Euro 2016 may well be the most numerically confusing tournament in history – except of course when it comes to the number of goals scored in the competition, that number is low, very low. After England’s scoreless draw with Slovakia, Wales pipped the Three Lions to top spot in Group B, but what does that mean for the two teams in the next round? Have Wales actually drawn the short straw?
After UEFA’s ingenious idea to saturate Euro 2016 with 24 nations in the group stages of the tournament, many of whom have never played at a major tournament before, the process of elimination for the knock-out phase became ridiculously complicated. 24 does not simply divide into 16. So now we have the best four third-placed teams from the six groups progressing to the last 16 – as if European minnows needed any added incentive to play for draws.
After finishing second in the group to Wales, England will play their last-16 match next Monday against the runner-up in Group F, arguably the weakest group in the entire tournament – the best evidence to support this claim is that Hungary current hold 1st place after securing a win over underperforming Austria.
If the Hungarians can draw, or better yet, beat the Portuguese, they will likely secure top spot unless Iceland go on a mad one against Austria. A glorious Hungarian victory would mean England would face either Iceland or Austria. There’s a great deal of conjecture, but England should feel confident facing off against any of the teams from the “Group of D
Wales, having defied all the odds to finish top of the group by stomping the Russians, face the delights of one of Euro 2016’s third placed sides. The maths behind which of these teams it will be is frankly ridiculous (even yellow cards come into play), but ultimately it will probably be either Albania, Czech Republic or a home nations clash with Northern Ireland… unless something shifts dramatically in the remaining fixtures.
Your online wall chart is going to be a mess…
Realistically, both England and Wales should expect to progress through their initial knock-out fixtures, where England may have landed themselves a blessing is in the quarter finals of Euro 2016.
Assuming that the favourites of each last 16 tie go through, England will face France in the quarter finals, Wales will most likely face off against the highest ranked European nation in the world, Belgium.
France have flattered to deceive on home soil so far and have required late goals to see themselves over the line in their two victories. Competing in the second-worst group in the tournament, France look like far from the complete item and despite a disappointing finish to their group, England should expect to be France – even if it’s in front of a patriotic home crowd.
Wales face a uphill battle against the Belgians, a side who seemed to have found their rhythm after being tactically outwitted by Conte’s Italy. After thrashing Ireland, a team with a similar level of quality and layout to Wales, Belgium are expected to finish strongly in their group, albeit 2nd to Italy.
With the choice of Belgium or France… I know which team I’d rather England face in the quarters.