The second international tournament out of 3 this summer will begin in France, which is EURO 2016. This tournament generally is considered one of the best tournaments around the world, on par with the World Cup in the eyes of many, as it has most of the top teams in the world.
Belgium to beat Rep of Ireland @ 1.88 (888Sport) – 3 points
Belgium v Rep of Ireland – Over 10 corners @ 1.95 (Bet365) – 2 points
Belgium came into this tournament as one of the favourites to win this group, but the Italians totally outclassed them by keeping it tight at the back. The Italians have been comfortably handing over possession to the opposition and gave the Belgium 61% possession. The Belgians will definitely look to make some changes up front, with Lukaku likely to be dropped to the bench for Origi because of his struggles at club and country level. Hazard and De Bruyne will definitely need to step up their game in this encounter, and I would like to potentially drop Felliani to add Dries Martens on the wing with Hazard through the middle to give more attacking edge to the Belgians. The downside of Belgium in recent times has been their defence where they have conceded 4 games on the trot (Italy, Finland, Norway and Switzerland).
The Belgians will only feel a bit confident that the Irish have generally struggled to score offensively, but that will not stop them from attacking against the Belgians. That could leave the opportunity for the Belgians to attack on the counter against the Irish especially since the Irish have conceded in 6 out of their last 8 games including against the Swedes through an own goal. The Irish midfield of Whelan, McCarthy, Hendrick and Hoolahan have generally been struggling to create enough chances offensively, where the Irish only scored of a set piece.
Belgium have scored in 12 of their last 14 matches and will need to attack from the beginning in order to put pressure on the Irish and secure a result. A loss here for the Belgians would probably see them in last place, and I expect the Belgium to go all out for the victory and beat the Irish in this game. I am backing Belgium to beat Republic of Ireland in this critical game.
Iceland come into this contest after a good performance against Portugal where they came back in the 2nd half and stole a 1-1 draw against their opponents who were on the front foot for most of the game. Iceland had been pretty impressive coming into this tournament coming 2nd in their Group ahead of Czech Republic while beating Holland twice on their way here. The team has not relied on a single individual to deliver the performance as their last 7 goals have all been scored by different people heading into this game. Iceland have managed to find the back of the net in 12 straight games, and will fancy themselves to grab points against Hungary which would take them mathematically into the next round ahead of the others.
Hungary will come into this game buoyed by the fact that they secured 3 points against Austria and knowing that any points in this game will put them into the 2nd round, in the worst case as one of the highest scoring 3rd place teams. The Hungarians relied on Szalai and Gera to put in strong performance in leading the team to that 2-0 win against Austria. While they played against 10 men for a lot of the time, they had already taken the lead against Austria by then. The Hungarians have seen atlas 2 goals in 7 out of their last 9 games, which will see goals flowing especially as they aim to secure a spot in the next round.
These 2 teams have seen 14 goals between them including a 4-0 win by Hungary back in a friendly in 2011. I am backing an over 2 Asian Goal Line in this encounter between Iceland and Hungary with a tasty price of evens.
Portugal come into this encounter against Austria with a clash of the best 2 teams in the group (on paper), looking to both win this game to stay alive in the tournament. Portugal had 26 shots on goal in their game against Iceland but only found the back of the net on 1 occasion despite missing a host of sitters in front of goal. All that needs to change in their game against Austria as they need to win to have a chance of topping this group and progressing to the next round of the competition. Cristiano Ronaldo was quite off in the last game, and will aim to be in top form to net in this one. Clearly from the short time he was on the pitch, Quaresma showed great signs of creating opportunities for Portugal, and I expect he will start in this one. The Portuguese defence has been a shaky one with Carvalho off the pace and not as quick as he would be, while Pepe can get off-guard out of position leaving forwards to get in behind them and score, just like Iceland showed us.
Austria had a solid qualifications campaign and as such were expected to go through this group easily with Portugal, leaving Hungary and Iceland fighting for 3rd spot. However, their loss to Hungary has put them in a struggling position where points are essential against Portugal, whether 1 or 3 in order to have a chance of progressing to the next round. Austria’s biggest issue have come defensively over the last few games, with them conceding in 6 straight games coming into this competition. A bigger problem for them is their dominant centre back Dragovic is suspended from this game after picking up 2 yellow cards last time around against Hungary. Offensively, the Austrians looked out of sea and will need their key players Alaba, Janko, Arnautovic and Junuzovic to step up in this game, to help them find the back of the net against a Portuguese side who are prone to conceding. The Austrians have seen 9 games with at least 2 goals in them, and we can expect that again counting both ends.
Both teams will have to attack to look for the win, and that should set up an exciting tie, and I am backing Over 2 Asian Goal Line in this encounter as both Portugal and Austria try to win this game.
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