Euro 2012 Reaches Knock-Out Stages
With the Group Stages complete, the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine have so far been a resounding success. Beautiful football, tactical battles, nervy finishes and unexpected upsets have made for a thrilling fortnight of football. With the competition reaching it's crunch knock-out stages, we look at the four Quarter Finals and see how each team has reached them.
Czech Republic vs Portugal (Thursday 21st June)
The Czech Republic somehow topped their group with a negative goal difference. On a mad last day in Group A, the two favourites (Poland and Russia) both managed to lose and go out of the tournament. Portugal also needed to win their last game, and did so against the Netherlands, securing their qualification from a very tough group.
Portugal will go into this one as favourites, and certainly won't be afraid of playing the Czech Republic after already facing Germany. Both defences can look fragile so there will probably be goals. As ever with Portugal, it really depends on whether Cristiano Ronaldo turns up or not.
Prediction: 3-1 Portugal win
Germany vs Greece (Friday 22nd June)
As one of the favourites for the tournament, Germany have already cruised through a tricky group with three wins out of three. In contrast, Greece pulled off a minor miracle just to qualify, when it looked as though they were all but out coming into the final group game.
Although Germany haven't quite looked their fluent best so far, they should have too much talent for this pretty average (at best) Greek team. Then again, Greece love to cause an upset...
Prediction: 2-0 Germany win
Spain vs France (Saturday 23rd June)
The defending champions and favourites for Euro 2012, Spain, went very close to being knocked out in the group stage. After a mixed two games (stuttering against Italy, and majestic against Ireland), they were only one goal away from losing to Croatia and facing an early exit. Whilst France never looked like getting knocked at the group stage, a terrible performance in a 2-0 loss to Sweden last night means they only came second.
This match is hard to call, with two big teams, neither of whom have shown their best yet. France are unlikely to get much of the ball and will probably look to hit Spain on the counter attack. However, unless they massively improve they're going to struggle.
Prediction: 1-0 Spain win
England vs Italy (Sunday 24th June)
In a very un-English sort of way, England never looked in too much trouble qualifying from their group, and were pleased to top the group and avoid Spain. Whilst they haven't looked very good, they have ground out results, which is what tournament football is all about. Italy have looked very good in flashes and did well to hold Spain to a draw, but their defence has looked pretty suspect at times too.
This looks like being a very tight game. Italy will no doubt dominate possession whilst England hold solid and look for a goal on the break. Could see this going all the way.
Prediction: 1-1 Italy win on penalties