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Bring on the quarterfinals.

After a stirring round of group stage games that rewarded attacking football (thank you Netherlands, Croatia, Portugal and Spain) and threw out old, conventionality (see you France, Greece and Sweden) Euro 2008 moves into the knock-out stages where one bad game is all it takes for you to be sent packing.

With that in mind let us take a peak at the four upcoming matches and gaze into our crystal ball to see who will make it into the semifinals.

Portugal vs. Germany

The Germans needed a Michael Ballack thunderbolt in their final group game against an underwhelming Austrian side. Germany has rarely looked like a pre-tournament favorite it was billed as, coming in behind Croatia in its group.

If not for Lukas Podolski scoring three of Germany’s four goals, the Germans would most likely be heading home right now. Too bad he might miss the quarterfinal with a calf injury. That will leave Miroslav Klose (a shadow of his 2006 World Cup self), Mario Gomez (a shadow of his Bundesliga form, including some laughable misses) and Kevin Kuranyi to try and break through.

Meanwhile Portugal looked solid in winning its group with its only loss coming in its last match with a B-side taking the field. Cristiano Ronaldo will pose problems for whoever tries to mark him and Germany’s center backs have been less than stellar. Portugal’s only real drawback is its goalie, Ricardo and the lack of top-flight striker. However, Ronaldo and the center defense pairing of Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho make up for that. Throw in all the attacking options Portugal has in the midfield and it should be able to put the pressure on Germany if it continues to attack like it did in its first two matches.

Portugal 2, Germany 0

Croatia vs. Turkey

While Turkey needed three goals in the final 14 minutes to beat the Czech Republc and advance to the quarters, Croatia looked impressive in winning its group. Luka Modric has looked like a future star. The Tottenham Hotspur recruit is the key to Croatia’s attack. However, Croatia has gotten balanced play all over the field and showed discipline in its attack and shape. Its play has been a pleasant surprise in the tournament.

I don’t know much about Turkey, but Nihat and Hamit Altintop and Arda Turan are all classy players. Nihat can finish; look at what he did to the Czech’s. However, Turkey’s goalkeeper Volkan Demirel has been suspended two matches after receiving a red card for shoving Jan Koller in the previous match.

Croatia 1, Turkey 0

Netherlands vs. Russia

So far Netherlands has been the team of the tournament. They won their three group games by a 9-1 combines score, including demolishing France and Turkey before the substitutes mopped up Romania. The Dutch have been a joy to watch and Marco van Basten has pulled all the right strings. The 4-2-3-1 formation has worked to perfection allowing the Dutch to counter-attack with deadly precision.

Russia got to the quarters with a superb 2-0 win over Sweden in which influential playmaker Andrei Arshavin returned, and scored. Manager Guus Hiddink will be eager to get a win over his home country.

However, the Dutch are flying high and as long as they keep the pedal pushed down, Wesley Sneijder and company will be too much.

Netherlands 3, Russia 1

Spain vs. Italy

Spain was probably the second most impressive team in the group stages behind the Netherlands. Italy was disappointing, but did what it had to, like usual, to advance. Normally I would pick Italy to advance with a gritty win as Spain’s label of an underachieving side grows some more, but with midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso out because of suspension due to yellow cards I can’t see the Italian midfield matching the likes of Xavi, Fabregas, Iniesta, Senna, Xabi Alonso or whoever else Luis Aragones throws out.

Also, David Villa has been in scorching form and looks settled in his partnership with Fernando Torres. Meanwhile Luca Toni has not looked as dangerous as he did this past season with Bayern Munich and a consistent second option in attack has not been found.

Spain 2, Italy 1

Well, what do you think?


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