Whilst my pre-tournament fancies Germany played well enough against a moderate Ukraine it was actually England who I enjoyed watching the most from the first round of games, to date, and am very much looking forward to seeing the Three Lions in the Derby against Wales in Lens on Thursday.
England v Wales
I have happy memories of Lens having been part of the England side that beat Colombia 2-0 back in the 1998 World Cup and expect to see another win for the Three Lions although I think Wales might also find the back of the net.
A lot of the discussion post Russia focussed on whether Harry Kane should be taking corner kicks for Roy Hodgson’s men; I was more concerned with the fact that he didn’t have a single touch of the ball in the Russian penalty area and I want, and expect, more from my central striker.
That said I think England will win.
England halftime/fulltime at 29/20
England to win 2-1 at 8/1
Ukraine v Northern Ireland
The last two games between the nations have finished goalless and I don’t expect to see a classic in Lyon.
The statistics would suggest, however, that Ukraine, who have only lost to Spain and Germany in their last 19 games, might have the ability to move up a gear although they will have to, given I think Michael O’Neill’s side will also improve on their Poland display.
There are unlikely to be many goals and one might be enough for all three points
Michael’s recommendation: Ukraine to win to nil at 5/4
Under 1.5 goals at 9/5
Belgium v Republic Of Ireland
A fascinating game with Ireland having conceded a goal against Sweden despite the fact that their opponents failed to muster a single shot on target! Many will suggest that Ireland have missed their opportunity and that Belgium cannot play as badly as they did against Italy, but this Ireland side have passion, belief and are a real team; can the same be said of Belgium? I think Ireland can get a point.
Game to finish 1-1 at 7/1
Ireland Double chance (to either win or draw) at 23/20