Switzerland v Poland, Wales v Northern Ireland and Croatia v Portugal

Euro 2016 has reached the last-16 stage with the first games taking place on Saturday, with Switzerland facing Poland, Wales going head-to-head with Northern Ireland and Croatia playing Portugal. Here are previews for those first three knockout stage games:

Switzerland v Poland

The first game of the knockout games sees Switzerland and Poland clash in Saint Etienne, with both teams fancying their chances of making it to the knockout stages.

Switzerland finished as runners-up to France in Group A, collecting five points from their three games in the group. A opening game win against Albania, was followed by draws against Romania and France.

The Swiss have made history in France, as this is the first time they have ever made the last-16 of the European Championships.

Vladimir Petkovic’s team enjoyed mixed fortunes in the games running-up to this vital clash and have beaten Poland just once in ten meetings, suffering four defeats in the process.

The Swiss have a fully-fit squad to choose from for this clash, but will be aware that they face a major hurdle in furthering their journey in France.

Poland qualified as runners-up to world champions Germany in the group stages by recording two wins and a draw. Their qualification was built on a solid defensive unite, rather than any spectacular attacking play.

Poland have lost just two of their last 23 international matches and came close to beating Germany in the group stages. Poland have doubts over the fitness of first choice ‘keeper Wojciech Szczesny and midfielder Bartosz Kapustka is suspended.

Adam Nawalka’s side will kick-off the game as slight favourites to make it to the quarter-finals in a game that promises to be a very tight encounter.

Wales v Northern Ireland

Attention then moves to the all-British last-16 in Paris where European Championship debutants Wales and Northern Ireland go head-to-head.

Wales topped Group B ahead of more illustrious rivals England, having recorded two victories and suffering a lost against the aforementioned Three Lions. The wins against Slovakia and especially Russia showed that the Dragons are not just here to make up the numbers.

In Gareth Bale they have a real contender for the golden boot and the Real Madrid star scored in the group games in France. The former-Tottenham star will be confident of adding to that tally in this clash.

Wales have not suffered defeat against Northern Ireland in their last five meetings and are favourites to make it to the quarter-finals.

Northern Ireland continues to defy the odds and got through to the knockout stages by finishing third behind Germany and Poland in the group stages.

Michael O’Neill’s side qualified for the last-16 despite suffering defeats against Poland and Germany, with a 2-0 defeat of Ukraine enough to earn them a spot in the last-16 as one of the best four third-placed teams in France.

For much of the group stages they have played a rather cautious style of play, which is likely to continue against a dangerous Welsh side. O’Neill’s side were involved in relatively low-scoring games in the group stages and this could be another one.

Croatia v Portugal

Croatia were one of the most impressive performances of the group stages, defeating Turkey and Spain and also drawing with Czech Republic. The win against European champions Spain meant that Ante Cacic's side won the group and were handed a favourable draw.

Internazionale winger Ivan Perisic scored twice in the group stages and could once again be a key player for the Croats in this intriguing clash. If Croatia are to progress then they will have to make history, as they have faced Portugal on just three occasions and suffered defeat in all three without scoring a goal.

Ante Cacic’s side have doubts over the fitness of Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic and midfield star Luka Modric, as both missed the win over Spain.

Portugal were underwhelming in group stages and drawing all three of their games against Iceland, Austria and Hungary. The three draws meant that Fernando Santos’ team only made it through to the knockout stages of the competition as one of the four best third-place teams.

Portugal’s talisman Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo endured frustration in the first two group games, failing to find the net and missing a penalty kick against Austria.

The former-Manchester United star did score a brace in the enthralling 3-3 draw with Hungary in the last group game, which in the end was vital to Portugal’s progression to the knockout stages and stopped his country exiting the competition at the group stages for the first time ever.

Fenerbahce winger Nani has also scored twice at the competition. The Iberians will be looking for the pair to provide the attacking inspiration to take them into the last-8 of the competition.

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