Poland v Portugal
Thursday 30 June, 20:00 BST, Marseilles.
Poland and Portugal: two sides who made it very hard for themselves in making it past the Round of 16. Poland led for much of the game against Switzerland, yet they also invited an awful lot of pressure upon themselves which saw them concede for the first time this tournament to a Xherdan Shaqiri wonder-goal. Eventually, it would take penalties to separate the two teams, with the Polish prevailing 5-4. This victory on spot kicks may serve Poland well should the game come down to them, for it can only serve to build their confidence and experience. Meanwhile, the Portuguese played in surely the most drab and uninspiring game of the tournament to date. They took the lead in the 117th minute with their very first shot on target of the game, a damning indictment of their attacking performance against the Croatians. Portugal will need to fix it if they have any hope of progressing, but since they’ll be facing one of the best defensive teams so far, it could be a tall ask.
Owain’s Prediction: Poland 1-0 Portugal
Wales v Belgium
Friday 1 July, 20:00 BST, Lille.
This is far from the first time that these two sides have met – they were placed into the same qualifying group for this tournament as well as the last World Cup. Wales are undefeated in their last three matches against the Belgians, with two away draws and a home win. Still, Belgium are the better side. They have shown already that they can dismantle a team, defeating Ireland by three goals and Hungary by four. Yet in the Hungary match, until Belgium scored their second, the team looked very much beatable, with the Hungarians seeing chance after chance go to waste. Wales don’t go into this match on quite as much of a high – their 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland was hard fought, and certainly did not show Wales at their best. They’ll be hoping to emulate their performance against Russia, but even that may not be quite enough to see off a tricky Belgian side. Wales are certainly the underdogs, but haven’t they been throughout the entire tournament (including the qualification stages)? And how is that treating them so far?
Owain’s Prediction: Wales 1-1 Belgium (Wales win on penalties)
Germany v Italy
Saturday 2 July, 20:00 BST, Bordeaux.
Germany finally found the net in their match against Slovakia, and it could be what was needed to kickstart an attack that has, to be perfectly honest, limped across the line in several of their games. The World Champions only scored three times throughout the group stage, yet their three goals against the Slovaks could give them the confidence they need as they face their toughest test so far. For Italy, this is simply part three of their trial by fire – they’ve already seen off Belgium and Spain, so why should Germany strike fear into their hearts? If the Italians can defend as well as they have done so far (with the exception of the Ireland match, in which they fielded a weakened team), they will remain a force to be reckoned with.
Owain’s Prediction: Germany 1-2 Italy
France v Iceland
Sunday 3 July, 20:00 BST, Saint-Denis.
Iceland made it past England, but they now face what is probably their toughest test so far – a tie against the host nation in their national stadium. The small Nordic nation have well surpassed all expectations in their debut tournament, and their togetherness as a team, their passion and drive, all contribute towards what has been a series of superb results. It would be surprising if Iceland abandoned their tactic of catching teams on the counter attack, or if they didn’t try to make the best of Aron Gunnarson’s long throws, so I don’t think there will be any surprise in how they will come out to play. The French, to this point, haven’t quite been the convincing hosts that they would like to be. If the hosts can hit their stride, this should be an easy victory. If they can’t – just like the English – they’ll find that this is a tricky Icelandic side who cannot be underestimated.
Owain’s Prediction: France 3-1 Iceland