The first 11 days of this Euro tournament has treated us to some good soccer. We've seen some wonderful goals, some late-game heroics, some shocking results, and, thankfully, only three goalless draws. But we are just now getting to the meat and potatoes of the tournament. The fun (for neutral fans) begins when teams take the field for their final group stage game knowing only a specific result will secure their progress through to the knockout stage.
We saw it on Monday when France and Switzerland drew nil-nil. France needed only a point to secure the top spot in the group and the Swiss needed one point to finish second. The first half was very entertaining (thanks to Paul Pogba), but the second 45 minutes was played out just as a formality. In this case, the draw pleased everyone.
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On Tuesday, we will see both Group C and D in action, and both groups are still very much up in the air. In Group C, Poland, Germany and Northern Ireland are still in contention for top spot. We could very well see one of those teams go through as one of the four best third-place teams. Poland squares up against Ukraine, which is the favorable matchup of the two. In the other game, Germany and their unimpressive offense goes up against Northern Ireland's nine-man back line. These games kick off simultaneously at noon EST.
In the two late games (3 p.m. EST), Group D will be up for grabs. Spain is in a commanding position to secure top spot and avoid a Round of 16 matchup with Italy. Croatia, on the other hand, could have been comfortably through if they had held on against the Czech Republic. They squandered a 2-0 lead and now go into their last matchup without star midfielder Luka Modric. A loss to Spain and a Czech Republic win over a flat Turkey team would likely seem them jump into the second spot.
There are a couple of opportunities that I came across when looking into these games that I feel have a great chance to make us some money. My last two picks cashed, and I look to keep the momentum going. As always, odds are courtesy of Bovada.
Poland vs. Ukraine
Make no mistakes about it, Poland should have the maximum six points from two games. They got their feet wet with a 1-0 win over Northern Ireland and were held to a scoreless draw against Germany in game two, and they were the better team for most of the game in that matchup. Striker Arkadiusz Milik should have converted on at least one of his three golden opportunities to put Poland in the lead. But he didn't, and here we are in a sort of must-win game for Poland.
Poland needs to secure at least a point in order to secure passage to the knockout stage. A win would give them a very good chance at finishing atop the group and push Germany down to second spot. This would mean a much more favorable fixture, against a third-place team, instead of the runner up from Group A, which is Switzerland.
In the two games that Poland has played there has been only one goal - thanks to them. Their defense definitely passes the eye test, and keeping Germany off the scoresheet is an impressive feat. They should have no problem doing the same against an already-eliminated Ukraine team. The only concern for me is the squandering of goal-scoring chances. Milik needs to be more clinical in and around the 18-yard box, and Robert Lewandowski needs to show up to play. He's been but a mere spectator so far, which, in a way, is good considering the position Poland is in. Should he find his form, Poland might have a third gear to offer up.
As I mentioned, their opponent in this game, Ukraine, offers very little in the way of anything that resembles team spirit. They are officially eliminated from the tournament thanks to a shocking 2-0 loss to Northern Ireland in the team's second game. Despite the poor weather that both teams had to endure, Ukraine offered very little threat to the Northern Ireland goal. They were only able to direct four shots on target, and they were very routine saves for keeper' Michael McGovern.
The line for this game surprises me a bit considering the state and form of both teams. If you like Poland to win, which is what I think the likely outcome will be, you can grab them a -0.5 EVEN. That's an absolute steal in my opinion. If you think Poland will only play not to lose, the draw option is +225, or you can grab Ukraine +0.5 for -125.
Pick: Poland -0.5 (+100)
Czech Republic vs. Turkey
For anyone not familiar with team chemistry or the obscure players that make the team play well, many will be quick to back the Czech Republic in this matchup. Not me. I am going against the run of form and taking a Turkey side that was just shelled by Spain. I see plenty of value to be had here.
Let's get the form of these two teams out of the way quickly. We all saw Spain dismantle Turkey like a thanksgiving dinner. They were ruthless and clinical in possession, and quite frankly Turkey didn't even belong on the same pitch. That game was a must for Spain, and it was Turkey who just so happened to be in the way. Earlier in the day, the Czech Republic fought their way back from a 2-0 deficit in the second half against Croatia. The only problem with that is the result makes the performance look better, when it really wasn't. The Czechs were outplayed from kick off until around the 75th minute or so. Croatia should have been up at least four goals with the chances they were creating. Ultimately, they didn't convert and the Czechs were fortunate.
This result does not make the Czech Republic a better team than Turkey. Apparently, Vegas disagrees with me and opened up with the Czech's +145 to win the game. Turkey is +205 to win, and the draw is hovering around +225.
A draw does neither team any good, which is why I expect this to be an open game with plenty of chances. The reason I will lay my money on Turkey is not because of their lineup, it's because of who the Czechs will be missing from theirs. Captain Tomas Rosicky will be sidelined after suffering a thigh injury on Friday. He is the lynchpin that holds the midfield together and the elder-statesmen of the squad. His absence will be missed, and it that will be evident on Tuesday in what is going to the Czech Republic's final Euro 2016 game.
Turkey will be motivated to show their fans that the 3-0 beating by Spain was just a blip on the radar. Coming into the tournament, Turkey had just one loss in 16 games. Arda Turan, Turkey's best player was booed by supporters and he will be eager to prove his critics wrong.
Pick: Turkey - Moneyline (+205)
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