After a two-day break, the last 16 of Euro 2016 gets underway as Poland battle Switzerland, Portugal take on dark horses Croatia while Wales go head-to-head against Northern Ireland.
Switzerland v Poland
1400 ~ Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne
Switzerland have made it through to the knockout stages of the European Championships for the first time but manager Vladimir Petkovic wants more from his players as they aim to reach the quarter-finals.
“We need to be more clinical going forward,” said the 52-year-old.
“We must not allow the opposition to create anything from our mistakes. If we have lacked something it’s shooting from distance, but we need to work on the killer pass and the killer cross. I expect three or four of our players in the penalty area when we’re on the attack.”
Poland are also in the second round at a European Championship for the first time and while gaffer Adam Nawalka is pleased to not have conceded a goal thus far in France, he wants to see more his side create more chances at goal.
“The players are well aware there’s a great chance to get an excellent result,” said the ex-midfielder.
“Before the finals, we worked very hard to improve our defensive play and it’s worked out well so far. We’ve got the right results. Now we want to improve how we take our goalscoring chances.We’re very well prepared and we’ll try to implement our tactical game plan in this match.”
Switzerland could name the same side that started against France last Sunday meaning 19-year-old forward Breel Embolo will start-up front. Embolo, Valon Behrami, Fabian Schar and Granit Xhaka are all one yellow away from suspension.
Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski will continue in-goal for Poland with Wojciech Szczesny still missing due to a thigh injury and they are aso missing midfielder Bartosz Kapustka through suspenison having picked up two yellow cards.
Wales v Northern Ireland
1700 ~ Parc des Princes, Paris
Wales have enjoyed an incredible European Championship debut thus far as they topped their group ahead of England and head coach Chris Coleman is not getting ahead of himself saying focus is firmly on Northern Ireland.
“The last performance was outstanding, but it’s all about tomorrow,” said the ex-Fulham manager.
“We can’t think about anything else. Northern Ireland are strong, physical, very well-organised and have a good team spirit. This is tournament football. Both teams find themselves in a position where they’ve earned respect and attention, and it’s the attention we’ve always wanted.”
It has also been quite the journey for Northern Ireland as they reach the knockout stages in their first tournament in 30 years and boss Michael O’Neill knows his side have to be at their very best to beat a strong Welsh side.
“We will have to be at our best,” said the 46-year-old.
“Wales won their group, they’re in a good place – a great performance against Russia in particular which we’ve watched back – so we expect a tough game, but it’s a game we believe we can come through.”
Wales have a full strength squad to choose from and may pick the same side that thrashed Russia 3-0 in their final group game with Gareth Bale looking to add to his three goals at Euro 2016.
Northern Ireland are also expected to line-up the game as they did in the win against Ukraine and their narrow defeat to Germany. However, Craig Cathcart, Stuart Dallas, Jonny Evans or Jamie Ward are one yellow away from missing a potential quarter-final.
Croatia v Portugal
2000 ~ Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens
Croatia stunned Spain on Tuesday night as they took top spot from the holders in group D and gaffer Ante Cacic hopes it’s not the end of the road for his side against a tough Portugal side.
“We want to keep going for as long as possible at this tournament,” said the Zagreb man.
“We are facing a team consisting of extremely talented individuals. They perhaps weren’t exceptionally impressive in their group but they really played well. If we look back, we will remember that they were the dominant team in their matches and created many opportunities.”
Portugal are the only side in the last 16 who have yet to pick up a victory having progressed with three draws but boss Fernando Santos is aiming to beat a tough Croatia side and progress to the quarter-finals.
“I have as my objective to try and win this game,” said the 61-year-old.
“Croatia have immense quality, just like we do. It will be a game with two sides full of great quality and sides who want to go through. It will be a great game, I’m sure. I think we can beat Croatia.”
Croatia midfielder Luka Modric could return to the starting line-up to face Portugal after he missed their 2-1 win over Spain with a groin injury. Striker Nikola Kalinic – who scored the equaliser against Spain – will be hoping to keep the fit-again Mario Mandzukic out of the starting XI.
Portugal left-back Raphael Guerreiro is back in contention after missing the 3-3 draw with Hungary due to a muscle problem, which means Portugal head coach Santos has a full strength squad to choose from.