By Antony Jordan
The final eight stage of the 2016 European Championships begins this Thursday evening as Poland and Portugal clash in Marseille looking to progress to the semi-finals of this tournament. Victory for Poland will see them equal their best major tournament performance from the 1982 World Cup while Cristiano Ronaldo will be aiming to get one over on his big rival Lionel Messi who retired from international football this week as Argentina were beaten in the Copa America final by Chile.
Portugal last reached a final 12 years ago when they were beaten by Greece at Euro 2004 on home soil and if they’re to get one step closer then they’ll need to start hitting the target as there were zero in the 90 minutes against Croatia. Can they rediscover their scoring touch? We preview this Poland v Portugal clash with online sportsbook Bet365.com to provide our best Euro 2016 picks.
To Win (90 minutes):
Route to the Quarter Finals:
Poland were one of the most impressive sides in the group stages as they claimed seven points in a group that featured world champions Germany, the battling Northern Ireland and Ukraine, who failed to collect a single point. Poland scored just two goals as they defeated Northern Ireland and Ukraine 1-0 as well as drawing 0-0 with Germany to impress with three clean sheets. They showed more to their game in the first match of the knockout stage despite conceding their first goal in a 1-1 draw as they spent long periods on the front foot by attacking the Swiss before Switzerland piled on the pressure late on and in extra time. Poland held out resolutely though before dispatching all five penalties in the first shootout of the tournament to triumph and move into the last eight stage.
Portugal have had a very different route to reach the Quarter Finals as they have won none of their four matches played so far. They finished third in a group comprising of themselves Hungary, Iceland and Austria, and they could only manage three draws. They drew 1-1 with Iceland in their opener before participating in the second 0-0 draw against Austria, but their tournament exploded to life in the final game of Group F as they shared a six goal thriller with Hungary in a match that finished 3-3. This was followed up by a poor performance against Croatia as neither side managed a shot on target in the 90 minutes before Ricardo Quaresma netted after 117 minutes to secure their place in this last eight stage with Poland. Can CR7 and the rest of the Portugal side bring their shooting boots to Marseille and find their place in the semi-finals?
Poland’s only injury doubt is goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny as he is still struggling with a thigh injury that has kept him out of the last three matches and midfielder Bartosz Kapustka returns from suspension for this vital clash. With just one goal conceded in their four games played so far (and what a goal it was from Xherdan Shaqiri!) so manager Adam Nawałka is certain to keep faith with his team, but he’ll be looking to get more out of key striker Robert Lewandowski as the man who scored 13 times in qualifying is still looking to net his first goal of the tournament.
Portugal players Raphael Guerreiro and Andre Gomes are both doubtful for this Marseille clash in the Quarter Finals with minor muscle issues, but if they can shake off these knocks then Portugal will be at full strength for this last eight stage clash. After such poor attacking and shooting in the last match against Croatia they will need to vastly improve if they’re to secure passage further into this tournament, but can Cristiano Ronaldo rediscover the form that saw him net twice against Hungary?
Poland have had the better of things in meetings between these two sides over the last decade with one win and two draws, although they have not met since 2012 when the game ended goalless. Portugal claimed victory in the last meeting at the World Cup in 2002 as they triumphed 4-0, but with them having failed to win any of their matches in France this summer we are unable to see them triumph against one of the better defensive sides in this tournament.
Euro 2016 Picks Best Bet
Back Poland to qualify for the semi-finals of Euro 2016 @ 2.50.