I’m going to change things about here since I haven’t had time to watch the Germany/Portugal game outside of injury time at the end. I will review the quarter-finals after the weekend. So let’s have a look at the next two quarter finals on Friday and Saturday.
Day 14 preview
Croatia are full of confidence going in to their quarter-final with Turkey. Manager Slaven Bilic said: “Our advantage is that we’re not naive – we’re a better team than Turkey.” Big words indeed. What will Turkey’s reaction be to that?
“The Croats play well,” said coach Fatih Terim, “but as far as we are concerned we will go to Vienna and let’s hope we stay there. It is the winner takes all now.” Um, not very convincing.
And that’s really Turkey all over – not very convincing. The comeback against the Czech Republic was startling but if they find themselves two-nil down to Croatia they may not find the brittle psyche that they did in the Czechs.
Their goalkeeper Volkan Demirel is suspended for two games and he is replaced by the able but ageing Rustu. They will also be missing Servet Cetin and the suspended Mehmet Aurelio and their coach has spun the “bare bones” line made famous by ‘Arry Redknapp
“We have 15 footballers, two goalkeepers and we can make three substitutions. That is what we have.”
Croatia have no injury worries with Djarno Srna – so good against Germany – available. There should be no surprises from this uber-confident side who have won all three games in the tournament so far. They beat lacklustre Germany well but struggled to overcome Austria – and it was their reserves who beat Poland. They don’t score a lot of goals but they are stylish. However if the Turks get physical they may not like it.
We’ve already seen one surprise so far but I don’t think we’ll see another one. Croatia to score once in each half.
Prediction: Croatia 2 Turkey 1
Day 15 preview
Russia stole the plaudits for their stunning performance over Sweden and it’s widely accepted that they were unlucky to concede four against Spain. Overall they’ve been an impressive unit and with Andrei Arshavin back, they have a potent weapon in their arsenal.
No team news yet but let’s assume that the same team will take the field against the Netherlands on Saturday – I certainly expect the key men to be there anyway.
The Netherlands star players have had time to recover after the B-team took to the pitch against Romania. It might have created a slight selection headache for Marco van Baste who saw Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie put in two more quality cameos.
Khalid Boulahrouz’s position is in doubt following the tragic death of his prematurely-born daughter. He has returned to training and will decide with the coaching team whether he is in the frame of mind to play. Although it’s irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, Boulahrouz – who put in comical performances for Chelsea in the Premier League – has been excellent in the tournament.
All four quarter-finals promise to be close affairs and while the Dutch should win it, Russia will be as big a challenge as they have faced yet. I have a feeling that the Dutch experience and superior defence will see them through but Russian coach Guus Hiddink will have a great time trying to outwit his fellow countrymen.
Prediction: Netherlands 3 Russia 1