The European Championship group stages did not disappoint. In fact, they produced some classic games, amazing storylines, and fantastic goals. Hungary and their sweatpant wearing goalkeeper upset their way to the top of Group E, Croatia won a clash with Spain without Luka Modric, and Wales proved that one star is greater than the sum of 11 Hotspur. It was all fun, and we are just getting started.
For the knockout round, Michael H. and Mikey, both writers here at The Open Field, will be giving us their prediction for each and every game. They predicted the group stages as well, with tables that came out shockingly close to the actual results (Click the image below if you want to see both AWESOME copy and paste paint skills, and SOMEWHAT AWESOME predictions)
So, without further ado, here is how this is going to work. Each game will be predicted by Michael H. and Mikey, and then they will give a short reason as to why the result will go the way it does. The loser, when this is all said and done, will have to forever acknowledge the other as the superior soccer intellect, and also have to pay back each and every member of the reading audience the time they wasted reading their stupid predictions. The winner, oh boy the WINNER, he received the grandest prize of them all. A 100% pay raise for writing here at The Open Field.
Round of 16 Predictions
Michael H. — Switzerland 0, Poland 1
This isn’t the most high profile matchup ever, but these are two experienced European sides. In the knockout rounds the best players need to have the biggest impacts. Poland have the best player in this matchup in Robert Lewandowski, and it will be his goal in the second half that see them through to the quarterfinals.
Mikey — Switzerland 2, Poland 1
Switzerland was one of my semifinalist picks, and I am not giving up on them now. The fact that some of the players would rather play for another country aside, I think they have the deeper team in this matchup. Obviously Poland have a ringer in Robert Lewandowski, but he didn’t show me enough during the group stage to warrant any real concern for the Swiss backline. Also, Granit Xhaka has turned out to be as good as advertised, which is a good sign for Arsenal fans. I like the Swiss here, but narrowly.
Michael H. — Croatia 1, Portugal 2
Speaking of “best players,” Croatia and Portugal sure aren’t lacking for them. Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo both play for Real Madrid in La Liga. Here, they will go head to head for a chance at playing Poland in the next round. A Ronaldo brace (with one of them being some kind of outrageous strike because duh) will lift his side over the Croatians.
Mikey — Croatia 1, Portugal 1 (Croatia in penalties)
These two teams aren’t far enough apart for me to call a winner, and I envision a fairly paced game. Croatia should run through the midfield and hold onto the ball for about 55-45 or a little higher in this game, with Modric and Rakitic back in form. I think the goal comes from Mandzukic off of a Perisic delivery, as Perisic has been in form all tournament. For Portugal, it will be a Ronaldo how, and if they score in this match he is going to have to be on his shit. Not enough to separate these teams, at least until Pepe skies his penalty and Croatia make all 5.
Michael H. — Wales 2, Northern Ireland 0
Both teams from Irish Isle (?) made unexpected runs through their respective groups to get to the Round of 16. This is where the fairytale ends for Northern Ireland; they simply don’t have an answer for Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale. I wouldn’t be surprised if they both end up on the scoresheet.
Mikey — Wales 3, Northern Ireland 1
I see goals here. Northern Ireland will (and should) feel that they can score on this Welsh defense, and will play this game in an open style. Wales will continue to play the same way they have, with Joe Allen dictating pace, Ramsey being the primary ball-winner in the center of the park, and the one man show up top with Bale. Simple system, yet extremely effective. Especially from set pieces. I agree with you here on this one Michael. Wales ftw.
Michael H. — Hungary 1, Belgium 1 (Belgium win on penalties)
Hungary are probably the surprise of the tournament, winning Group F. They showed their scoring prowess in drawing 3-3 with Portugal in the final group game. Belgium has loads more fire power, but, as is their custom, will play down to their competition, escaping by the narrowest of margins in the penalty shootout.
Mikey — Hungary 0, Belgium 4
I love me some sweatpants, but this one is the game I circled as the “France Switzerland ’14 WC” type of result. Belgium are very very good, and Lukaku for the entirety of his career has feasted on lower rated teams. I think he finally plays up to his standards and this one gets out of hand. Hungary was, and will remain, the story of the tournament for what they achieved. No one will talk about this result eventually, and Belgium will advance with goals that come both early and often.
Michael H. — Germany 2, Slovakia 0
Slovakia advanced out of Group B by finishing third; Germany are Germany. And by that I mean they will win this match because the are real good at soccer. Sorry Slovakia, unfortunately you don’t get to pick who you play.
Mikey — Germany 2, Slovakia 0
It’s really boring when we predict the exact same scoreline, and I did have 2-0 for this one as well. I see Germany just slowly strangling Slovakia with Kroos switching the ball side to side to side to side to side until BAM Gomez header. I think it takes longer than expected to break down Slovakia, maybe 60/70 nervous minutes, but then the breakthrough comes and is finished up with a concise break for the second late. Slovaki is one of my favorite teams in this tournament, and FUCK is Hamsik good (goal of the tournament for me so far), but Germany are too much. Sucks, but the reality of it is simple, Germany have a game plan, they execute it, and you suffer.
Michael H. — Italy 1, Spain 2
The Italians ended up winning what was christened the Group of Death (Group E). They beat Belgium and Sweden before being shocked by the Irish. Spain are pretty far removed from their dominance of European competition, but they still have Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. And they have the co-top goalscorer in Alvaro Morata, who is tied at three with Gareth Bale. Spain move on.
Mikey — Italy 1, Spain 0
My first big upset of the tournament, I like Italy to beat Spain here via a set piece goal. I think the Spanish style of possession dominance will shorten the game, as Italy will not be sucked out of their shape. Conte will have that team firing, and I think they can pull this one off. I also really don’t like Nolito for some reason and Del Bosque keeps starting him. Italy are the new Georgia, 1-0 to the Azzuri.
Michael H. — France 3, Ireland 1
I really wanted to pick the Irish – and not just because Rory wrote a dope feature on them – but I don’t see anyway the hosts crash out in the Round of 16. France won Group A fairly easily, and I don’t think Paul Pogba starts on the bench ever again. Dimitri Payet has looked like a world beater, and Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud are always a danger to find the back of the net. Their attacking prowess sees them through to the quarterfinals.
Mikey — France 2, Ireland 0
Sadly I have to agree with Michael H. Sorry Ronan, but Ireland don’t have enough here to beat the hosts. Rory wrote what will ultimately be the last highlight of note from the Irish campaign.
Michael H. — England 2, Iceland 2 (Iceland win on penalties)
England gonna England. Also, I picked Iceland to make it to the semifinals because I’m crazy. I think we see goals in this one. England have a few young starlets in Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Dele Alli, but Iceland have Sigur Ros and Of Monster and Men…wait. Anyway, the Cinderella train keeps rolling as Iceland advance on penalties (after a few Joe Hart blunders, of course).
Mikey — England 1, Iceland 0
I like England here. Iceland are so solid defensively, but in watching that Austria game they gave up a few chances that absolutely should have been goals. They are compact, so England will have difficulty breaking them down, but there is a goal in this one for England. Iceland will have to score via a set piece in this one, and Sigurddson is fantastic with his delivery, but it won’t be enough.
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