It seems like yesterday that Dimitri Payet’s thunderous winner against Romania got the tournament underway, but Wednesday’s fixtures will bring the entire group phase to a climax. And what a climax it should be.
England and Wales fans will be watching with eager eyes as they find out who their respective opponents will be in the round of 16. And with four mouth-watering showdowns on offer, the eight nations in groups E and F have absolutely everything to play for.
Bring it on!
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Wednesday’s Matches: Hungary v Portugal (5PM, BBC One); Iceland v Austria (5PM, BBC iPlayer); Italy v Republic of Ireland (8PM, ITV); Sweden v Belgium (8PM, ITV 4)
Of all six groups, it’s Group F that has offered the best drama. Amazingly, it’s Portugal that head into their final match with Hungary in desperate need of points following back-to-back draws against Iceland and Austria. More than anyone, it’s star man Cristiano Ronaldo that needs to improve if the Portuguese are to seal their place in the last 16 with a positive result against the current group leaders.
All four teams can top the group, though, which is why the other clash between Iceland and Austria carries equal importance. Both teams will be looking to keep their dreams alive with a big result at the Stade de France, and the winner knows that they’ll be just three games away from a return their on July 10th. Expect a rollercoaster ride across the two matches.
The evening’s fixtures come from Group E, and all eyes will be on the Republic of Ireland as they face an Italian side that has already booked its place in the round of 16. Antonio Conte may rest players given that top spot is confirmed, but those understudies will be eager to make their bids for a starting berth in the knockout phase. It won’t be easy for Martin O’Neill’s men, but a win would see them progress.
In Nice, Belgium face Sweden knowing that a draw will be enough to seal second place. Marc Wilmots’s men will want to build on their great performance against Ireland, though, and should be fancied for a second win on the spin. Having said that, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and co can give them a run for their money.
Without always providing the best goal mouth action, the Euro 2016 group phase has made for very interesting viewing. Expect it to end in fitting style.
Toe Punter v The Bookies
With four game to feast on, there’s plenty of opportunity to make money on Wednesday, and we’ll be starting the bid on the 5PM fixtures.
Quite literally anything could happen in terms of the final standings, but Portugal and Ronaldo have surely got to come good.
Bet: Cristiano Ronaldo to score first @ 13/5 with Paddy Power (£10 stake)
Meanwhile, it’s all to play for in the Iceland v Austria match and we think it will bring goals. As for the 8PM games, Belgium should be too much for a Sweden side that have looked out of sorts.
We’ll be completing our treble with a selection of minimal goals in the Italy game. The Italians have no need for urgency whilst Ireland simply don’t have the quality to be scoring goals for fun. Here is our treble.
Bet: Treble – Belgium win; BTTS (Iceland game); Under 2.5 match goals (Italy game) @ 5.06/1 with Paddy Power (£5 stake)