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Monday, 13 June 2016

Euro 2016 Group Stage Picks (June 15-18)

Euro 2016 Group Stage Picks
As I have mentioned, I will be away on Monday through to Wednesday afternoon so my picks for the second round of Group Stage games for the Wednesday games can be found up already.

Once I am back I will have a few thoughts about the tournament in the next thread for the final round of games which begin on Sunday as the Second Round takes shape.

Wednesday 15th June
Russia v Slovakia PickI think there will be some disappointment from the opening games that both Russia and Slovakia played going into this one. However Russia will feel differently after a poor performance which still resulted in a draw with England compared with Slovakia who might think they were the better team against Wales but who ultimately lost.

In a Group Stage where four out of six third place teams will get into the Second Round, Slovakia's defeat to Wales won't be a fatal one when it comes to moving through. A win might actually be enough to get through to the last sixteen and Slovakia will certainly believe they have enough in themselves to do that.

Better composure will be needed but Slovakia will believe this Russian defence will give them chances when they go forward. They do prefer a counter attacking style, but I was impressed with the chances they created against Wales and this Russia team don't seem to have the same shape with an older back four lacking pace.

Russia will believe they are going to be better than they showed in the opening game, but I am not sure there is a lot of room for improvement. They will look to use their size in set piece situations to hurt Slovakia, but I am not convinced Russia should be as strong a favourite as they are.

In fact I have a feeling that Slovakia might have enough to turn in the three points that puts them in a good position to Qualify for the Second Round. If they can take the chances that England missed, Slovakia might just have enough to beat a Russia team that looked very average in the first game in the Group.

I will back Slovakia on the Asian Handicap to at least avoid defeat in this one.

Romania v Switzerland PickThe layers don't really see this game the same way as I do and I certainly wouldn't be rushing out to back Switzerland as the favourite in this one. They might have three points from the opening games in Group A, but Switzerland looked vulnerable defensively and struggled to put away ten man Albania in the first game.

Switzerland did have control of the game, but Albania missed three or four gilt edged chances that should have been gobbled up. Take one of those and I am not sure how the Swiss would have responded and it took some big saves from their goalkeeper to prevent Albania from getting something from that game.

I am not suggesting Romania had a great game against France, but they showed their determination in keeping the hosts at bay until a really special winner from Dimitri Payet. A draw might not be the worst result for Romania, but there is enough motivation for them to get forward and try and win this game which could make it a very interesting watch.

You have to think Romania would take at least one of the glorious chances that Albania created and I do think Switzerland are a team that will concede goals. I also expect better from Switzerland in front of goal when they create their own chances and I think the layers have underrated the chances of seeing at least three goals in this one.

Backing at least three goals to be scored is a big price, but I like the chances of that happening in this game as both teams do look capable of scoring at least once and there is a big motivation for both teams to win this one.

France v Albania PickThere were some nerves in the France performance against Romania, but the three points might just have settled them down. They should be a little better in the second game in the Group as they get set to face Albania, but France will be all too aware as to how dangerous this opponent can be.

Having failed to beat Albania in either of the two friendlies they have played against them in the last eighteen months, France will hope to get control of this match early on. They might not have looked at their best defensively, but Albania also showed some early nerves against Switzerland and will be looking to make life difficult for France by defending in numbers and also looking to break the tempo with their hard tackling.

However I think France will be prepared for that and they have a team that have made fast starts at home in recent games. The win over Romania made it 7 straight home wins for France and the previous 6 had all seen them leading by half time and I think France can do that here.

I am sure Albania will offer up some resistance and France might have to ride some difficult moments as they did in the win over Romania. However I think ultimately they do win this game and I will back them to begin the road to that victory by leading at half time.

Thursday 16th June
England v Wales PickThis is a 'derby' game for England and Wales that has been the attention grabbing fixture of the Group, but there is plenty of the line for both teams in this one. For England the 1-1 draw with Russia coupled with Slovakia's win over Russia means they have to win this game if they are going to win the Group. A draw might not affect their chances of going through to the Second Round, but the pressure will be huge when England take on Slovakia on Monday if that is the case.

A defeat is simply not worth thinking about for England.

That result would mean Wales have virtually assured themselves of top spot in the Group and leave England needing to beat Slovakia to have any chance of going through behind their neighbours.

Both sets of players are confident, but I can't help feel that Wales have provided some dressing room material for the English thanks to comments quoted to Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale. That should inspire an England team who played well against Russia but lacked some composure in the final third and they will believe a similar level is enough to beat Wales.

I do think the England defence is always likely to give away one or two chances that Bale will look to exploit, but I think they will have seen Slovakia put Wales under the cosh in the opening game in the Group and feel they can do the same.

With so much on the line, tensions in the players can take away some of the quality that will be needed to win the game. However I think this might be played with the pace of a Premier League game and I can see chances at both ends with composure needed to ensure goals are the result.

There is enough on the line to see this game perhaps have a drab end if teams don't want to take a risk, but there is enough to gain to believe they will. Goals at both ends but England ultimately being a little too good is the way this game will go in my opinion, but I will simply back at least three goals to be shared out.

Ukraine v Northern Ireland PickThe Euro 2016 tournament has had an impressive start with almost every team looking very capable of earning results and putting in decent performances even in defeat. Arguably the most disappointing team through the first round of games were Northern Ireland, but Michael O'Neill and his players might be the first to tell you that they expected a lot more from themselves in the first game.

I can't imagine Northern Ireland being as poor as they were against Poland for a second game in a row and I do feel they are perhaps being underrated in this one. As well as the Ukraine played in their defeat to Germany with chances being missed to level that game, I am a little surprised they are shorter favourites to win this one than Poland were to beat Northern Ireland.

I don't think the Ukraine are a better team than Poland, but the performances in the first games are helping shape the odds for this one.

There is a difference though- for example Ukraine had nothing to lose against Germany and found plenty of space on the counter as their opponents were prepared to attack with numbers. That won't be the case against Northern Ireland who rely on strength in defence and hoping to steal a goal at the other end and Ukraine might not have the same attacking impetus when having to break down two banks of four.

In this one I also expect Northern Ireland to play better with the ball than they have in the loss to Poland. They should be dangerous from set pieces against a Ukrainian goalkeeper who doesn't like the pressure balls into the box give him and I can see Northern Ireland perhaps even earning an upset win.

The short odds look too short for a Ukraine win and I want to oppose them here. Backing Northern Ireland to avoid defeat at Coral looks a big price and I will back them to do that and perhaps have a chance to move into the Second Round.

Germany v Poland PickThis looks to be one of the better games in the Group Stages between two teams that could potentially have a deep impact in the Euro 2016 tournament. With both Germany and Poland having secured three points already, they can both come into this game with the motivation to win the game and get into a position to secure top spot in the section.

For a long time Poland might have felt overawed by Germany, but beating them in the Euro 2016 Qualifiers has to give them confidence. The 2-0 might have been fortunate, but Poland did win and then gave Germany plenty to think about in the 3-1 loss in the second game in that Group.

This should be an open game with both likely to play attacking football.

Poland will look to use the counter attack with a little more accuracy than Ukraine did against the Germans. The Germany defence doesn't look the strongest and Poland created enough against Northern Ireland to think they will be able to replicate the solid moments that Ukraine did against Germany.

However I also think Germany are very strong going forward and will have their own chances in this one with the feeling being this could be a high-scoring Group game. The two teams showed they can do that in the Qualifiers and having wins on the board should give them the freedom to try and win this game and I like backing over 2.5 goals in this one.

Friday 17th June
Italy v Sweden PickAs soon as the final whistle was blown on the Italy win over Belgium, my first instinct was to feel this was a side that could make a real impact at the Euro 2016 tournament in France. They defended well and looked threatening going forward, although Italy would need to be more clinical in the final third to really become a big threat.

That feeling was quickly replaced with some nagging doubts that Italy can sometimes fail to back up impressive performances and the likes of Sweden and the Republic of Ireland pose different threats. While Belgium wanted to play attacking football, both Sweden and Ireland may feel the onus is on Italy to make the play and I feel the latter might be suited to quick breaks rather than long periods of possession to wear down opponents.

This makes this a big game for Italy to grab a firm hold of the Group and also prove they are going to be a threat going forward. Italy will feel confident if Sweden produce something similar to their first game against the Republic of Ireland when they looked poor for much of the match and recent results have seen Italy beat Sweden more often than not.

A draw wouldn't be the worst result for Sweden so they may look for the counter to be effective in this one, but I think Italy might be a little too strong for them in this one. Not many people predicted big things for Sweden in Euro 2016 as they are lacking real quality behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but they certainly won't make this easy for Italy.

My underlying feeling is that Sweden are perhaps not quite up to the standard required and Italy have created enough in wins over Scotland and Finland ahead of this tournament to feel confident. The Italians are being offered at just short of odds against to win this game and I think they can be backed to do that.

Czech Republic v Croatia PickThis is one of the Group games in the second round of fixtures that I am looking forward to as both the Czech Republic and Croatia have to feel this is a game they can win. For the Czech Republic they are almost in the last chance saloon after their opening loss to Spain and they can't afford another loss in this one.

The Czech Republic defended well for long periods against Spain, but they will have to be a little more open in this one if they are to get a result. It will be expected that Croatia will dominate the ball like Spain did with their midfield looking strong, but the Czech Republic will like to test a backline that almost had a free pass against Turkey and looks the weak spot for Croatia.

There are goals in the Czech Republic team, but a more open approach will expose their own defensive vulnerabilities which were shown up in the Qualifiers. However they can't afford to sit back and hope to nick a result as the potential for another late loss could spell curtains for their Euro 2016 tournament.

It would be nice to see Croatia show a little more composure in the final third as they have failed to really underline their dominance in games on the scoreboard. My feeling is that they are the better team in this contest, but they might need to score at least twice to earn the win because I am also expecting more attacking intent from the Czech team.

Goals might be the outcome of the game with a lot on the line for both teams and I do look for this to be one of the higher scoring games of this round of fixtures. The layers don't see the same, but I will back at least three goals to be shared out at odds against.

Spain v Turkey PickThe layers have put Spain down as short favourites to win this game against Turkey, but that also means they are being asked to cover a 'large' Asian Handicap. If they can show more in the final third when the chances are presented, I think Spain may have a chance to cover it though as Turkey are in a position where they have to show a little more if they are going to get into the Second Round.

We all know that Spain will dominate the ball for large parts of this match and that they are going to pull Turkey around. That can wear down teams over the course of ninety minutes, particularly for a team like Turkey that had to do a lot of chasing in their defeat against Croatia a few days ago.

I am not entirely convinced about Spain in the final third when they are being asked to break down teams so the first goal in this one is crucial as Turkey might feel they can defend out a lead. It would need a large improvement in terms of performances for Turkey to get into that position and I think the more likely situation is Spain leading and perhaps getting another goal late on as Turkey chase the game.

That has happened to a few teams in this tournament late on including the likes of Ukraine, Belgium and Albania, and I have a feeling that Turkey might fall foul of that too. A defeat might not be the end of Turkey's tournament, but they will be expected to at least challenge Spain more than they did Croatia and more space should suit Spain.

I will be looking for Spain to earn a win by a couple of goals in this one.

Saturday 18th June
Belgium v Republic of Ireland PickThere might be a number of people jumping of the Belgium bandwagon after the 0-2 defeat to Italy in the opening Group game, but it has to be remembered it is the opening game of Euro 2016. There is a lot of talent in the Belgium squad, but they have get more out of their star players and look to take the chances that they did create in that defeat to Italy on Monday night.

Belgium will be all too aware that their margins for error have tightened massively after the defeat to Italy, but they will be favourites to win their remaining two games in the Group. A better game plan to deal with a team defending in numbers will be needed because they do look a little vulnerable at the back with 8 games in a row that Belgium have conceded at least once.

They have to expect the Republic of Ireland are going to work hard and make sure they are tight defensively for long periods of this one and try and break with pace on the counter. The Irish might even be feeling confident they have enough to earn something from this game having scored in 12 straight games although they have only earned 2 clean sheets from their last 8 games despite the reputation at the back.

You would think the Republic of Ireland are going to try and make it count from any set pieces they earn through this contest and I have a feeling this might be a better game than some of the layers think. I do have to respect how difficult it is to beat the Republic of Ireland so the Belgium price is tempting, but perhaps one I will look to ignore, because instead I do think we will see goals in the game.

I did consider simply backing both teams to score, but the situation suggests both teams won't want to sit back on a draw and so I will back at least three goals to be shared out at big odds.

Iceland v Hungary PickThe surprise win for Hungary over Austria does give them the benefit of holding onto something in the Group, but there is a feeling they could surprise further by winning this section. The game with Iceland will always have been the one that Hungary would have expected to be the one they could win, but the three points already earned might lead to them being a little more patient.

For Iceland it looks a little simpler as they will believe their best chance of earning their own three points has to be against Hungary rather than Austria. As disappointing as the latter were in their opening loss, Austria look to have a little more about them and Iceland would have gained confidence from the result against Portugal to take into this one with Hungary.

They have to use that momentum if they are going to move onto four points which should see the Iceland dream move into the Second Round of the Euro 2016 tournament.

With so much on the line, you have to think both teams will look for their attacking play to help their team move into a position to win. Historically Iceland have struggled with Hungary, but this is arguably the best team that Iceland will have ever had at their disposal.

I am looking for goals out of this fixture which has been priced up at a very large and tempting number. While neither team will be mistaken for a Brazilian team of the past in attacking areas, both will try and win this game to move through to the Second Round and that should lead to numbers being committed in forward areas even if there is perhaps a slight lack of quality in the teams.

Portugal had their chances against Iceland and this is a team that has struggled defensively, but they also have the belief going forward to trouble teams. The draw will suit Hungary more than Iceland, but I can see the latter making this a real game and backing at least three goals to be shared out in a big game is my call.

Portugal v Austria PickThe final game from the second round robin of Group games is a big one for the two teams that were expected to dominate Group F when the draw was made. Everyone would have picked Portugal and Austria to make it through as the top two teams in the Group, but both have failed to win their first game and could be under intense pressure by the time this game kicks off.

There is more pressure on Austria who didn't just lose their first game, but were one of very few teams that have lost by more than a single goal margin. If Iceland win and Austria lose, they will be out of the tournament and you have to think this team wants to show why so many tipped them as 'dark horses' before Euro 2016 began.

I am wondering if Austria were simply made to look good in a really poor Qualifying Group when you see how their fellow Qualifiers Russia and Sweden have played in the tournament. However, I don't want to make a rash judgement on one game and Austria have definitely shown more in attacking areas than they did against Hungary.

One big concern for Austria has to be the poor defensive performances that have become a feature of their recent games. With players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, and Joao Moutinho, Portugal will feel they can expose those vulnerabilities, but this is a nation that have to take the chances they create in better fashion than they did against Iceland.

With so much on the line there is a feeling that this could be a tense game where the teams look to avoid making the fatal mistake that could ends their Euro 2016 challenge. However, I think the importance of the three points will see both look to their attacking talent to help make the difference and I am going to back at least three goals to be shared out in this one as well.

MY PICKS: Slovakia + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Romania-Switzerland Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.50 Paddy Power (2 Units)
France HT-France FT @ 1.75 Coral (2 Units)
England-Wales Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Northern Ireland-Draw Double Chances @ 2.45 Coral (2 Units)
Germany-Poland Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Italy @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Czech Republic-Croatia Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.50 William Hill (2 Units)
Spain - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Belgium-Republic of Ireland Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.50 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Iceland-Hungary Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.75 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Portugal-Austria Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.38 Sky Bet (2 Units)

Group Stage Match Day 2 Update: 7-3, + 10.82 Units
Group Stage Match Day 1 Final: 4-8, - 8.20 Units

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