Euro 2016: Italy, Germany & France face fight to reach final

© Jean-Paul Pelissier
The Euro 2016 quarter-finals get underway on Thursday and will see some fascinating matchups, including world champions Germany against Italy and host-nation France versus surprise package Iceland.

Eight nations remain at Euro 2016 as the tournament enters the final stages. Sixteen teams have been eliminated, including England and Spain – who both crashed out on Monday at the hands of Iceland and Italy respectively.

Roy Hodgson's Three Lions lost 2-1 to minnows Iceland, who are competing in their first major tournament, at the Allianz Riviera in Nice with goals from Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson sending their side through to the last eight, where they will meet France at the Stade de France in Paris on Sunday.

France, who topped Group A ahead of Switzerland, Albania and Romania, is yet to be beaten in the tournament, and two goals from Antoine Griezmann gave Les Bleus a 2-1 win over Republic of Ireland in their own last-16 clash in Lyon on Sunday.

The French will be optimistic of reaching the semi-finals for the fourth time in their history. France have won the European Championship twice, first in 1984 and then in 2000, but have exited at the quarter-final stage twice in the last three tournaments.

France or Iceland will play Germany or Italy in the semi-finals in Marseille on July 7.

Arguably the tie of the round, Germany vs Italy sees the current world champions come up against arguably the team of the tournament so far. The Italians topped Group E ahead of Belgium, Sweden and Republic of Ireland, with Antonio Conte's side going on to beat reigning European champions Spain in their last-16 match on Monday.

Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pelle scored the goals as the Azzurri ran out 2-0 winners over Vicente del Bosque's side, who were bidding to win three consecutive European Championships, having won in both 2008 and 2012.

It was the first time Spain had lost a Euro finals game by more than one goal since 1988, with Italy now having lost just one of its previous 19 games at the Euros in which it has scored first.

Germany can also boast impressive stats, having so far kept a clean sheet in every one of its four Euro 2016 matches. Joachim Low's side remains unbeaten in the competition, seeing off Slovakia 3-0 in their last-16 clash.

Along with Italy, Poland has the joint-second best defensive record behind the Germans. Adam Nawalka's side conceded its first goal at Euro 2016 in their last-16 tie with Switzerland, with Xherdan Shaqiri scoring an unbelievable overhead kick to tarnish their defensive record. The Poles had the last laugh, however, beating the Swiss 5-4 on penalties to set up a quarter-final matchup with Portugal.

The Portuguese have a record of going far at European Championships, despite having never won the competition. In their six previous tournaments, they have finished as semi-finalists three times, quarter-finalists twice and runners-up in 2004. They are now guaranteed at least another last-eight finish, with Ricardo Quaresma's header enough to beat Croatia in the first knockout round.

The other quarter-final match sees Gareth Bale's Wales take on Eden Hazard's Belgium on Friday, July 1.

Wales, like Iceland, is competing in its first ever European Championship, and finished top of Group B ahead of British rivals England. Real Madrid's Bale scored three goals in three games in the group stages, making him the joint-top scorer at the Euros with French attacker Griezmann and Spanish striker Alvaro Morata.

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Chris Coleman's side saw off the challenge of Northern Ireland in the last-16, with Belgium trouncing Hungary 4-0 in its own knockout tie. Chelsea winger Eden Hazard was the star of the show, scoring a brilliant solo goal and putting in a man-of-the-match performance against the Group F winners.

Wales or Belgium will play either Poland or Portugal in the other semi-final match on Wednesday, July 6.

Euro 2016 Quarter-Finals:
Poland vs Portugal, Thursday, June 30
Wales vs Belgium, Friday, July 1
Germany vs Italy, Saturday, July 2
France vs Iceland, Sunday, July 3

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