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Euro 2016: How the last 8 teams measure up

Last updated on: June 29, 2016 20:18 IST

The stage is set for the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.

Here's a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the last 8 teams in the fray.


Eden Hazard

IMAGE: Belgium's Eden Hazard celebrates scoring a goal against Hungary. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Belgium's tournament began with a 2-0 defeat by Italy, which prompted almost immediate recriminations, that included a round of clear the air talks between coach Marc Wilmots and his players.

Since then they have begun to live up to expectations with the midfielders Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel shining in recent games. Striker Romelu Lukaku, who bore much of the criticism after spurning chances against Italy, has continued to lead the attack and looked sharp.

Toby Alderweireld and Thomas Vermaelen have marshalled a defence that has not conceded in their last three games with the imposing Thibaut Courtois largely untroubled in goal.

Yannick Carrasco had been the first choice for the right-hand side of the attack but lacked impact and was replaced for the last game against Hungary by Dries Mertens.

Midfielder Mousa Dembele has battled with injury but could yet make his mark as Belgium, helped by a kind draw, look a strong bet to go all the way to the final.


Antoine Griezmann

IMAGE: Antoine Griezmann of France celebrates scoring his team's first goal against Republic of Ireland. Photograph: Lars Baron/Getty Images

The French team has made it through to the last eight thanks in a large part to the performances of two of its key forwards -- Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann.

Two late goals in his first three tournament matches propelled Payet into the limelight and a solid performance against Ireland in the last 16 shows that he remains vital in orchestrating Les Bleus' play.

Despite scoring a goal in the group stage, Griezmann appeared lost and jaded after a gruelling season at Atletico Madrid. However, two goals and a man-of-the match performance against Ireland after being pushed closer to striker Olivier Giroud gives him a launch pad potentially to become the star of Euro 2016.

France’s biggest concerns remain at the back. Patrice Evra has struggled at left back and the makeshift centre-back partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Adil Rami, while not really tested, has also not convinced. Sevilla man Rami has been shaky in particular and his suspension for the quarter-finals could actually be a positive for the hosts.

The absence of midfield dynamo and newcomer N'Golo Kante may also hurt Didier Deschamps' defensive unit after he filled the holding role over the first four games as if he had been playing at international level for many years.   


IMAGE: Germany's players celebrate a goal against Slovakia. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Central defenders Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels have delivered despite suffering injuries late in the season, with Hummels missing the start of Euro 2016.

The German defence has now kept four clean sheets, and they are the only team not to have conceded a goal in the tournament so far.

Toni Kroos is capping a Champions League-winning season with Real Madrid and has taken over the playmaking role from the injured Bastian Schweinsteiger. He is the first port of call for defenders and beautifully distributes the ball across the entire pitch, reading the game like no other player in the Germany team.

The frontline has been a disappointment with neither Mario Goetze nor Thomas Mueller finding the back of the net so far.

Defenders Boateng and Shkodran Mustafi have scored and coach Joachim Loew deployed his only out-and-out forward, Mario Gomez, midway through the group stage. Gomez has scored twice to repay his manager's trust.

Youngster Joshua Kimmich at right back and Julian Draxler on the wing have laid claims for regular starting spots with their outstanding performances so far.


IMAGE: Iceland's players celebrate winning their match against England. Photograph: Lars Baron/Getty Images

After coming second in their group and pulling off the shock of the tournament by sending England crashing out in the second round, Iceland are performing well beyond the expectations of everyone but themselves.

Whatever weaknesses they may have are kept well-hidden and their high-energy defence, led by Ragnar Sigurdsson, has been rock solid, with a lot of credit also going to those further forward for what is truly a team effort.

Winger Birkir Bjarnason has also caught the eye with his tough tackling, precise passing and tireless running, and he is often a key outlet when Iceland need to hold on to the ball late in the game.  

The star of Iceland's show, however, is undoubtedly Swedish coach Lars Lagerback, who has infused his side with a level of organisation and self-belief that will have convinced them that they can complete another upset when they face hosts France in the next round.


IMAGE: Italy's players celebrate winning their match against Spain. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images

A hallmark of Italy's national teams over the years has been their sturdy defence and that has been the case at Euro 2016 where they have conceded just one goal so far in the tournament.

The chemistry and understanding between the Juventus quartet of keeper Gianluigi Buffon and defenders Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, has made them almost impenetrable at then back.

Coach Antonio Conte has also brought out the best in players such as forward Eder, who had scored one goal in 14 league appearances after joining Inter Milan on loan from Sampdoria in January, but has looked transformed for the national team.

He scored a magnificent solo effort against Sweden that ensured Italy finished top of Group E and it was his free kick that led to their opener against Spain in the last 16.

Italy have also been boosted by the performances of AS Roma's experienced midfielder Daniele De Rossi, with the 32-year-old rolling back the years to pull the strings against Spain.


IMAGE: Poland players celebrate victory against Switzerland. Photograph: Lars Baron/Getty Images

Poland's route to the last eight has been down to a robust defensive effort with their misfiring strikers posing little threat upfront.

Adam Nawalka's team have let in just one goal all tournament, an outrageous bicycle kick by Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri in their last-16 tie which they eventually won on penalties. It was only the second game this year in which they have conceded.

But at the other end, hitman Robert Lewandowski, the leading scorer in Euro 2016 qualifying with 13 goals, has only mustered two attempts on target in the tournament, both in the last match.

Poland's captain did coolly dispatch the first penalty in the shootout though, and the scintillating form of Kamil Grosicki on the left flank should provide more chances for the striker to break his duck in open play.

Poland, who have found the net three times in four matches, have scored two goals fewer than any other of the quarter-finalists.


Cristiano Ronaldo

IMAGE: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal celebrates scoring his team's second goal against Hungary. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Portugal's campaign has centred around Cristiano Ronaldo who has been both hero and villain and often seems to be an overbearing presence on his team mates.

Ronaldo rescued them in their final group game against Hungary, scoring twice to earn them a 3-3 draw and also set up the late winner over Croatia in the second round. But his insistence on taking every free kick has caused them to waste precious attacking opportunities.

The Portuguese have yet to put in a really convincing performance and all four of their games have been drawn after 90 minutes.

Yet, with Nani showing flashes of inspiration, the unpredictable Ricardo Quaresma playing the joker's role and a very kind draw, they could yet go all the way to the final, just as coach Fernando Santos has predicted.


IMAGE: Wales players during a training session. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Wales have been propelled into the last eight on the shoulders of the world's most expensive player Gareth Bale, whose three goals helped them top their qualifying group and made him the tournament's joint top scorer.

It was also Bale's superb low cross that was turned into his own net by Gareth McAuley to secure a 1-0 win over Northern Ireland in the last 16.

The midfield axis of Liverpool's Joe Allen and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey have also performed an excellent job in providing a stable foundation and feeding Bale.

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