We are now two rounds deep into the knockout stage of Euro 2016. In the quarterfinals, we have seen the end of one fairy tale as well as the prolongation of another. We are now down to the final four: France, Germany, Portugal and Wales. Who will make it to the 2016 Euro final and who will trip on the penultimate hurdle on the way to football glory?
Here are my predictions for the semifinals as well as a return on my quarterfinal predictions.
Return on Quarterfinals:
Out of my four quarterfinal predictions, I was wrong twice and came very close to being mistaken a third time. In the match between Portugal and Poland I had once again counted the Portuguese for dead. However, Renato Sanches scored for Portugal to counteract Robert Lewandowski's early goal. Portugal's scoring abilities were once again called into question since they were only able to win on penalties.
I had also predicted a Belgian victory over the Welsh but Belgium were not able to capitalize on their early lead. They sat back and permitted the Welsh dragon to roar back to life.
Finally, I was correct when I claimed that the Germans would prevail over the Italians but the Azzurri pushed the talented Germans all the way to sudden death penalties.
As expected, the French prevailed over Iceland in a impressive 5-2 win. Contrary to the English, the French were able to create and convert their chances.
Wales vs Portugal: This match is so much more than a dual between Real Madrid teammates Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Welsh are entering this match fresh off their most impressive performance so far in the tournament. Wales knocked out top seeded Belgium in convincing fashion (3-1). They managed this impressive result without their superstar Gareth Bale scoring. However, Wales will be without their number 10 and second best player Aaron Ramsey for the semifinal match.
On the other hand, Portugal has not had a convincing victory so far in this tournament. Every single one of their group stage matches resulted in a draw and both of their knockout matches required extra time or penalties. Portugal's offence has not impressed me and in their only decent offensive match, they conceded 3 times. I know I have already counted Portugal for dead twice but I will go ahead and do it again. This is the round Ronaldo is going home. Prediction: Wales
France vs Germany: France has never beaten Germany at a major tournament and France has never lost a major tournament that they have hosted so something will obviously have to give on Thursday. The Germans have me worried. In their previous match, they missed more penalties shots than their nation has missed over the past 40 years. I was expecting the Germans to be slightly more dominant versus the Italians but even though the Germans were the more talented squad, they needed penalties to win. Germany also has injury problems. Both striker Mario Gomez and and Sami Khedira have been ruled out for Germany's semifinal match and Khedira's replacement, Bastian Schweinsteiger is doubtful due to an ankle injury.
On their side, the French have a healthy squad and will be getting back workhorse N'Golo Kante from suspension. France were also impressive in the way they dealt with the organized Icelandic defence. The French were able to crack the stingy Iceland back line 5 times over the 90 minutes of play. I see France beating Germany for the first time in a major competition and advancing to the finals much to the delight of the home nation's fans. Prediction: France