iniesta during Spain’s 1-0 victory over Czech Republic

A repeat of the Euro 2012 final. Spain were rampant winners on that occasion, but I predict a more cagey affair on this one. Both teams seemed to be smooth sailing in their opening two matches, and were arguably even the most impressive teams in the tournament so far. But they both lost their final matches, something I did not expect. So they are vulnerable, and this game represents both teams’ response to this setback.

When it comes down to it, I just think that Spain have more firepower than Italy, and in a game where defence will be crucial I think that will be the deciding factor. Not a rampant victory, after losing to Croatia it will be nervy, it will be tight, but I think that Spain will ultimately prevail.

I’ll be watching at a pub somewhere in Hammersmith, eating pizza and paella and drinking Peroni and Estrella in an act of total non-commitment to one team. I like both teams, so I will simply hope for an exciting match. Vamonos Italia! I mean, Forza España! Oh I don’t know, I’ll just say may the best team win!

Can Antonio Conte bow out in style?

Can Antonio Conte bow out in style?

Prediction 

Italy 0-1 Spain

 

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England (Liz Manning)

Wayne Rooney has been rated highly by many at Euro 2016

Wayne Rooney has been rated highly by many at Euro 2016

Here it is. My first major conflict of interests. On the one hand, England is my home country. Whilst I identify as Irish by heritage, I’ve lived in this country all my life and that’s got to count for something. More importantly, England winning brings me closer to the sweepstake prize.

However; I want Iceland to win. The spirit that they have showed throughout the tournament has me totally under their thrall: I need to see more. I watched them live on Wednesday when they played Austria and won 2-1 at the Stade de France, and it was absolutely fantastic to see their teamwork and passion. Their population around 330,000, whereas the population of England is estimated at 55 million. This is Iceland’s fairy tale story, and it can’t end just yet.

Look, I know it’s a bit of a pipe dream, but it’s not totally crazy. Iceland have scored more goals than England this tournament. Come on Iceland, you can do this!!!

Prediction 

England 1-2 Iceland

Iceland (Francisco Cardoso Pinto)

They probably didn’t realise until after they scored, but that 94th minute winning goal against Austria did not really work in their advantage. What that goal meant was that they would finish second in the group and would not only face England in the last 16, but would be on the side of the draw where all the contenders seem to be.

Can Iceland upset another big team?

Can Iceland upset another big team?

It was somewhat of a Pyrrhic victory but a tasteful one nevertheless, as it was their first. The game against England will probably be a tough one, but that’s the good thing about being a newcomer: there’s really nothing to lose at this point. I will watch the game at home, and, for the first time since the beginning of the Euro I will honestly and fervorously root for the “Sons” (as their game no longer has implications on Portugal’s chances).

Prediction 

England 1-2 Iceland (aet)