FMM18 World Cup Day 18

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s action.

Re-read the final matches in Groups E and F.

Last 16 – Northern Ireland V France

France’s topping of Group F sees them take on Northern Ireland in the Last 16. France go into the game as strong favourites, but the game is goalless at half time. Northern Ireland are able to repel French attacks until the 69th minute, when Ousmane Dembele fires the French into the lead. France are unable to add more goals, but it doesn’t matter as Northern Ireland are unable to get themselves back into the game. Whilst France were expected to win by more, they’ve scored enough to ensure they progress.

Last 16 – Italy V England

Italy topped Group E and take on England. Gary Lineker welcomes viewers by asking if England can get ‘pasta’ Italy and progress to the Quarter Finals. Italy suffer a blow in the 5th minute when Marco Veratti goes off injured. England suffer a blow of their own in the 14th minute when Raheem Sterling also heads to the dressing room early due to injury. With two minutes to go until half time, Andrea Petagna puts the Italians into the lead. Italy take the lead into half time, but they will have to defend their lead with only 10 men in the second half due to Giorgio Chiellini getting sent off one minute before half time. A man advantage gives England a great chance of progressing to the Quarter Finals, but if there’s one team that can defend a one-goal lead successfully, it’s typically Italy. And so it proves, as England are unable to score against the Italians.

Find out what happens on Day 19.

FMM18 World Cup Day 14

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s action.

Re-read the previous games in Group E and Group F.

Group E – Chile V Australia & Northern Ireland V Italy

Going into the final matches, the Group E table looks like:

Another group in which qualification all but looks certain. Only a good win for Chile and a big loss for Northern Ireland will see Chile pip Northern Ireland for qualification. Italy have qualified and a draw against Northern Ireland will see them top the table, with Northern Ireland joining them as qualifiers.

Chile know they need goals as well as Northern Ireland losing to Italy. The slim chance of qualification becomes slimmer in the 20th minute when Chris Ikonomidis puts Australia into the lead. Italy lose Claudio Marchisio to injury in the 37th minute as their game reaches half time at 0-0, whilst Australia take a 1-0 lead into the dressing room. Italy take the lead in the 51st minute through Marco Verratti, but with the score in the other game, it has no impact on the group and Northern Ireland’s chances of qualifying. Northern Ireland ensure that it will be impossible to miss out in the 61st minute when Craig Cathcart pulls them level. Two minutes after Northern Ireland have equalised, Brad Inman limps off for Australia as they try to hold on to their lead. They’re not successful; Marcelo Diaz levels for Chile in the 76th minute. Any hopes they have of going on a goal spree and qualifying if Italy take the lead is immediately extinguished as Pablo Hernandez sees red.

Italy have, as would have been expected, qualified from the group as winners. Second place was up for grabs and Northern Ireland were able to secure it, three points ahead of Chile who were arguably the favourites to secure the second qualifying spot. It was a World Cup to forget for Australia, who finished bottom of the group.

Group F – England V France & Ivory Coast V Iran

Going into the final round of matches, the table looks like:

A group in which qualification is in no doubt, with England and France having both won their opening games to progress to the Last 16 – all that remains to be settled is who qualifies as group winners. England are currently favourites as they are currently topping the table, so a draw will be enough for them to set up a Home Nations clash with Northern Ireland, whilst a loss to France will mean it will be Italy for England in the Last 16. The other game in the group gives Ivory Coast and Iran a chance to record a victory.

France and England are both aware that topping the group will mean avoiding Italy and France take the lead through Antoine Griezmann in the 28th minute; ten minutes later, Samuel Umtiti doubles the French lead. Assane Gnoukouri puts Ivory Coast into the lead in the 41st minute as they take a 1-0 lead into half time over Iran, whilst France keep their 2-0 lead over England. Eight minutes into the second half, Masoud Nasehi limps off injured for Iran. Seydou Doumbia adds a second goal for Ivory Coast in the 64th minute, before Wilfried Zaha ensures that Ivory Coast will record a victory with a goal in the 78th minute. One minute later, Raphael Varane puts France into a commanding 3-0 lead to ensure they will qualify as group winners.

The group has finished as was expected, with France impressively qualifying without conceding. England join them in progressing to the Last 16, although pre-match triumphalism has been toned down after a heavy final game defeat and satisfaction of qualifying and looking forward to the knockout stages replaces it. Ivory Coast finish third, but didn’t trouble the two qualifiers as much as they would have hoped. Iran finished bottom of a tough group.

Find out what happens on Day 15.

FMM18 World Cup Day 9

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s matches.

Re-read the previous games in Group D and Group E

Group E – Italy V Chile

It’s a perfect start for the Italians as Claudio Marchisio puts them into the lead with just four minutes on the clock. Things get worse for Chile nine minutes later as Fabian Orellana is forced off with an injury. Andrea Belotti doubles Italy’s lead in the 38th minute, giving them a two-goal lead at half time. The two-lead lasts for one minute of the second half. Giorgio Chiellini makes things even more comfortable for the Italians. With four minutes remaining, Andrea Petagna adds a fourth as the Italians dispel the myth about them being slow starters.

Group D – Denmark V Saudi Arabia

The Danes are favourites going into the match and it doesn’t take long for them to show why. Fourteen minutes to be precise. Christian Eriksen is the man who puts them in the lead. It takes them until the 71st minute to feel safe, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg adding the second. Even an injury to Nicolai Jorgensen in the 77th minute doesn’t give Saudi Arabia a way back into the game as Denmark record their second win.

After the second round of matches, the Group D table looks like:

Group E -Northern Ireland V Australia

After Italy’s win over Chile, a win for either side here would put them in a great place to qualify for the last 16. Northern Ireland draw first blood through Craig Cathcart in the 43rd minute. The second half is only six minutes old when Stuart Dallas doubles the lead. For Australia to fight back, something needs to happen quickly. Something does happen quickly. They are reduced to ten men in the 52nd minute, with Lyndon Dykes taking the long walk to a lonely early bath. Northern Ireland don’t add any further goals with the man advantage, but they’ve done enough to record an important victory.

After the second round of matches, the Group E table looks like:

Find out what happens on Day 10.

FMM18 World Cup Day 4

Recap on the groups.

Recap on yesterday’s matches

Group E – Australia V Italy

Italy are often associated with cagey single-goal victories. They blow this out of the water with their opening game against Australia. Claudio Marchisio opens the scoring ten minutes in. Andrea Belotti doubles the lead five minute later and Leonardo Bonucci puts the Italians three up inside 23 minutes. Belotti adds a fourth in the 41st minute and completes his hat-trick in the 66th minute to conclude the scoring. Another day, another 5-0 result.

Group E – Chile V Northern Ireland

After Italy’s demolition of Australia, this could prove to be a vital game for both sides. Victory could be a big step towards knockout football, whilst defeat could make things difficult. With so much at stake, perhaps it’s unsurprising that a goalless draw is played out. Chile lose Mauricio Isla to injury in the sixth minute in the only moment of note in the match.

The Group E table looks like:

Group F – Iran V France

It appears to be a tough opening match for Iran. And things only get tougher when Anthony Martial puts France into the lead in the third minute. Martial extends France’s lead in the 31st minute. Alex Delir limps off for Iran in the 38th minute and before they have a chance to readjust, Martial adds his and France’s third one minute later. There’s enough time for Antoine Griezmann to open his account, but with 18 minutes to go when he strikes, it has no impact on the result. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that we don’t see another 5-0 result.

Find out what happens on Day 5.

Euro 2016: Last 16

With the European Championships having expanded to 24 teams, there is a round of 16 teams.

Game 1: Switzerland V Poland

Switzerland take on Poland in the first knockout game of the tournament. I tipped Poland to be dark horses before the tournament and from what I’ve seen so far, I think Poland will have enough to beat Switzerland and take their place in the quarter finals.

Winner: Poland

Game 2: Wales V Northern Ireland

A local derby in Last 16 is the second knockout match of the tournament. This match is quite a surprise as Wales topped their group (whilst I thought they had a good chance of qualifying, I was surprised that they topped the group) and Northern Ireland qualified from a tough group that included world champions Germany. Both teams seem to have an abundance of team spirit, but I think that the class of Gareth Bale will be enough to separate two quite similar sides.

Winner: Wales

Game 3: Croatia V Portugal

Another surprising match as a result of Croatia beating Spain and topping Group D, whilst Portugal could only manage three draws and finish third in what looked like a reasonably easy group to win. Portugal have an outstanding talent in Cristiano Ronaldo, but he has largely been frustrated in the tournament so far. In contrast, Croatia have an outstanding midfield that can boast Modric and Rakitic and they also have a player who has been one of the best in the tournament so far in my opinion – Perisic. This has the potential to be a close game and I would not be surprised if it went to extra time and possibly even penalties.

Winner: Croatia

Game 4: France V Republic of Ireland

France topped their group as expected, although they required late goals to record their two wins of the tournament so far. Republic of Ireland qualified from ‘The Group of Death’ as one of the best third placed teams following a late goal against Italy. If France do have a weakness, it is their defending of set pieces and if Ireland are to have a chance of progressing, they will need excellent delivery from Brady. Even with excellent set piece delivery, I don’t think it will be enough.

Winner: France

Game 5: Germany V Slovakia

An easy Last 16 tie for Germany? In a Euro 2016 warm-up game, Slovakia beat Germany (in Germany) 3-1 and Germany have only looked good in patches. The German team that will play this match is likely to be stronger than the one fielded in the friendly (Neuer will surely start), but Slovakia have shown they are tough to break down and possess danger when breaking with Hamsik in the side. However, Germany nearly always find a way to progress and I would expect them to do so again.

Winner: Germany

Game 6: Hungary V Belgium

Hungary’s group appeared to be a relatively weak one, but Portugal were expected to top it with Austria in second place, leaving Hungary battling it out with Iceland for third place. However, Hungary were having none of it and not only qualified, but topped the group. This match looks as though it will be a united team in Hungary that is better than the sum of its parts against a team of excellent individual players in Belgium who don’t quite seem to gel as a group. I think a moment of individual brilliance from one of the Belgian forwards will be just enough to see them through.

Winner: Belgium

Game 7: Italy V Spain

The worst Italian team ever (as they were branded before the start of the tournament) qualified top of the ‘Group of Death’ after two games and their reward? Spain, who surprisingly came second in their group after losing their final group game against Croatia. This is a repeat of the Euro 2012 final, which Spain won convincingly (4-0). This Spanish team is not as good as that Spanish team, but they will still have plenty of the ball. However, if there is one team who will not be concerned by this, it is Italy and I think that the Italians will use all of their guile in a game when they will play a counter-attacking style. It will be a tight game, but the Spanish defence has looked weak at times and I think Italy will exploit this with incisive counter attacks.

Winner: Italy

Group 8: England V Iceland

Two surprising runners-up meet in the final knockout match as England surprisingly only came second of their group (despite being unbeaten), whilst Iceland surprisingly qualified automatically from their group (remaining unbeaten in the process). Iceland’s game plan has involved defending resolutely with plenty of men behind the ball, which England have found difficult to play against (as evidenced in the 0-0 draw with Slovakia). England’s pressure is likely to tell in the end, but they will have to ensure that they don’t get careless at the back.

Winner: England

Predicted quarter-finals:

Poland V Croatia
Wales V Belgium
Germany V Italy
France V England

Euro 2016: Group C

Germany, Northern Ireland, Poland and Ukraine make up Group C. As World Cup winners in 2014, Germany will rightly be favourites to win this group, but it will not be easy for them. Germany lost to Poland in qualifying and only took one point against the Republic of Ireland and don’t appear to be as strong a side as when they won the World Cup. However, underestimating a German team at a major tournament is a dangerous thing to do and despite some tough games, I expect them to top the group. It looks difficult for Northern Ireland in this group, but they qualified by topping their group (which featured fellow qualifiers Romania and Hungary) and have good recent results for momentum coming into the tournament. Whilst I can see them getting a shock result in the group, I don’t think that they will do enough to qualify in one of the top two spots; however, with four of the best third-placed teams going through, one shock result could be enough. I think that Poland have a good chance in joining Germany as automatic group qualifiers as Lewandowski is one of the best strikers in Europe and is likely to provide the goals needed.

Predicted final table:

1. Germany
2. Poland
3. Ukraine
4. Northern Ireland