Former Champions Clash: Euro 2016 Knockout Round Preview (Part 2)

We finally made it through the group stages of the European Championships and it was certainly enjoyable. From us all wondering when Ronaldo was finally going to find the back of the net, Ireland making last-gasp lurch towards qualification, Spain stumbling at the final hurdle, England bumbling into the knockouts, Bale scoring free-kicks at will, and the hosts establishing themselves as legitimate contenders, the days have been filled with quite a buffet for soccer fans. Now, we find ourselves in the round of 16 with some fantastic fixtures on offer and a few teams looking at a clear path to the top. Who’s in, who’s out, and who lucked out.

While we can discuss the ridiculous nature of how the bracket ended up some other time, one side has definitely gotten a harder route to the Final. Germany will look to remind the world that they are the current World Champions against Slovakia, Italy will hope to shrug the loss at the end of the group stage off against Spain, hosts France will look to eliminate Ireland and their amazing fans, and constantly second-guessing England goes up against constantly surprising Iceland. It’s going to be a slug-fest to even get to the final…much less win it.

In terms of Germany against Slovakia, it’s one squad looking to re-establish dominance and one squad looking to find some sort of dominance. Germany has somehow managed to have people forget that they were crowned the best team in the world only two years ago. The goals aren’t flowing, but their defense is as stout as ever…Slovakia couldn’t have picked a team they¬†are more ill-equipped to face in the knockout round. Germany should be able to shackle the genius of Hamsik, but breaking down the Slovakian back-line will be tough. Germany isn’t as lacking in ideas as England was a few days ago, but it won’t be easy. However, there’s far too much talent on Germany’s side for it to not shine (plus, it would just be seen as too big an embarrassment).

OUR CHOICE: Germany 1 – Slovakia 0

Image: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND | AFP

Italy and Spain will both be looking to quickly forget the last fixture in their groups, and both will be hungry to move forward in this tournament. Spain is fighting a legacy that seems closer and closer to having the team totally reshuffled, and Italy feels like their old guns are just playing with very little pressure. In a game where players we’ve been watching for the last decade will dominate the pitch, I think it will be the younger stars that decide the day. Whether Alvaro Morata is able to find his touch could be the deciding factor (he was fairly poor against Croatia), but if there’s any team in the tournament that can frustrate an attacker to the point of madness, it’s Italy. If Spain doesn’t score early, Italy’s chances increase exponentially. If Italy is able to keep the passing maestros at bay until we’re well into the second half, the Italians have to be seen as the favorites here.

OUR CHOICE: Italy 2 – Spain 1 (AET)

If there are two teams that any neutral fan should be rooting for, it’s definitely Ireland and (to a slightly lesser extent) France. One is a country looking to make their home fans proud and erase the pain of recent tragedy, while the other country has a ridiculous level of fan support matching the happiness that their players must feel for making it this far. This should be where the fairytale ends for Ireland, but France struggled when going up against the toughest opposition in their group. The talent on the front-line alone should put France through to the round of 8, and their defense has only allowed one goal in the group stage. We can’t wait to see how much the Irish fans chant, sing, and celebrate…but it won’t be enough to stifle the home team.

OUR CHOICE: France 3 – Ireland 1

If you were an England fan, you’d be hoping that you would either be going up a team that you’d have a decent chance against OR against a team that would provide you a decent excuse if you lose (“well, it’s Germany…so…it’s understandable that we lost”). Sadly, Iceland provides a horrible situation for the English. If you lose, it will be seen as a massive black stain on them, their manager, and their future. If you win, you better win big…because you’re playing Iceland. While Iceland has proven that they’re no pushover (they haven’t lost a game yet at the Euros), the English support will be looking for their team to make a statement. Squeaking out a win will have everyone burying the three lions before they even walk out for the round of eight. We love the Icelandic Cinderella story, but we wouldn’t wish the negativity that would befall England if they lose upon anybody…ew.

OUR CHOICE: England 0 – Iceland 0 (England goes through after penalties)

With a large portion of American fans turning away from Copa disappointment, there’s no doubt that the Euros will wrap them in a warm, goal-filled embrace over the next few weeks. As far as our predictions go, we’re fairly confident…but that’s coming from a guy that picked Romania and Slovakia as his dark horse teams (Romania did terribly…and Slovakia barely survived). Make sure you tune in to see the teams that will inevitably be considered favorites for the World Cup crown in 2018 in Russia.

 

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About the author: Andrew McCole

 

If I may be so bold to condense my immense personality into two words, it would be: soccer nerd. I love everything about the beautiful game and I tend to reflect that in my writing. I suffer through Liverpool fandom and hope that they will win another title before my wife spreads my ashes at Anfield (considering I'm in my twenties, it seems somewhat likely). Although I also dabble in tennis, teaching, and coaching, most of my free-time is spent writing articles for The Center Circle! Feel free to stalk me on Google+

 

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