The dust has now settled on the Euro 2016 groups and the outcomes have thrown-up some highly interesting football encounters. Here is a brief rundown of the games taking place in the last-16 of the competition:
Switzerland v Poland, Saturday June 25, 2pm in Saint-Etienne
Switzerland and Poland moved into the knockout stages in very different frames of mind. Switzerland were expected to finish second in Group A behind hosts France and did, but were far from convincing drawing twice against Romania and France.
Their only win came in the opening game against Albania, as Vladimir Petkovic’s side won just 1-0, despite Albania captain Lorik Cana being dismissed on 37 minutes. They will have to up their game against Poland if they want to avoid elimination.
Poland qualified for the last-16 by finishing second in their group behind world football champions Germany, with Joachim Low’s side only topping the section by virtue of just one more goal scored. Two wins and a draw against Germany showed that Adam Nawalka’s side are no pushovers.
Wales v Northern Ireland, Saturday June 25, 5pm in Paris
Wales stormed through to the knockout stages with a 3-0 hammering of Russia and in turn topping their group ahead of England. Chris Coleman’s side are very much fancied to win this clash and will be looking to star player Gareth Bale for inspiration, as he has already scored three times in France.
Northern Ireland made it through as one of the best third-place sides, having lost two of their games and recorded just one win. To get this far is a dream, but to get even further would be simply incredible for Michael O’Neill’s side.
Croatia v Portugal, Saturday June 25, 8pm in Lens
Croatia proved their dark horse credentials by winning two of their group games and drawing their other one to top their group ahead of Spain, having beaten the European champions 2-1 on game week three. Ante Cacic’s side are now heavily fancied to go to the latter stages of this competition.
Portugal made it through to the last-16 by collecting just three points, having drawn with Iceland, Austria and Hungary. However in the last game Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice and finally announced his arrival at the tournament, which could mean danger for the Croatia backline.
France v Republic of Ireland, Sunday June 26, 2pm in Lyon
Host nation France topped Group A, winning two games and drawing against Switzerland when qualification was already assured. There would be major disappointment if Les Bleus did not dispatch Ireland in this clash.
The Republic of Ireland collected four points from the group of death, drawing against Sweden and recording a famous 1-0 win over Italy in game week three. Martin O’Neill’s side will be relieved to be in the knockout stages, but they have a massive task on their hands to knock out the hosts.
Germany v Slovakia, Sunday June 26, 5pm in Lille
World champions Germany rather stumbled to seven points in the group stages, beating Ukraine 2-0 and Northern Ireland 1-0, while producing an underwhelming performance in a goalless draw with Poland. Even in tepid form Joachim Low’s side will be expected to overcome Slovakia with ease in this clash.
Slovakia managed to sneak through to the knockout stages of the football by finishing third in Group. The Slovaks bounced back from a defeat against Wales to beat Russia and claim a creditable goalless draw with England in the final group game. They are very much underdogs heading into this daunting clash.
Hungary v Belgium, Sunday June 26, 8pm in Toulouse
Hungary were the surprise package of the group stages, beating Austria before drawing with Iceland and Portugal to top Group F. Bernd Storck’s side face a very different challenge in a talented young Belgian side that are considered to have some of the best individuals in France.
Belgium started their campaign with a disastrous defeat against Italy, but have since recorded wins over Republic of Ireland and Sweden. The Red Devils have looked a far better team in the last two group games and could be a threat to the big boys further down the line. Marc Wilmots boys are very much favourites in this clash.
Italy v Spain, Monday June 27, 5pm in Saint-Denis
Italy are a battled-hardened football team and once again the Azzurri were written-off only to prove their doubters wrong with wins in their opening two games against Belgium and Sweden. Antonio Conte’s team have no stars, but are one the best drilled teams in the competitions and Spain have a job on their hands to try to break down the Azzurri’s solid defence.
Spain won their first two group games against Czech Republic and Turkey, but a loss in their game against Croatia saw them lose top spot in the group to the Croats. The loss could well prove very costly for the European champions.
La Roja will not have wanted to face Italy so early and Vicente del Bosque’s side are now in the side of the draw with a lot of the other big European nations. If Spain retain the trophy if will have been done the hard way.
England v Iceland, Monday June 27, 8pm in Nice
England failed to live-up to expectations in Group B, drawing with both Russia and Slovakia, while also beating neighbours Wales. The Three Lions needed to win their last group game against Slovakia to win the group, but failed and have been sent to the difficult half of the draw.
However, Roy Hodgson’s team will be heavy favourites to beat the lowest ranked team still left in the competition.
Iceland came into the tournament as a surprise package and are still unbeaten in France, having drawn with Portugal and Hungary and beaten Austria with a last-gasp winning goal that saw them clinch second-place in group F.
The Nordic sides’ players are saying all the right things, but they face a major battle to get beyond an England football team with plenty still yet to prove in France this summer.