Only 16 of the 24 teams remain in Euro 2016 as the group stage came to an end of Wednesday night.
Whilst none of the favourites were eliminated the draw is very lopsided with most of the favourites on the bottom half and many seeing the eight nations in the top half all having a great opportunity to go far in France.
Spain’s defeat to Croatia in their final group match saw the defending champions drop to third favourites with the bookmakers, on the basis that they have to play Italy and then potentially Germany in the quarter-finals.
As a result, hosts France were reinstalled as the favourites – they face the Republic of Ireland next and potentially England in the quarter-finals. This is widely considered a favourable route for Didier Deschamps’ side.
On the top half, can Belgium, Croatia or Portugal reach the final? Here’s who our friends at My Betting Bonus believe can go all the way:
Spain (11/2 with Paddy Power)
Vicente del Bosque’s side switched off after going 1-0 up versus Croatia. Avoiding defeat would have seen Spain win the group and have a favourable route to the final. Instead, that’s Croatia’s path now.
Spain face Italy in the second round and are as high as 1/2 to qualify. Antonio Conte is certainly exciting Chelsea fans with his tactical knowledge in this tournament but does he have the players to upset Spain?
Defensively they have been solid – clean sheets against both Belgium and Sweden before making eight changes versus the Republic of Ireland in what was a dead rubber to them. It means Italy are fresh and have the first team available for their second round match.
Spain have used the same starting XI in all three of their group matches but have been busy tiring out defences with their ball retention. Because they weren’t great with their finishing against the Czech Republic and Croatia the bookmakers are giving them good odds to progress from this tie.
The Italian defence will be tough to break down and they like to hit teams on the counter-attack – we think Spain progress from this one to set up a quarter-final tie with Germany which will be the only team we believe will prevent del Bosque’s side winning the European Championships for a third consecutive tournament.
Germany (5/1 with Paddy Power)
Germany are still not up-and-running in France like the well-oiled machine they were two years ago. Actually, they were only really dominant in their 4-0 victory over Portugal and 7-1 thrashing of Brazil. Aside from that, they were held 2-2 against Ghana, only beat USA 1-0, needed extra-time to see off Algeria, fouled Raphael Varane to score the only goal of the game versus France and relied on Argentina being shattered to win the final in extra-time.
Alas, with the likes of Thomas Mueller, Toni Kroos, Mesut Oezil, Mario Goetze and Julian Draxler in attack, this nation can certainly go all the way.
Defensively, Germany haven’t conceded a single goal in Euro 2016 so far. Although the back four has looked a bit shaky at times, Manuel Neuer has faced the fewest shots on target of all the nations.
Germany start with Slovakia in the second round in what should be a comfortable victory for the world champions, before moving on to face Spain or Italy in the quarter-finals. We see that as the real final as the winner potentially gets France or England and neither of those two nations are good enough to reach the final.
Belgium (6/1 with Paddy Power)
Belgium have got it going now after a 2-0 defeat to Italy. Antonio Conte’s side did outclass Marc Wilmots tactically but we’re still wondering what would have happened if Toby Alderweireld would have cut Leonardo Bonucci’s halfway line pass for Italy’s opener. Would they have been able to break Belgium down?
Wilmots’ side bounced back with a 3-0 thrashing of the Republic of Ireland before beating Sweden to set up a clash with Hungary in the second round. Yes, Hungary are unbeaten but they look fragile in defence – Belgium are deservedly as short as 8/13 to win inside 90 minutes.
Provided there is no upset in that second round match, Belgium would face either Wales or Northern Ireland in the quarter-final. Wales topped an underwhelming group with help of poor goalkeeping from both of Gareth Bale’s direct free kick goals, whilst Northern Ireland scraped through as one of the third-place teams.
Both would likely sit back against Belgium, and whilst Italy were successful in defending against that, you can’t help think that Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and co are going to create chances for Romelu Lukaku to book their place in the semi-finals.
If there are no upsets Belgium would be set to face Croatia in the semi-final…
Croatia (10/1 with Paddy Power)
Ante Cacic’s side were one of only two nations to come from behind to win a group match at Euro 2016 and they did it against the defending champions! The other was England 2-1 Wales in case you were wondering.
Croatia look excellent at moving the ball around and creating opportunities. Though Mario Mandzukic hasn’t scored yet and Marcelo Brozovic has been wasteful, they have goalscorers all over the pitch and continue to create chances after chance.
What some may think is a tricky tie in the second round, Croatia have defended OK in this tournament meaning that Cristiano Ronaldo will be Portugal’s only real threat. Sure, he looked great versus Hungary but Portugal aren’t going to get 60%+ possession in this match and I have no doubt that the manager has a gameplan for the Real Madrid superstar.
We see Croatia dominating possession and having the better territory in this matchup. Portugal have looked woeful defensively – gifting Iceland a goal and conceding three versus Hungary. Croatia are better than both of those attacks and should score a couple.
That would give them a quarter-final match versus Switzerland or Poland. Both of those nations finished runners-up in their group and each only scored two goals. They’re going to have to do better than that versus Croatia.
Poland have been wasteful in this tournament and we’re not sold on the Swiss defence – Croatia are better than both of these sides as a Croatia-Belgium semi-final awaits.
Are Croatia good enough to go all the way? They have the attack, they’ve got a decent defence and they’ve beaten the defending champions – so why not?