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The last eight teams in Euro 2016 go into battle over the next four days as the tournament enters its final week. Saturday’s heavyweight clash between Germany and Italy is without doubt the stand-out fixture of this round.
PORTUGAL V POLAND
Marseille is the venue for Thursday’s first quarter-final clash as Portugal face Poland. Cristiano Ronaldo is just one goal away from equalling Michel Platini’s all-time European Championship scoring record but to do this, he’ll have to try to break down one of the tournament’s best defences. Polish striker Robert Lewandowski has had a wretched summer in France and hasn’t actually scored for his country for seven games. Portugal has played in Marseille twice before in a European Championship way back in 1984, where they drew 1-1 with Spain in a group game and lost 3-2 to France in a semi-final considered to be one of the best ever matches at a Euro Finals.
WALES V BELGIUM
The Welsh fairy-tale continues as they head to Lille to face an ever improving Belgium team on Friday. Gareth Bale will be looking to add to the three tournament goals he’s scored so far, as he goes in search of the Golden Boot for tournament top scorer. After a slow start Marc Wilmot’s Belgium side are finding their feet and a master-class from Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard in the last 16 demolition of Hungary, has given the Red Devils cause for optimism. The Welsh won both games when the two sides met in the qualifying competition and will be confident they can cause an upset once again.
GERMANY V ITALY
Without doubt the biggest game in the competition so far, with Germany attempting to beat Italy at a major finals tournament for the first time in their history. The two sides met in the semi-final of Euro 2012 when a Mario Balotelli (remember him!) inspired Italy caused a huge upset by eliminating the tournament favourites. With “Super Mario” out of favour these days, the Italians will still be confident of knocking Joachim Low’s team out once again, having already accounted for the holders Spain in the last 16. Bordeaux will be the setting for what promises to be a classic encounter with the pre-tournament favourites Germany, now moving through the gears after a less than impressive start to their campaign. Striker Thomas Muller says he doesn’t fear their opposition on Saturday; the Bayern Munich man has yet to score in this tournament.
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FRANCE V ICELAND
Everyone thought that the hosts would be facing England in Sunday’s quarter-final in Paris, but Iceland tore up the script in Nice on Monday by causing one of the biggest upsets in international football history when they eliminated the Three Lions. Once again, Lars Lagerback’s team will start as huge underdogs but the French would be foolish to think that this match will be a stroll in the park. Striker Kevin Griezmann is currently joint top scorer in these championships and he will be relishing the thought of trying to add to his tally if he gets the right sort of service. Midfielder Paul Pogba has been disappointing so far, but big games call for big players and they don’t come much bigger than the 23-year-old Juventus man.
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By Steve Mitchell @barafundler