As we enter the semi-final stage at Euro 2016, the competition is very much split into two halves. The top-half of the draw is very much more favourable than the bottom half and this may have a huge bearing on who appears in the final at the Stade de France on July 10.
WALES DARE TO DREAM OF HISTORIC FINAL BERTH
Having reached their first tournament finals since 1954, Wales are now dreaming of the possibility of walking out at the Stade de France on July 10 to play in a European Championship Final. There is much still to do however, with Belgium their immediate worry in the quarter-final. If Chris Coleman’s team can pull off another huge upset, then waiting for them in the semi-final would be Poland or Portugal. Neither side has looked that impressive so far with Cristiano Ronaldo and company squeezing into the last eight with a last gasp extra-time win over Croatia. The Poles overcame Switzerland in their last 16 match after a penalty shoot-out, but have had the benefit of an extra day’s rest after their arduous match in Saint Etienne. Out of the four teams in the top-half of the draw, it’s Belgium that will be expected to reach next Sunday’s final in Paris; the sheer talent at their disposal makes them the team to beat for the other three contenders. So the form book says Belgium but after what we have seen so far at this tournament, expect the unexpected.
— BelgianRedDevils (@BelRedDevils) June 30, 2016
TOO CLOSE TO CALL IN BOTTOM-HALF OF THE DRAW
In complete contrast, the bottom-half of the draw has thrown together three footballing heavyweights…and Iceland! With Italy already taking care of Spain in the last 16, either they or Germany will be heading home on Sunday after the two meet in Bordeaux on Saturday evening. This makes kinder reading for France, who will be expected to show England how it’s done in Paris on Sunday when the face rank outsiders Iceland. History shows that the French would prefer a semi-final date with Italy, having beaten them in the final of Euro 2000, but that would be doing Iceland a disservice; whether people like it or not, they are in the quarter finals on merit and they will be able to relax on Sunday evening knowing the pressure is all on their opponents. If Didier Deschamps team are going to lift the trophy on home soil just like they did in World Cup 98, they are going to have to perform much better than they have so far. Fans have only seen glimpses of what this star-studded team can do and assuming they dispose of Iceland this weekend, they will face a much sterner test in the last four. Germany are tournament specialists but Italy has the team spirit to get to the final; if France bring their A game to both the quarter and semi-finals however, expect them to be part of the final act in Paris on Sunday week.
Steve Mitchell @barafundler