Best bets for Monday’s Round of 16 games

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Who is going to make it through to the Quarter Finals?

As we enter July, Euro 2024’s nail-biting Round of 16 matchups are set to continue, featuring powerhouse teams like France, Belgium, and Portugal.

The third set of Round-of-16 fixtures presents several intriguing opportunities, with Belgium aiming to overcome their reputation as underachievers and Slovenia eyeing a potential upset against Portugal. 

However, all eyes will be on the highly-anticipated clash between France and Belgium, two formidable teams, one of which will be out of the tournament on Monday.

Expect a tight contest between France and Belgium 
The Düsseldorf Arena will host the mouth-watering clash between France and Belgium.

France secured second place in Group D with a 1-0 victory over Austria and draws against the Netherlands (0-0) and Poland (1-1). Their attack, led by Kylian Mbappé, has struggled to find the net, scoring only one goal from a penalty. Captain Mbappe missed part of the group stage due to a broken nose. However, their defence has been sturdy, bolstered by the return of midfield shield N’Golo Kanté, who has been one of the standout performers of the tournament.

Belgium started their campaign with a 1-0 defeat by Slovakia but bounced back with a 2-0 win over Romania and a goalless draw against Ukraine. They progressed from Group E in second place, where all four teams finished level on four points. Despite their progression, Belgium’s overall performance has been lacklustre, managing to score in just one of their three group stage matches. Striker Romelu Lukaku could have been the tournament’s leading scorer if not for three disallowed goals, and he has yet to find the back of the net.

The Red Devils will rely on Kevin De Bruyne to unlock a solid French defence that has kept two clean sheets thus far. The Manchester City playmaker continues to be their main creative force, involved in nearly every attacking move.

On the other hand, France will look to Kanté to make an impact, as he has been a pivotal figure for the team. The Al-Ittihad midfielder’s role will be crucial in disrupting De Bruyne’s playmaking and cancelling out Belgium’s major threat on the ball.

While both teams boast significant attacking firepower, neither has found their rhythm in front of goal at the Euros, suggesting a match where defences are likely to dominate. Both teams will set up to attack and will try to hurt each other on the counter but it could come down to a moment of magic or fine margins. However, France have looked sharper and, given their attacking arsenal, look favourites to win.

Can Slovenia stage another upset?
Portugal must bounce back swiftly from their Matchday 3 defeat as they prepare to face Slovenia at the Frankfurt Arena. Roberto Martínez’s team, which suffered a loss to Slovenia in a friendly earlier this year, topped Group F with victories over Czechia (2-1) and Türkiye (3-0), but a rotated squad ended the group stage with a 2-0 defeat by Georgia, who also progressed to the knockout rounds.

Despite their talented squad, Portugal have struggled with consistency. Captain Cristiano Ronaldo failed to score in the group stage for the first time in the Euros, but other players have stepped up in his absence. The midfield, anchored by João Palhinha and Vitinha, has been robust, while Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva have been key figures in the final third, with the duo being involved in the goals. The defence, marshalled by veteran Pepe and Rúben Dias, has been solid, conceding just one goal in the two games they started together.

Slovenia, making their first-ever appearance in the knockout stages, advanced as one of the best third-placed teams after drawing all three Group C matches: 1-1 against Denmark and Serbia, and 0-0 against England. They were among the unbeaten teams in their group, alongside Group winners England and Denmark.

Slovenia, despite being underdogs, have shown resilience and will look to exploit counter-attacks and set pieces against Portugal. Young defender Jaka Bijol has excelled in defensive duels and will need to maintain his form to contain Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal’s attackers. Midfielders Adam Čerin and Timi Elšnik have also impressed and will play vital roles in neutralising the influence of Fernandes and Silva. Goalkeeper and captain Jan Oblak will be crucial for Slovenia, having made nine saves in just two games, and will aim to thwart Portugal’s attacks effectively.

Slovenia remain unbeaten so far but have not posed much of an attacking threat, netting just two goals, which is the joint-lowest among teams that reached the knockouts. Given the firepower and quality across their squad, both in attack and defence, expect Portugal to see off Slovenia, although Franceso Calzona’s side could present challenges.

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