Portugal *** v England ****

Thu 24 June 1945 @ Luz, Lisbon

I can see where this is goingTwo of the best teams in the tournament meet in the quarter-finals, the standard of the other games is poor, leading pundits to say "This should have been the final."  Which it might well have been, if Portugal hadnt started so slowly and woefully against Greece.  Thankfully for the hosts, the team has evolved, with Ronaldo and Deco creating a more creative spark in midfield.  If they are to get past England though they need to play as a team.  The defence is strong and set, while the midfield has always been a strongest area for them.  The suspension of Pauleta is a blessing in disguise: his form has been poor whereas Nuno Gomes has looked useful.

England meanwhile is looking better than ever.  Three solid, convincing performances, an over-achieving defence (with full-backs coming forward and not being exposed!), talented and goal-worthy midfield (and not just a one-man band) and the in-form Rooney up front with the coming-back-to-form Michael Owenthe mouth is genuinely watering at the prospect of this team going far.  They are capable.  They are injury free, suspension free and settled.  Is this England?  If a defeat follows then yes, it is England. 

It is likely that the skill of the Portuguese midfield will give them control in this area, but the difference for England is in attack.  Rooney will be watched like an Iraqi convoy by US satellites, but this could play into the hands of Owen, who has not been afforded much space so far.  This will be their best chance to win.  Penalties seems to be the only way to go as the teams are too evenly matched.  And penalties and England do not go.

Last 3 matches: Portugal LWW

                            England LWW

Recent game: PORTUGAL 1-0 Spain

                         ENGLAND 4-2 Croatia

Last meeting:

18/02/04 Portugal 1-1 England

Meetings record:

Played 9 England 3 Draw 4 Portugal 2

Last competitive meeting:

Euro 2000 Portugal 3-2 England

Top scorers: POR: 4 players (1)

                       ENG: Rooney (4)

Assists: POR: Figo (2)

               ENG: Owen, Beckham (2)

Discipline: POR: Pauleta suspended for 1 match

Injuries: -

Form players: Christian Ronaldo, Nuno Gomes (POR) Rooney, Lampard (ENG)

Portugal starting XI: Ricardo; Miguel, J Andrade, R Carvalho, N Valente; Costinha; Maniche; Ronaldo, Figo, Deco; Gomes.

England starting XI: James; G Neville, Terry, Campbell, A Cole; Beckham, Gerrard, Lampard, Scholes; Rooney, Owen.

Prediction: 0-0, Portugal win 5-4 on penalties.  Sorry.

France *** v Greece **

Fri 25 June 1945 @Jose Alvalade, Lisbon

France came through on top of its group as expected, but the team did not look as convincing as we all expected it to.  It is the mark of the team that we expect so much from them though: they qualified very comfortably in the end, and with Henry starting to rev up, things are looking ominous for those that stand in the way of Les Bleus.  Zidane has been at his inspirational best, running the show in midfield and of course disposing of England in such cruel fashion.  Question marks are hanging over the defence though.  Lets go through the candidates one-by-one: Gallas is carrying an injury, Desailly is carrying an ocean liner (or so it seems), Sagnol is out of the tournament, Lizarazu is creaking, Boumsong is a reserve, Silvestre has looked uncomfortableneed I go on?  It places the onus on the attackers to win the match.

Greece on the other hand is strongest when defending, and will counter quickly, which might just put that French back line under enormous pressure.  They will play for penalties it is their only hope of going any further in the tournament.  Getting out of the group was a major achievement and it is hard to see the likes of Charisteas threatening the remaining seven teams left.  You can expect a tight performance when they are up against it, but give away a free-kick or allow Henry a small bit of space, and they will be in trouble.

France should overwhelm the Greeks as long as their defence doesnt break down on them totally.  While a shock is not totally out of the question, I really cant see the French not scoring.  If Greece can hold out for 120 minutes, you never know though

Last 3 matches: France WDW

                            Greece WDL

Recent game: FRANCE 3-1 Switzerland

                        GREECE 1-2 Russia

Last meeting:

21/02/96 France 3-1 Greece

Meetings record:

Played 1 France 1 Draw 0 Greece 0

Last competitive meeting: -

Top scorers: FRA: Zidane (3)

                       GRE: Four players (1)

Assists: FRA: Henry (3)

              GRE: Four players (1)

Discipline: -

Injuries: FRA: Sagnol (Out of tournament broken arm), Gallas (twisted ankle day-to-day), Vieira (thigh strain day-to-day) GRE: Giannakopoulos (should be fit after calf injury)

Form players: Zidane , Henry (FRA), Charisteas, Dellas (GRE)

France starting XI: Barthez; Thuram, Silvestre, Desailly, Lizarazu; Pires, Makelele, Vieira, Zidane; Henry, Trezeguet.

Greece starting XI: Nikopolidis; Dellas, Seitaridis, Fyssas, Kapsis, Venetidis; Zagorakis, Basinas, Karagounis, Giannakopoulos (Katsouranis); Charisteas (Nikolaidis).

Prediction: Can only be a France victory.  2-0.

Sweden *** v Netherlands ***

Sat 26 June 1945 @Algarve, Faro-Loule

An intriguing match-up between two evenly-matched teams.  The Swedes started like a house on fire, banging six past the hapless Bulgarians.  Since then they have begun to slow down somewhat, and a minor doubt lingers that they have produced the goods too soon.  Holland on the other hand has had a normal tournament by their standards: bickering in the camp, unusual team selections, press whipping up a stormbut after qualification everything seems to be just right.

Give the Swedish forwards, Ibrahimovic and Larsson, an inch and they will create something.  These two have been the deadliest partnership in the finals and support each other well.  With Ljungberg storming from midfield (usually the left side), the Swedes will create goal-scoring opportunities, especially against a Dutch defence that has only really been tested once.  That was against the Czechs, and look what happened there (conceded 3). 

Van Nistelrooy is craving the service he is receiving from the wingers, Van der Meyde and Robben.  Four goals is an excellent return for a striker who wasnt even sure he was going to be first choice at the start of the finals.  Robben has been electric and his pace will cause no end of worries for the Swedish back four.  Heitinga should return from suspension for the Dutch, and Reizinger came in for the injured Bouma, and looked comfortable enough. 

All this would suggest a close game.  The fact that the Dutch are building up a momentum would point things in their favour.  But it is a close one.  Penalties anyone?

Last 3 matches: Sweden WDD

                            Netherlands DLW

Recent game: SWEDEN 2-2 Denmark

                        NETHERLANDS 3-0 Latvia

Last meeting:

19/06/74 Netherlands 0-0 Sweden

Meetings record:

Played 1 Netherlands 0 Draw 1 Sweden 0

Last competitive meeting: WC 1974 See above

Top scorers: SWE: Larsson (3)

                       NED: Van Nistelrooy (4)

Assists: SWE: Larsson (2)

               NED: Robben (3)

Discipline: Edman (SWE) suspended for 1 game.

Injuries: NED: Bouma (out for tournament)

Form players: Larsson, Ibrahimovic (SWE), Van Nistelrooy, Robben (NED)

Sweden starting XI: Isaksson; Jakobsson, Mellberg, Lucic, Svensson; Ljungberg, Wilhelmsson, Kllstrm, Nilsson; Ibrahimovic, Larsson.

Netherlands starting XI: Van der Sar; Heitinga, Reizinger (Bouma), Stam, Van Bronckhorst; Davids Seedorf, Cocu; Robben, Van Nistelrooy, Van der Meyde.

Prediction: The Dutch come good: 1-0.

Czech Republic v Denmark ****

Sun 27 June 1945 @Dragao, Porto

Probably the toughest quarter-final to call.  Two teams who have looked good going forward and can hold their own when defending.  The Czechs probably have the upper hand: their group was a tough one to climb out of, but they did relatively easily.  Current European Footballer of the Year, Pavel Nedved, is making up for a disappointing season and is in blistering form.  Baros has looked very deadly, Koller is rediscovering his from and the midfield oozes talent.  It is a strong team, make no bones.  But the defence has had the occasional lapse, which will prove costly in the exalted company reserved here for the top 8 in Europe.

Denmark in comparison had their own difficult group to qualify from.  Draws against Italy and Sweden two good sides highlights problems killing off teams.  They have one of the best strikers in Europe (Tomasson) and are heavily reliant on him.  If he could be marked tightly, it is hard to see where the Danish goals would come from.  Gravesen has been outstanding in his two appearances thus far and is such a positive presence for the team.  With his prompting, the wingers (Gronkjaer and Jorgensen) come into play more and that could be vital against the Czechs.  The defence is tough and hard to crack but might well do against players of the calibre of Baros and Nedved.

It is a hard match to predict. These two teams are evenly matched and a no-score draw or a low scoring victory for one or the other could be on the cards.  I think the pace of Gronkjaer and Rommedahl could make the difference.

Last 3 matches: Czech Republic WWW

                            Denmark DWD

Recent game: CZECH REPUBLIC 2-1 Germany

                        DENMARK 2-2 Sweden

Last meeting:

02/06/01 Denmark 2-1 Czech Republic

Meetings record:

Played 11 Czech Rep 6 Denmark 1 Draw 4

Last competitive meeting: WCQ see above

Top scorers: CZE: Baros (4)

                       DEN: Tomasson (3)

Assists: CZE: Heinz, Baros, Poborsky (2)

              DEN: Four players (1)

Discipline: -

Injuries: DEN: N Jensen (out of the tournament), Jorgensen (thigh possibly out for match)

Form players: Nedved, Baros (CZE); Gravesen, Tomasson (DEN)

Czech Rep starting XI: Barthez; Thuram, Silvestre, Desailly, Lizarazu; Pires, Makelele, Vieira, Zidane; Henry, Trezeguet.

Denmark starting XI: Sorensen; Helveg, Henriksen, Laursen, Bogelund; Gronkjaer, Gravesen, Jorgensen, D Jensen; Tomasson, Sand.