Irish fans eye revenge against France; Germany take on Slovakia; Hungary face Belgium

Lewandowski again failed to score but Poland beat Switzerland 5-4 in a penalty shootout.

AFP| Last Updated: Jun 26, 2016, 09:03 AM IST
Irish fans eye revenge against France; Germany take on Slovakia; Hungary face Belgium

Paris: It was "ugly", "unfair" and "cruel" but Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Robert Lewandowski got through to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals and that is all that Portugal, Wales and Poland care about.

Ricardo Quaresma's header after skipper Ronaldo's shot was deflected with extra time running out saw Portugal defeat Croatia 1-0 and set up a last eight clash against Poland.

Bayern Munich star Lewandowski again failed to score but Poland beat Switzerland 5-4 in a penalty shootout after they were deadlocked 1-1 at 120 minutes.

Wales's Bale hit the 75th-minute pinpoint cross that Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley turned into his own net in the only goal of their game Saturday. Wales now play the winner of Sunday's game between Hungary and Belgium.

Here is what you can look forward to today (June 26)


FRANCE vs REPUBLIC OF IRELAND - PREVIEW

Both the Republic of Ireland and France camps have played down Thierry Henry's infamous handball, but Irish fans will be hoping for revenge in Sunday's Euro 2016 last 16 clash.

It was at the Stade de France in Paris on November 18, 2009 that Henry used his hand -- twice -- to control the ball in the buildup to William Gallas' late goal.

The incident, dubbed 'Le Hand of God', helped seal France's 2-1 aggregate win and left Irish fans feeling robbed of a 2010 World Cup place.

Both squads still contain players who were involved that night.

France's goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, defenders Bacary Sagna and Patrice Evra and striker Andre-Pierre Gignac all started, while Moussa Sissoko and goalkeeper Steve Mandanda were unused substitutes.

For the Irish, Shay Given, John O'Shea, Glenn Whelan and Robbie Keane started the match, while Aiden McGeady came on in extra-time.

Both teams have claimed that the incident six years ago will have little bearing on Sunday's tie in Lyon.

The Irish have a few injury concerns.

Full-back Stephen Ward has an ankle injury from the 1-0 win over Italy that earned the last-16 berth and sat out Friday's training.
Jon Walters has a sore Achilles tendon, but ran out with the team.

Robbie Brady wrote himself into Irish football folklore with the headed winner in the victory over Italy, the 24-year-old's late effort sparking wild scenes of celebration in the stadium and at home.

The prize on offer for the winner is a quarter-final against England or Iceland, who play on Monday.


GERMANY vs SLOVAKIA - PREVIEW

Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer believes the world champions can put a slow start to Euro 2016 behind them and thrive under the pressure of knockout football when they face Slovakia on Sunday.

Joachim Loew's side progressed to the last 16 as winners of Group C, beating Ukraine and Northern Ireland, drawing with Poland and all without conceding a single goal.

But Neuer knows better is expected from the Germans at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille as they face a Slovak side appearing at this stage of a Euro for the first time since independence.

Despite topping their group, Germany have found themselves on the toughest side of the draw and will play either reigning champions Spain or bogey team Italy if they make it through to the quarter-finals.

But they must first be wary of Slovakia, who unsettled Loew's side in the build-up to the tournament by winning a friendly 3-1 in Augsburg.

Those were the last goals Neuer conceded and he knows Germany need to be especially wary of Slovakia star Marek Hamsik, who was among the scorers in that game.

All eyes will be on Loew's selection decisions in defence, with centre-back Jerome Boateng struggling with a calf knock and youngster Joshua Kimmich hoping to keep his place at right-back after impressing there against Northern Ireland.

After much criticism of the pitch in Lille, a new surface was laid on Thursday but neither team was allowed to train on it on the eve of the game.

Germany will therefore stage their final practice session at their base in Evian near the Swiss border before flying to northern France.

Slovakia will do likewise at their camp in Vichy, central France, prior to returning to the scene of their Hamsik-inspired win against Russia in the group phase that paved their way to the last 16.

Jaz Kozak's side held England in Saint-Etienne in their last match to advance from Group B as one of the best third-placed sides. They famously beat Spain in qualifying and their recent exploits in beating the Germans means they come into this rematch with confidence.

Robert Mak should be fine despite a hamstring problem and Peter Pekarik will not wear a protective mask on his broken nose, but fellow defender Dusan Svento is out.


HUNGARY vs BELGIUM - PREVIEW

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots has warned against taking Hungary for granted when they face an ambitious modern-day version of the 'Magical Magyars' looking to book their quarter-final place at Euro 2016 on Sunday.

While Belgium have failed to live up to their status as the world's second-best ranked team, Hungary's feats at their first international tournament for three decades have inspired a nation.

German coach Bernd Storck's men sealed their place in the last 16 with a stunning 3-3 draw that Portugal's two-goal hero Cristiano Ronaldo called 'insane'.

Hungary, whose last major finals appearance came at the 1986 World Cup, finished top of Group E to join a host of other nations who have punched above their weight to reach the knockout phase.

Packed with stars like Chelsea's Eden Hazard, Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne, Marouane Fallaini of Manchester United and Axel Witsel from Zenit St Petersburg, Belgium fans would be forgiven for expecting their team to go far.

But any Euro success hinges on Monday's knockout clash in Toulouse, and Wilmots was quick to dispel any thoughts the Red Devils will have it easy.

A recurring theme at these championships, which saw the number of teams increased from 16 to 24 with four third-placed group finishers joining the top two in the last 16, has been the emergence of traditionally smaller teams.

Wales, on their competition debut, cruised into the knockout phase with a 3-0 win over Russia on a night England's draw with Slovakia pushed Chris Coleman's side to the top of Group A.

The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are still hanging on and Iceland have carved open a mouthwatering last 16 clash against England in Marseille.

Hungary's encouraging campaign, meanwhile, has prompted an audacious comparison with the 'Magical Magyars' team that once struck fear into the hearts of Europe's established sides in the 1950s.

Led by the legendary Ferenc Puskas, Hungary lost just one match between 1950 and 1956 -- the 1954 World Cup final to West Germany.

Famously, they also beat England 6-3 in Wembley in 1953 in a game dubbed by the "Match of the Century" by Hungarians, and 7-1 in Budapest just before the World Cup the following year.

But midfielder Laszlo Kleinheisler has called for perspective.

On the night Hungary continued to impress with a rollercoaster 3-3 draw against Portugal, team captain Balazs Dzsudzsak stole some of the spotlight with an impressive brace of his own to help propel his side into the last 16.

Hungary have a lot to live up to if they are to exceed the achievements of their prestigious peers.