Poland 1-1 Switzerland (Poland win 5-4 on penalties) – Xhaka can’t from the spot
Granit Xhaka’s missed penalty handed Poland victory despite Xerdan Shaqiri’s overhead kick during normal time.
The Poles started better and deservedly took the lead when Jakub Blaszczykowsi finished off a quick counter-attack.
Switzerland had earned their equaliser with Lukas Fabianski proving a tough opponent to pass. Poland regressed after half-time and relied on the defence that hadn’t conceded a goal until Shaqiri’s 82nd minute strike – arguably the best of the tournament.
The lack of chances created after half-time by Poland proves how little they offered going forward. In the first 45 minutes, they created eight chances, but only managed five in the following 75 minutes.
A stark difference between the sides’ defensive dashboards shows Poland having a far more crowded penalty box and defensive third compared to their Swiss counterparts.
Poland will now fancy their chances of stifling Cristiano Ronaldo and co in the quarter-final with Robert Lewandowski still awaiting his first goal of the tournament.
Wales 1-0 Northern Ireland – Cruel own goal sees Wales progress
Wales booked their place in the quarters thanks to a Gareth McAuley’s own goal 15 minutes from full-time.
In a game of few chances, it was a dangerous cross that was too difficult to defend by Gareth Bale, which made the difference. McAuley had to attempt a clearance but couldn’t avoid putting the ball past Michael McGovern in the Northern Ireland goal.
Chris Coleman claimed Northern Ireland were the better side and the lack of chances created by Wales suggests they were restricted in attack. Only seven attempts and one on target came up a great deal shorter than the 19 and 12 on target during their 3-0 win over Russia.
James Chester had a strong game as one of the three centre-backs for Wales and while Northern Ireland may have restricted their opponents, Chester kept Kyle Lafferty quiet.
All three of Lafferty’s failed takeons were a result of Chester’s successful tackles. The Northern Ireland forward also saw a number of failed passes take place on Chester’s side of the Welsh defence.
Up next is Belgium who Wales faced during qualifying for the tournament. Bale’s winner in Cardiff ensured a 1-0 victory while they managed to hold the Belgians to a 0-0 draw in Brussels.
Portugal 1-0 Croatia (AET) – Drab, dull and dreadful.
Ricardo Qauresma’s extra-time winner decided one of the most disappointing and abysmal international matches.
Watching a puddle evaporate, reorganizing your desktop and checking the weather on Mondays from the past year would have been more exciting and interesting than this encounter.
The fact they failed to make it to penalties was probably for the best, as they’d only have found a way to make that boring too.
Quaresma’s goal was a rebound from Ronaldo’s parried shot, which was the first attempt on target after 117 rubbish minutes.
Against Austria, Portugal managed 23 attempts and six on target. During this game, they only managed six and two on target, despite having 30 additional minutes.
Portugal doesn’t look convincing and their next opponents Poland have been solid defensively. Fingers-crossed it won’t be further dross.
France 2-1 Republic of Ireland – Griezmann the man for Les Bleus
The hosts responded from an early setback to defeat the Republic of Ireland thanks to a brace from Antoine Griezmann.
The Atletico Madrid forward moved more centrally for this game and caused more problems than he had previously during the tournament.
Robbie Brady gave Ireland a second minute lead from the penalty spot but Griezmann’s two goals in three minutes either side of the hour mark proved to be enough for France to claim the win.
From a central position, Griezmann was far more influential as shown below where he lined-up wide of a front three against Romania.
No doubt Didier Deschamps will be considering a continuation of the Griezmann and Olivier Giroud partnership, which was also the cause of Shane Duffy’s sending off just moments after France had taken the lead.
Germany 3-0 Slovakia – Draxler drives Germany to the quarters
Julian Draxler put in his best performance of the tournament to help Germany comfortably defeat Slovakia.
The Wolfsburg attacking midfielder provided the assist for Mario Gomez’s (Germany’s second) goal before capping off the victory with a well-taken and controlled volley just after an hour’s play.
Draxler was much stronger and influential compared to his performance against Poland earlier in the tournament where he only managed one successful takeon compared to eight against Slovakia.
Germany dominated this match with three times as many attempts at goal and over 20% more possession. The only disappointment was Mesut Ozil’s missed penalty as the Arsenal playmaker continues to show a lack of conviction in his finishing.
Joachim Low’s side will take on an impressive Italy in arguably the most exciting game from the quarter-final line-up.
Belgium 4-0 Hungary – Late flurry of goals seals win
Three goals in the last 15 minutes saw Belgium run out comfortable winners over overachievers Hungary.
Captain Eden Hazard put in another impressive performance, which led to Toby Alderweireld – scorer of the opening goal – to liken the Chelsea playmaker with Real Madrid’s Bale.
Comparing Bale’s best game (Russia) and Hazard’s (Hungary), the number of successful takeons is 12 to eight in favour of Hazard. His ball recoveries are double that of Bale’s five while both players created three chances with one of Hazard’s being converted.
Of course, both players have slightly different roles and styles of play but there is no doubting that their performances in the quarter-final will have a big bearing on which side comes out on top.
Italy 2-0 Spain – Italian job continues
Italy and Antonio Conte pulled off another unexpected victory as they defeated double reigning champions, Spain, 2-0.
The victory was deserved and another display of well executed tactics that exploited their opponent’s weaknesses and stifled their strengths.
Tellingly, Sergio Busquets had half as many successful passes against Italy as he did during Spain’s comfortable and dominant victory over Turkey during the group stages. The Barcelona controller is often tasked with recycling possession and providing that pivot from central midfield yet the Italians disrupted his game with Busquets finishing joint-top along with Andres Iniesta for fouls suffered.
Another noticeable point was the shortage of short passes played out from David De Gea. The Spanish keeper only attempted and completed seven short balls compared to the 12 and 16 he achieved in the previous two fixtures against Croatia and Turkey respectively.
Gianluigi Buffon, meanwhile, reached 20 as Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli often pulled out wide of the areas to receive possession. This is a tactic most commonly associated with Spain and Barcelona yet it was Italy who were the beneficiaries and will take on World champions Germany in the next round.
Iceland 2-1 England – Three Lions freeze
It was the biggest surprise of the tournament and one of if not the worst defeat in England’s history.
Iceland came out on top despite going behind to Wayne Rooney’s fourth minute penalty. Their response was instant as man of the match, Ragnar Sigurdsson equalised from close-range.
Before 20 minutes were up, Iceland had taken the lead with Kolbeinn Sigthorsson squeezing his shot past Joe Hart.
England was shell shocked, petrified and incapable of mounting any sort of comeback. The entire team suffered from a series of brain farts that left all onlookers questioning their ability to maintain composure when not winning against a ‘weaker’ side.
Basic short passes were often behind an onrushing player, simple control went astray while Harry Kane managed to over-hit a standard cross and slice a ludicrously ambitious free-kick.
But nothing should be taken away from Iceland as they continue to defy the odds and face France in the next round. Their resolute and disciplined defending has been a key feature of their success as they dealt admirably with the pressure and attacks.
The amount and positions of tackles won against England were noticeably different in comparison to the 1-1 draw against Portugal. Iceland won ten more tackles, the vast majority of which were in their own defensive third and central areas.
Iceland will need to make full use of their set-pieces and remain stubborn as ever should they continue this unlikely assault on the championships with a win against France.