Poland vs. Portugal
Thursday June 30th at 3:00 pm EST on ESPN2
The first quarterfinal of this competition should be a very close one with two of the biggest names in the game going head to head. Cristiano Ronaldo will lead his Portugal side against Robert Lewandowski and Poland. Portugal advanced to the quarterfinals thanks to their 1-0 win over Croatia after extra time. The game ended 0-0, but Ricado Quaresma scored three minutes from the end of extra time and kept Portugal from facing a penalty shootout. Poland, meanwhile, grabbed the early lead against Switzerland thanks to a goal from Jakub Blaszczykowski in the first half. Xherdan Shaqiri leveled the score and the game went penalties and only Granit Xhaka missed, giving Poland a 5-4 penalty shootout win. These two teams have only met 3 times in the last ten years, drawing twice and Poland winning in 2006. No one is suspended for the game. I would expect both teams to make a couple changes to their lineups, but this game might come down to which star shines brightest. Lewandowski has not scored yet and if Poland is to win, then he will need to find his shooting boots. Ronaldo is the key figure for this Portugal team and if he can be at his best then the Portuguese will be one game closer to their first ever Euro title. I can really see this game needing more than 90 minutes.
My Pick – Poland
Conor’s Pick – Portugal
Wales vs. Belgium
Friday July 1st at 3:00 pm EST on ESPN2
The next quarterfinal is a bit of an underdog team vs. a presumed big boy team. Belgium came into this tournament as one of the hot picks to win it all. They finally looked like the team that people expected in the Round of 16. Belgium defeated Hungary 4-0 and never really gave Hungary a chance. Toby Alderweireld opened the scoring 10 minutes in. Michy Batshuayi scored the second goal in the 78th minute with practically his first touch. Eden Hazard looked great all game and scored in the 80th minute. Yannick Carrasco finished the game in the first minute of added time. Wales, on the other hand, are one of the Cinderella teams left. They have over-performed everyone’s expectations and are now looking to make a massive statement. They defeated Northern Ireland in the Round of 16 thanks to a Gareth McAuley own goal. Belgium will be without Thomas Vermaelen for the quarterfinal since he picked up his second booking of the tournament in the Round of 16. For Wales, the only concern is the fitness of Ashley Williams. He should start, but he did pick up a shoulder injury against Northern Ireland. Wales are a team full of belief and Belgium are a team full of promise. Can the world class talents on Belgium defeat Wales, or will Gareth Bale and his country mates continue their fantastic run? Wales did go unbeaten against Belgium in qualifying for the Euros.
My Pick – Wales
Conor’s Pick – Belgium
Germany vs. Italy
Saturday July 2nd at 3:00 pm EST on ESPN2
This has to be the biggest quarterfinal of the tournament. Germany is the favorites for the tournament and will now be expected to win the Euros. Italy has been the surprise story of the tournament and one of the best teams, despite being called the worst Italian team in 50 years. Germany advanced to the quarterfinals with a very convincing 3-0 win over Slovakia. The only interesting note from the game was when Mesut Ozil became the first ever German to miss a penalty kick, excluding shootouts, at a European Championships. Italy meanwhile defeated the defending champions, Spain, with an impressive team effort. They had a plan and executed it perfectly. Giorgio Chieliini opened the scoring when he knocked in Giaccherini’s free kick after De Gea knocked it back into the middle. Then Graziano Pelle ended the game in the 91st minute to seal Italy’s place in the quarterfinals. For Germany, I do not expect any changes to be made. Jonas Hector has been ill but should recover in time. Italy will be without Thiago Motta who is suspended and Daniele De Rossi via injury. Italy have been great all tournament. They should come up with a good plan for Germany, but the question is can they execute this plan. The Germans are the best in the world and will look to advance to the quarterfinals.
My Pick – Italy
Conor’s Pick – Italy
France vs. Iceland
Sunday, July 3rd at 3:00 pm EST on ESPN2
This is might be the one that I am looking forward to the most. Iceland are the Cinderella of this tournament and they have a great opportunity in front of them against the hosts. Iceland advanced to the quarterfinals thanks to a great team performance against England in which they came back from an early 1-0 deficit. After conceding a penalty in the fourth minute, it only took Iceland 2 minutes to draw level. Then just 12 minutes later, they were able to take the lead thanks to a poor save attempt from Joe Hart. They held on and deserved to be the team that advanced to the quarterfinals. France also came back from an early 1-0 deficit thanks to a penalty kick. Ireland had 88 minutes to hold on to their lead and they could not. In the second half, Antoine Griezmann would score two goals within 3 minutes of each other and give France the lead. France was aided by the fact that Shane Duffy was sent off just 5 minutes after Griezmann was sent off and Les Bleus was able to easily see the game out against 10 men. Iceland has their whole squad available to them and they should be ready to go. France, meanwhile, will be without Adil Rami and N’Golo Kante who are both suspended. Samuel Umtiti is likely to come into the squad for Rami and Cabaye for Kante. These two teams have only ever met once before when France beat Iceland 3-2 in 2012 during an international friendly. The hosts have looked okay in this tournament, but now they will be expected to easily advance to the semifinals. Will they fall into the same trap as England?
My Pick – France
Conor’s Pick – France