The two-day break between the last round of 16 game and the first quarter final at Euro 2016 may well feel like torture, having been indulged with top class football on an almost daily basis over the last two weeks. For English fans its especially frustrating since it’s given them an extended period in which to pick the bones off England’s terrible performance against Iceland and Roy Hodgson’s reign as manager.
Icelandic and Welsh fans will have little sympathy for their English counterparts though, and they will follow their teams into uncharted territory when they line up in the last eight versus France and Belgium respectively. There’s no doubt we’re now entering the business end of the competition and each of the eight sides remaining have done enough to fancy their own chances of making it through two more games to reach the final. It’s also at this stage where we can expect matches to get a little bit tighter and teams to play with a little less freedom. One mistake at this level can be all it takes to lose a match, and that can lead to more pragmatic approaches as the bosses of each national side inch closer to glory.
Stats Point to Spot Kicks
We’ve seen just the one penalty shootout so far at the tournament between Switzerland and Poland, with the latter prevailing after new Arsenal signing Granit Xhaka missed the decisive penalty. However, a look back at past European Championships reveals that there is a good chance we’ll see the ‘dreaded’ spot kicks again during the quarter finals.
Looking back at Euro 2012, one of the four quarter finals went the distance as England lost out to Italy after a 0-0 draw over 120 minutes. A shootout memorable for Andrea Pirlo’s effortless panenka. By contrast each of the other three games were over in the regulation 90, with Spain beating France 2-0; Germany racking up a 4-2 win against Greece; and Ronaldo scoring the only goal for Portugal to give them victory over Czech Republic.
Three of the four quarters in the 2008 Championships went extra time, and two went all the way to penalties. Spain beat Italy on the way to the title, after a 0-0 draw in the last eight, while Turkey got the better of Croatia from 12 yards after two very late extra time goals produced a 1-1 draw. In the other games Netherlands took Russia to extra time but lost out 3-1 after the extra 30, and Germany beat Portugal in a 3-2 thriller.
In 2004 two of the four games at this stage also went to penalties; Sweden losing out to Netherlands after a 0-0 draw, and Portugal beating England after a 2-2 draw which saw Rui Costa and Frank Lampard on target in extra time. In the other games Czech Republic were 3-0 victors over Denmark, and Greece beat France 1-0 in their way to a famous triumph.
It would be reasonable to suspect that at least one of the quarter finals will go the distance, and there are fair odds on each match to go to a penalty shootout. The two games that stand out most are Wales versus Belgium and Germany against Italy.
Wales v Belgium
The penalty shoot out is rated a +600 chance with William Hill and that looks more than fair judging by recent history.
Belgium have failed to beat Wales on the last three occasions they’ve met, each of which has been a competitive European or World Cup qualifier. Two have been draws, and Wales won 1-0 in Cardiff in June last year thanks to a Gareth Bale goal. Plenty of people will be getting carried away with Belgium’s performance against Hungary in the last round, where they swept the group F winners aside, but it must be remembered that the early goal forced the Hungarians to come out and play which left space to be exploited.
This Wales team is a well-drilled and organised outfit under Chris Coleman, and they’ve already proven they can live with Belgium in the past. Our match preview highlighted the value in Wales not to lose this game in 90 minutes, and if they get to extra time it could easily go all the way.
Germany v Italy
Bet365 quote +400 about Germany and Italy going all the way and it might be the only way to separate two heavyweights of European football.
Before the tournament most people would have probably backed the Germans, but Italy have shown a unique togetherness and determination in France so far, and after beating Spain in the last round they will be rightly confident. Germany made light work of Slovakia in the last 16, but in truth the only game they’ve been tested in was the group match against Poland. They were held to a 0-0 draw there, and if there’s one thing the Italians can do, it’s defend.
Antonio Conte has lit up the Italian performances from the touchline at this Championships, and Chelsea fans must be licking their lips in anticipation of next year’s Premier League. Little was expected in Italy from this national team at the start of the competition, but it’s almost a siege mentality that Conte has inspired and his players look ready to die for one another. Italy also have the impressive record of never having lost to Germany in a tournament.
Germany are favourites along with France to win the tournament, but they are yet to be fully tested and there are question marks defensively. It would be no great surprise to see this match go all the way.
Wales v Belgium to go to a Penalty Shoot Out
Friday 1st July, 20:00 GMT
Germany v Italy to go to a Penalty Shoot Out
Saturday 2nd July, 20:00 GMT