EURO 2016 - Quarter Finals Preview 1


After 3 weeks of great action, Euro 2016 has arrived at the Quarter Final stage, with 8 teams still left in the competition vying to be crowned champions of Europe next Sunday.


With one quarter final taking place each night between tonight and Sunday evening, fans across the world will be glued to their television screens to see who can make it through to the final four and get a step closer to lifting the Henri Delauney Trophy in Saint-Denis on Sunday 10th July.


To get you ready for the games, Direct Soccer previews the Quarter Finals and reviews how each team got to this round in the tournament.


QUARTER FINAL 1  -  POLAND vs PORTUGAL  -  Thursday 30th June  -  Marseille

How they got here:  Poland were in Group C, taking on World Champions Germany (who incidentally were in their qualifying group as well), Ukraine and newcomers to the competition, Northern Ireland.  The Poles kicked off their Euro 2016 campaign with a narrow 1-0 win over the Northern Irish, the goal coming from Ajax striker Arkadiusz Milik in the 51st minute.

A great defensive display saw Poland earn an impressive 0-0 draw with Germany to almost book their 2nd round place, and this was guaranteed in the last game with a 1-0 win over bottom side Ukraine thanks to a 54th minute goal from substitute Jakub Blaszczykowski.  As group runners-up, Poland's prize in the 2nd Round was a tie against Group A runners-up Switzerland in Saint-Etienne.

Poland took the lead on the 39th minute with Blaszczykowski's 2nd strike of the tournament, but this was cancelled out by a great overhead kick from Xherdan Shaqiri in the 82nd minute to send the game into extra time.  With no further goals a shootout was required to separate the sides and Poland were victorious 5-4 after Granit Xhaka missed his spot-kick.

Portugal were the favourites to win Group F and took the lead against Iceland from a Nani goal.  Iceland managed to level the game in the 50th minute and held on for a vital draw, much to Portugal skipper Cristiano Ronaldo's disgust.  The pressure was on the Portuguese to qualify after they stumbled to a 0-0 draw in the Parc des Princes against Austria.

In one of the games of the tournament so far, group winners Hungary and Portugal played out a 3-3 draw.  3 times Hungary took the lead only for Portugal to fight back and level, with Nani scoring his 2nd of the campaign and Ronaldo finally hitting the goal trail with a brace of his own.

It looked like Portugal were going through to meet England in the last 16, only for a late Iceland winner relegating them to 3rd place where they managed to claim one of the best 3rd place spots for a place in the 2nd Round.  One of the worst games of the tournament saw the Portuguese edge Croatia 1-0 with Ricardo Quaresma heading in the winner in the 117th minute.

  [caption id="attachment_1446" align="alignleft" width="300"]Poland vs Portugal - the head to head stats for Euro 2016 so far. Poland vs Portugal - the head to head stats for Euro 2016 so far.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1457" align="alignleft" width="300"]Wales vs Belgium - Two of the best players in the world will go head to head, Gareth Bale of Wales lining up against Belgium's Eden Hazard. Who will prevail? Wales vs Belgium - Two of the best players in the world will go head to head, Gareth Bale of Wales lining up against Belgium's Eden Hazard. Who will prevail, the Red Dragon or the Red Devils? One thing is certain, adidas will celebrate as they supply both teams with their team kit.[/caption]


QUARTER FINAL 2  -  WALES vs BELGIUM  -  Friday 1st July  -  Lille

How they got here:  Wales, making their first appearance in a major finals for 58 years, were in Group B with local rivals England, Russia and Slovakia.  The Welsh made a dream start to their campaign with a 2-1 win over Slovakia in Bordeaux.  Superstar forward Gareth Bale fired the Welsh into the lead after 10 minutes and after a Slovakian equaliser Hal Robson-Kanu emerged the hero in red with a winner in 81 minutes.

With England only drawing 1-1 with Russia, it left Wales leading the group ahead of the clash between the Red Dragons and the Three Lions.  A blunder by Joe Hart allowed Bale's free kick to hit the net in 42 minutes and give Wales a 1-0 lead at half-time.  However, substitutions by England Manager Roy Hodgson inspired the English to fight back with Jamie Vardy bagging an equaliser before a late winner from Daniel Sturridge secured the points for England and left Wales needing a result in the last game to ensure progress.

As England stumbled to a 0-0 draw with Slovakia, Wales emphatically saw off Russia with an excellent 3-0 win in Toulouse to end up as winners of Group B.  Aaron Ramsey and Neil Taylor put them 2-0 up before half-time and Bale's 3rd of the tournament on 67 minutes wrapped up an impressive victory.  Another clash of the home nations awaited Wales in the knockout stage as they took on Northern Ireland.  Wales didn't play great against the Northern Irish but managed to win 1-0 after Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley scored an own goal to break the hearts of the Green and White Army.

Belgium, coming into the tournament as the best ranked team in Europe, got off to the worst possible start after a 2-0 defeat from Italy in Lyon.  They managed to bounce back superbly with a 3-0 win over the Republic of Ireland on Saturday 18th June with Axel Witsel and a double from Romelu Lukaku scoring the goals.

A nail-biting match against Sweden in the last group game was finally secured 6 minutes from time with a goal from Nainngolan to see the Belgians finish as runners-up in Group E.  In the last 16 Belgium took on Group F winners Hungary and destroyed the Hungarians 4-0 to reach the quarter finals.

A Toby Alderweireld goal after 10 minutes gave the Belgians a 1-0 lead at half time and they wrapped up the impressive win with goals from Batshuayi, Eden Hazard and Carrasco to book a clash with Wales.  Both sides met in the qualifying round for Euro 2016 with the Welsh edging the head-to-head, drawing 2-2 in Belgium before a 1-0 win in Wales thanks to a goal from the most expensive player in the world, Gareth Bale.