Our Tipster @MagicMikeTips gives us his Colossus Pick 7 and Pick 5 selections for the final round of Euro 2016 group games.
Romelu Lukaku picked a brilliant time to get back to form, didn’t he? Football’s fine margins were shown up again in Bordeaux on Saturday. Although Belgium scored three goals that started in their half – and if Axel Witsel’s isn’t goal of the tournament (see below) then it will take a corker to beat it, even though we’ve had some of those already – let’s not forget what happened just before Belgium took the lead. Shane Long had a very obvious penalty denied and if Ireland had scored that then the pressure suddenly is all on the Belgians. We could be talking about a brilliant Republic of Ireland rearguard win and them being qualified for round two. It didn’t happen but a win against Italy is now what’s needed. Will they get it? Read on to find out what I think as I make my selections for another Colossus Pick 7 as well as a Pick 5 on the side.
Axel Witsel’s highlights against Ireland. (Sorry folks!)
UKRAINE v POLAND, Tuesday, 5pm
It must really hurt Ukraine that they were the only team definitely eliminated after the first two rounds of matches, but in truth they were lacking the quality to break down Northern Ireland and got caught twice so they have nobody to blame but themselves. Poland may be a little annoyed that they didn’t beat Germany as now they have to better Germany’s result against Northern Ireland. That said it may be safer to finish second in this group and play Switzerland in the last 16 rather than win the group and face potential opponents like England or Portugal. You might even see the Poles go for it early, then back off if the Germans are winning well. In other words this is hard to call.
MY VERDICT: Ukraine 0 Poland 1
CROATIA v SPAIN, Tuesday, 8pm
Friday’s Croatia meltdown was pretty spectacular and there must be a hangover for this game. Two goals up, cruising and playing some spectacular football, once Luka Modric went off inured Croatia switched off. They conceded a goal and then the flare-throwing incident threw them even further off their game as the Czechs came back to snatch a point that means a defeat here and a Czech win against the Turks leaves Croatia third. Spain were a bit sluggish against the Czechs but better against Turkey. A draw suits them perfectly and I think that is what we will get.
MY VERDICT: Croatia 0 Spain 0
CZECH REPUBLIC v TURKEY, Tuesday, 8pm
A victory for either side could get them through, though the Turks would need a big win to have a chance. That said, I think they have been the more impressive of the two teams and I fancy them to win a one-off game. Croatia played the Czechs off the park in the first half, while Turkey were a shade unfortunate to be beaten by the same team in their opener.
MY VERDICT: Czech Republic 1 Turkey 2
HUNGARY v PORTUGAL, Wednesday, 5pm
Hungary have four points and while they play very neat possession football, I can’t see anything dangerous at all. With Portugal needing to win to get top spot and score more goals than Iceland should they win against Austria, I expect the Portuguese to make all their possession count in this one.
MY VERDICT: Hungary 0 Portugal 3
ICELAND v AUSTRIA
An agonising late own goal means Iceland go into this one with two points rather than four but given how poor Austria have been they will fancy themselves to finish the job and make it through. By the time they play, Iceland may know that a draw will be enough for them to get through and that may effect the way the game goes. Austria have been really disappointing but even at this stage a win could get them through and they will want to show what they are worth. I reckon this could be Iceland’s third draw.
MY VERDICT: Iceland 1 Austria 1
ITALY v REPUBLIC OF IRELAND, Wednesday, 8pm
A win is all that will do Ireland in this one and they have experience of that in the past (see below). Who will be the Ray Houghton of this team? The performance against Belgium was very limited but everything is in Ireland’s favour this time. Italy, already guaranteed top spot, will rest players and they are not exactly a dynamic goalscoring team – if Ireland get on the scoresheet it could well be enough. Martin O’Neill’s team are not exactly masters of catenaccio, though, you always fear that they will concede a goal even if the Italians are not interested in scoring one. Ireland have not shown enough so far to expect that they can beat even a second-string Ireland side.
MY VERDICT: Italy 1 Republic of Ireland 1
SWEDEN v BELGIUM, Wednesday, 8pm
This could be one of the more entertaining games of the group stage because Sweden have no alternative but to come out and play for a win. Belgium will play football anyway but they will need a point to secure their passage and the best way to get it is to target Sweden’s weakness at the back. Finally we might get a goalfest.
MY VERDICT: Sweden 2 Belgium 3
PICK 5 Selection
Croatia v Spain, Tuesday, 8pm, MY VERDICT: Draw
Czech Republic v Turkey, Tuesday, 8pm, MY VERDICT: Turkey win
Hungary v Portugal, Wednesday, 5pm, MY VERDICT: Portugal win
Iceland v Austria, Wednesday, 5pm, MY VERDICT: Draw
Italy v R of Ireland, Wednesday, 8pm, MY VERDICT: Draw