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Euro 2016 > June 17th to June 23rd


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Croatia vs Spain



Croatia drew a match that they should have won by 3+ goals against Czech republic and now face the delicate (or desirable?) situation to need points to secure their second spot. They played an exquisite match against totally overmatched Czechs for a good 60 minutes but unravelled after Modric was subbed off and their fans decided to go nuts in the stadium. Appearantly something similar could happen tonight again but it's better to focus at the match and hope everything goes as usual. Croatia have been playing a lot with crosses so far.Tonight they won't have to initiate play and also Mandzukic won't play and neither will Modric. Kovacic and Kalinic will be their replacements. I can still see Croatia trying to break with quick balls down the flanks but they will not get nearly as many opportunities to do so as in their last two matches. The Czech Republic made it quite easy on them and offered lots of spaces in the middle of the pitch where Modric and Rakitic were free to do as they please. Croatia will lose quite a bit of stability in their build-up play without their star playmaker and they are not a natural counterattacking team - they prefer to circulate the ball patiently (too much so sometimes). Their defense has been tested for a good 15 minutes so far and it's looked extremely dodgy in that timeframe. I am sold on Croatia being a well-organized team, however I get the impression that if you pressure them then especially the defense starts to unravel. Look for Spain to target Vida and match him up with Morata, his side is clearly the breaking point in Croatia's defense.


Spain has looked as good as they come so far. I talked them up in my tournament preview and they have not disappointed. They dispatched Turkey with ease and Del Bosque seems not too keen to make a lot of changes to not upset their rhythm. I think this is a very sensible approach, especially given that Croatia is their first real test and likely a stronger opponent than they might meet for another two rounds. Spain were playing quite heavily down the left so far but that is Croatia's somewhat stronger defensive side so I expect them to target Vida and Strinic quite a bit tonight.


The funny situation here really is that Croatia might not even mind losing this one and letting the Czech Republic pass. They would meet Italy if they come second in the group but could meet Wales if they come second. That would require two teams to pass Albania in the ranking of 3rd-placed teams. Certainly the players don't carry a scoresheet with them on the pitch but I think that is quite likely to happen and it would be foolish to think that the locker room doesn't look at the next possible opponents. Either way I think Spain are too strong for them and will expose quite some defensive weaknesses in the Croatian team. Odds agreed with me and came in from the 2,25 I took early and the current lines look pretty fair. No bet here but should be an interesting watch.



Czech Republic vs Turkey



In the clash of two (pardon my choice of words) really useless teams so far, only the Czech Republic still has a legitimate shot at qualification. They probably don't know themselves how they got their hands on a point against Croatia but if anything, they showed morale after closing the gap to 1-2. In all fairness, the Czechs could have won that one had it gone on for a bit longer. Their weaknesses for painfully visible, a lock of control over the middle of the pitch and barely any creativity when they needed to score. I dare to say that if Modric had not been subbed off with injury they never would have recovered from that deficit. Their matchplan thrives on chaos and unstability and it was obvious how much better they played in the last ten minutes when the match was out of control. Turkey are a side that like to control things but they have no other choice than to attack tonight. That should open up quite some spaces for Czech counterattacks. The Turks them selves have looked horribly uncreative and didn't create any chance from open play until "garbage time" against Spain. The Czechs won't be as organized as Croatia and Spain were and Calhanoglu and Turan get a chance here to redeem themselves and should favour their respective matchups on the flanks. Especially Calhanoglu should be targeted by the Turkish midfield, he likes to play quite a bit in the middle of the pitch and that area between defense and midfield is where the Czech Republic look the weakest.


For once, I expect an open game here at the EURO. Both teams can't stay back and especially the Czech Republic can and must finally play according to its nature. Goals seem inevitable in this one (although I'll only believe it when I see it that teams actually dare to attack at this tournament!). It also has been quite a goal-heavy fixture historically with never less than two scored. These two met in qualifications and 2-1 and 0-2 were the final scores. I firmly expect to see quite a few chances and an open match tonight and the odds are looking decent on that.



Czech Republic vs Turkey Over 2,5 - 1 Unit @2,35 (Pinnacle)

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7 hours ago, markus808 said:

Poland has a chance to win the Group C if they win and score at least 1 more goal than Germany (goal difference is +2 to Germany, +1 to Poland). Ukraine has showed lack of team spirit, 0 points and goal difference 0:4 means they are already packing bags, goals are likely. I expect RUS vs WAL style meltdown, whereas Northen Ireland vs Germany is more than likely to be tight game. NIR will fight for a point, Germany will also rest some players. 
Poland to win group C @ 5.5 betfair 

I totally agree.


Poland to win the group is 5/1 at Bet365 and Poland to win the group with Germany finishing 2nd is 6/1. Both look like good value, as Ukraine look like a worse team than Northern Ireland. Does anyone know who finishes ahead if Germany and Poland have identical points and goals for and against? That looks possible and if it's the case, I assume it comes down to yellow cards (and red cards if they receive any.)

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Nice little double yesterday. Today I like the look of value with Italy but I'm leaving that alone based on the likelihood that half the team will be rested. Belgium against Sweden I don't think odds-on is good value for Belgium. Sweden's last chance and Ibrah's last game in a Sweden shirt if they don't win. If anything I think there is value in the 4/1 on offer for Sweden to win that match. My only pick for today will be Austria to beat Iceland. No goals atall for Austria in two matches largely because they are not getting the ball into the positions to score but they got a good result against Portugal and Arnatovic, Alaba and Sabitizer should be enough to get a goal against Iceland. Dragovic will return in defense and I'd expect a reshuffle up top. Siggy remains Icelands main weapon in attack.

Austria to beat Iceland 5/4 Will Hill

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A putrid day yesterday....can't possibly go worse today.



Group F:


Austria vs Iceland 

The so far shockingly disappointing Austrians take on the not-so-big underdog from Iceland in an elimination match for qualification. It's no secret how much I talked up the Austrians in the run-up to the tournament but it seems like their nerves let them down big time. They looked dreadful in midfield against Hungary and only slightly improved on that against Portugal. Their defensive transition was a bit better and they didn't leave quite as many spaces in between defense and midfield. Still, they looked really vulnerable down the flanks again and should have conceded at least two and that's not even counting Cristiano's penalty. For some strange reason though small teams really have been able to ride their luck so far and get tight results in matches that should have been blowouts. So Austria is still in it but I have my doubts if they can get the necessary W against Iceland. Their attacking play is still MIA. I haven't really seen any of the slick midfield passing from Austria and they look sort of clueless how to create chances (both matches under 80% pass completion).Alaba got much criticism after his last performance but just as much is on the coach in my opinion who played him out of position and expected him to do it all for Austria. He'll shift back tonight and Janko should start as number nine again.

Iceland got outplayed in midfield for most of last match but didn't really concede a lot of dangerous situations. They put in a valid fighting effort but I am frankly stunned by how limited they are. Their entire build-up play is long balls to their central forward or balls down the flanks to not concede possession in midfield. I'm quite shocked by how the Netherlands managed to not qualify behind a dysfunctional Czech team, this limited Iceland side and the one-dimensional Turks. Anyway, a draw takes Iceland through and that is how they'll play. Park the bus, don't let Austria score and try to get a couple of lang balls forward for a counterattack or a set-piece. Portugal pushed them pretty deep but they seemed rather comfortable in defending Hungary, whose passing in midfield has been arguably more solid than Austria's so far.

My initial thought here was goals. The last three opponents that Iceland managed to shut out were Kazakhstan, Finland and Liechtenstein. Against eleven pthers they conceded. Austria haven't scored in three and they are probably due to find the net tonight, in one way or another. That should leave space to Iceland to hit them on the break. However, the tournament has really not gone as I thought and while I expected few goals, I didn't envision teams be that content to blatantly play for a goalless draw. I talked about how the dysfunctional teams so far couldn't rescind that impression in their last match and Austria has been one of them. Iceland has been really limited but what they did, they did well. Odds have rebounded again and I can't help myself but go with the underdog here who has left a more cohesive impression so far.

Iceland +0,5 vs Austria - 1 Unit@1,82 (Pinnacle)

Hungary vs Portugal 

You really didn't need to be a prophet to tell me that one of these teams would be qualified coming into their last match. But I guess I would have slapped you if you told me that was Hungary. But that's how things stand here. Portugal can probably do with a draw but realistically they need and want to win this to put themselves top of the group and in a really good position in the top half for the ko stages. They've looked quite good so far but they shot temselves in the foot with their usual lack of finishing. Cristiano took a lot of **** for missing the penalty against Austria but if we're being realistic, he should be on one to two goals already, penalty excluded. Their wide play has been good and they look really strong and solid in the center of the pitch. They might be flying a bit under the radar for the moment but a win tonight would really wake up people to the prospect that this team can go to the final. I expect more of the same tonight, a dominant and strong display in attack and at one point they will inevitably find the goal with the amount of chances they create. Gomes and Guerreiro will miss tonight but Sanches should be a valid replacement for the former.

Hungary have been surprisingly solid so far but they faced one opponent that's been willing to leave them the center of the pitch (Iceland) and one that did so involuntarily (Austria). They haven't been tested at the back yet and Ronaldo must be fancying his chances shooting from distance against 40 yo Kiraly. Still, Hungary lost only one of their last seven and that was a friendly to Germany (0-2). They will come in with confidence and we've seen how much the smaller teams were able to frustrate the favourites so far.

I can't see past Portugal here to be honest. They put themselves in too many good positions and that will have to pay off at some point. Their shooting from distance could be even more dangerous tonight against a poorer goalie and if they fail to convert in three straight games, so be it. Hungary will use the EURO 2016 tactics 101 module and defend. They are not much of an offensive threat and aren't really suited for counterattacking either. In their approach they more resemble the slow build-up passing that Turkey for example play. I'd be surprised if they score and Portugal will grind this one out.

Portugal to beat Hungary to nil - 1 Unit@2,0 (Bet365)



Group E:


Belgium vs Sweden 

Do or die situation here for Sweden. Zlatan announced that he's retiring from international football when Sweden exits the tournament and that might very well be today. They looked really poor so far and in my opinion the worst team from this group. At front they struggled to create any chances at all. Their midfield provides no creativity whatsoever and Ibrahimovic is forced to do pretty much everything, pick up the ball deep, play a direct ball to himself, lay it off and then shoot on target. This is how Sweden's attack feels like at the moment. Their back line looks ok but it's hard to gauge really. Ireland threatened a bit respective to their quality but Italy didn't even try for most parts of the match and still scored. Lindelöf looked a bit slow and immobile when Parolo took him on a couple of times and Belgium combined mostly on the left side of the pitch, so I reckon they will target him again.

Belgium are back in it and a win or a draw puts them through as runner-up and in a very interesting spot indeed. Spain's shock loss yesterday slammed the door open for a couple of "small" nations and Belgium could really smell blood here. They had trouble breaking down Ireland in the first half and in my opinion Ireland was way too eager to go forward after going down a goal. Belgium improved from their first match but it would have been shocking if they didn't and, frankly, Ireland made them look good. That said, Sweden is probably worse than Ireland and needs a win here. Belgium can do with a draw but that would be a fool's game to play and they would be well advised to win this one and take some confidence to the ko stages. Dembele could miss out but Nainggolan is an equal replacement. I'm still not sold on Belgium's tactical capabilities but Wilmots made at least one good move to combine most of their attack talent on one side and balance it with a proper full-back on the other to provide width.

Now what to make of the odds? Almost 1,9 on Belgium looks pretty decent in my opinion. They have a ton more quality and a trend I observed on the last matchday is that teams who looked dysfunctional so far confirmed that impression in their last match (Russia, Czech Republic). Sweden has been one of the worse teams so far and I really don't see them turning it around versus the best squad in the group in terms of player quality. However, this hasn't been a tournament of early goals (or any goals), and Belgium will be aware that Sweden needs the W more desperately than they do. Hamren talked about stopping Belgium and respecting them and that doesn't exactly sound like throwing the kitchen sink at the goal in the first half. At one point they will have to push higher and that was Ireland's undoing and could be Sweden's as well. I'd like to back Belgium from 2,1 or alternatively at halftime if this goes in with a draw, which probably works out roughly the same.

Belgium to beat Sweden - 1 Unit@2,1 as soon as the odds reach 2,1+ and the score is 0-0



Italy vs Ireland 

Some interesting circumstances here. Ireland need a win to go through, whereas Italy can treat this as a mere friendly and will have all eyes on Monday's showdown. Italy are the only side that can still close with 9 points but my guess is that they couldn't care less about this, regardless of what Conte or the players might be saying in public. They would have faced a tough opponent in Croatia but now it's Spain, so they will make sure they rest all important/booked players. Surely the team will have the R16 in mind and they already looked barely interested in their last match. How big does that late goal by Eder look now? I can't see them investing too much in attack and, in all fairness, they don't look good enough to go three straight wins. Their attack has still a distinct feel of randomness about it. The defense looks as solid as ever and both Ireland and Spain could have a hard time breaking that down. Ireland will go with its usual approach of putting the ball long and direct to their striker and I am not sure how much success that promises. They will risk a fair bit more than so far but can't become too exposed on the counter, since going a goal behind would surely end their hopes.

This match has a draw screaming in my face. Ireland have lost only one of their last five against Italy. Italy is still unbeaten under Conte in competitive fixtures. Unless an early freak goal happens, this might go the route that Italy-Sweden took. Really can't see a lot of goals happening and I'll pursue a strategy that has paid off big time so far at the tournament (and should have been played much more).

Italy vs Ireland Under 3,5 goals - 1,5 Units@1,15 (Betfair)

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