After endless days of football we now have a two-day break until the round of 16 matches get underway at Euro 2016. This gives us an opportunity to take stock and assess the long term markets still available at this stage, and with eight games in three days to come over the course of Saturday, Sunday and Monday, there are plenty of options to consider.
It’s been a remarkable few weeks of tournament football so far, with no shortage of surprise results along the way. Congratulations must go to the likes of Iceland, Hungary and Northern Ireland who have qualified for the knockout stages against the odds, while Wales, Slovakia, and the Republic of Ireland have all performed with great credit to take their places in the last 16. What those results have conspired to produce is a draw in which one half has 20 World Cup and European titles between them, while the other half has not a single trophy to boast about.
Germany, Italy, Spain, France and England are all in the (on paper) tougher side of the draw, and only one of these sides can make the final of the competition. Croatia, Portugal and Belgium – all quietly fancied prior to the tournament – are in the top half of the draw, and each can rightly fancy its chances of progressing to the quarter finals and beyond. The market for a team to qualify for the quarter final is the one that has caught the eye, and there are four sides who are worth backing to win through the round of 16 and take their place in the last 8.
An incredible 2-1 victory over Spain has given Croatia a huge advantage in terms of the draw, and although they might have expected a slightly easier tie than Portugal, they make great appeal at the -125 on offer with BoyleSports, Coral and SkyBet
The opening group D game for Croatia saw them defeat Turkey 1-0 but it was a much more one-sided affair than the scoreline suggests. They followed up with a superb performance against Czech Republic when they raced into a two-goal lead, and they really ought to have taken six points from the first two. The Czechs fought back and the lengthy pause due to crowd trouble at the end of the game seemed to have an adverse effect on Croatia, as they contrived to give away a late penalty and draw 2-2. However, despite making five changes to the starting line up they were rarely over-awed by Spain and took full advantage of Sergio Ramos’ penalty miss to break away and score the winner with less than five minutes remaining. That crucial result put them top of the group and up against the third-placed side in pool E, while it consigned Spain to a last 16 meeting with Italy.
Portugal would have expected to win that group comfortably ahead of Iceland, Hungary and Austria, but three draws left them in third place and squeezing through to the knockout stage. Cristiano Ronaldo put his penalty miss v Austria behind him to notch a brace against Hungary, but the Portuguese frailties were well exposed over the course of all three games. Croatia are by far the more talented and together team in this tie, and it would be no surprise at all to see them outclass a side that is overly reliant on the Real Madrid superstar.
Coral stand out by offering -200 about Wales making it through to the quarters, and they look a good bet to come out on top in a ‘home nation’ battle against fellow Brits Northern Ireland.
Wales topped group B with a pair of wins over Russia and Slovakia, and were rather unfortunate not to hold on to a draw against England when they were undone by an injury-time goal. In Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen they have three top class players that can make the difference in a match with a Northern Ireland side that make up for a lack of quality with sheer endeavour.
Getting to this stage courtesy of three points against Ukraine shouldn’t mask their limitations and they were comfortably beaten by Germany and Poland in the other group games, despite scorelines in both matches of 1-0. When push comes to shove Wales’ better quality should see them make history with an appearance in the quarters.
One of the few teams yet to concede a goal in this year’s tournament, Poland are a great shout at -125 with BoyleSports to come through their encounter with Switzerland.
1-0 wins over Northern Ireland and Ukraine, along with a 0-0 draw against Germany, saw the Poles qualify in 2nd place by virtue of scoring one goal less than the current World Champions. In Lewandowski they have one of Europe’s top strikers, and in Milik a very talented protegee. A solid team behind those two gives them every chance of getting the better of a Swiss side that had a relatively easy route to this stage.
An opening 1-0 win over Albania saw them score in the first five minutes, and once the Albanians were reduced to ten men it made the task much easier. They had to fight back to secure a 1-1 draw with Romania – who went on to finish bottom of the group – and by the time the Swiss lined up against the French both teams were virtually guaranteed of a slot in the last 16. France made a host of changes to the line up and barely threatened the Switzerland goal as both teams were happy to play out a draw which saw them achieve 1st and 2nd spots.
The knockout stages present a much more competitive arena and Poland have the class to outplay Switzerland and progress to the last eight.
Croatia to Qualify for the Quarter Finals
Saturday 25th June, 20:00 GMT
Wales to Qualify for the Quarter Finals
Saturday 25th June, 17:00 GMT
Poland to Qualify for the Quarter Finals
Saturday 25th June, 14:00 GMT
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