The Quarter Finals
So the group stages have come to a close and we can finally see who will be playing who in the quarter finals. All the teams in the quarter finals are who you could expect to be there apart from Greece and the Czech Republic who managed to turn Group A on its head after the favourites Poland and Russia could not get through. Another shock is to not see the Netherlands advance from their group even if it was the toughest with Germany, Portugal and Denmark as the other teams, the fact that they couldn't even pick up a point is even more surprising when you consider some of the attacking players they have at their disposal.
Czech Republic v Portugal (Thursday 21st June)With the knockout stages starting people will be expecting and in many cases hoping that a lot of the defensive minded tactics will be ditched for a more open game to be played, and what better match for it to happen in then Czech Republic v Portugal. Portugal seem to play best when they attack and this was proven in the Germany game where they were playing defensive, got beaten 1-0 and opted for a more attacking line up in the next two matches winning them both, so the chances are this match will be no different, especially when Cristiano Ronaldo is on the pitch anyway. He has been a player so far with not much going for him apart from the Netherlands game in which he scored two. In the other matches he played he seemed invisible and every one of his shots missed or easily saved and every cross not finding a man, so Ronaldo will probably be hungry in this game to prove how good he is not only for club but for country he is aswell, so expect all of Portugals magic to come from him as he is easily their standout player. Czech Republic on the other hand don't have much to offer, with Petr Cech making a couple of howlers in, Rosicky not creating much and Baros not scoring many, this is looking like it will be a bad day for them and I can only see them losing.Germany v Greece (Friday 22nd June)Germany v Greece is the next game and I feel it will be one way traffic with Greece having everyone behind the ball. Germany have lots to offer both going forward and defending, with Gomez hitting the net everytime he gets the ball it seems with Hummels stopping any threat on goal with solid defensive work. Ozil has been a stand out performer aswell for me with silky dribbling and precise passing constantly irritating defences and pulling players away from their positions. Germany have quality all over the pitch, in every position and with backup players who can step in and be just as effective. This makes Germany too much of a strong team for Greece and I can see them keeping one of Germany's attacking players quiet nevermind all of them so for me this has to go down as a Germany win and I wouldn't be surprised if the scoring got into double figures.Spain v France (Saturday 23rd June)This is a match where pretty much everyone is expecting Spain to win, and I'm no different. Spain are by far the best international passing team without a doubt, but they do very often try to walk it into the net which I feel could be a problem for them. The France defence is not the quickest and it won't need to be against a team who like to build up pressure very slowly like Spain. This will allow players like Mexes who I feel has struggled so far with the quick players to get himself into the game more even if he does have a quick player like Torres to mark. Spain's best player for me so far has been Silva by a fair distance. He does seem to lose possesion more than players like Xavi and Iniesta but he is in a more advanced position just behind the striker coming in from the right and he plays a lot of key passes, a lot of them brilliant but some not finding his man. He will be the player France need to cut out so I feel if France are going to play very defensively then they will put an extra midfielder on to mark him forcing Spains threat to come from deeper positions from players like Xavi, Iniesta and Alonso most of the time being less effective. France do have a good attacking threat with Benzema, Nasri, Ribery and Malouda but whether they will all play due to them putting a defensive team out is not known but either way it will be an interesting decision.England v Italy (Sunday 24th June)This is the only match I cannot predict the outcome of. Both teams have been blowing hot and cold recently but still getting results. Italy's 3-5-2 formation has been strange to watch as it allows the wingers to attack as normal but when under attack come deep and almost act as full backs. This is a very versatile formation and could cause lots of problems for England's standard 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 which are both very easy to break down. All eyes will be on Rooney and Balotelli, both capable of scoring great goals, but neither playing too great in the matches they have played, even if Rooney has only played once so far. Pirlo is Italy's best creative midfielder constantly spraying balls and switching the play tiring the opposition out, but I don't feel this will cause England any problems as we'll probably go for the "let them play" method allowing them to do what they want with the ball and just not closing any opposition players down unless they are a threat. Italy are capable of doing the same thing but I doubt they'll do it much as England will mainly play on the counter attack and hoping for the best. Hopefully England can win it and progress but it will be Hodgsons biggest test so far and we will really get to see how good we are once the pressure mounts up.