*Germany play Slovakia, Belgium face Hungary
Hosts France continue their quest to win a third European title with a second round clash against Ireland in Lyon today. France have had a week to prepare for today’s match, and could be fresher than their opponents, having rested several key players in their final group game. The Republic of Ireland, however, arrive in Lyon battle-hardened – with this effectively their second “knock-out” game in the space of five days.
France are set to recall key players such as Dimitri Payet, N’Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi, who were rested in the draw against Switzerland as they look to secure a quarter-final berth. Ireland are somewhat motivated by revenge, as a Thierry Henry handball led to the goal that eliminated Ireland from World Cup qualification 10 years ago, while sending the French through.
Martin O’Neill’s men knew nothing but a win would do against Italy last Wednesday and Robbie Brady’s header sent them through. It is the first time they have progressed beyond the group stage at a European Championship finals, and their first knock-out game at a major tournament since the 2002 World Cup.
Meanwhile Mario Gomez is set to lead the line for Germany against Slovakia in their Euro 2016 last 16 knock-out match. The 30-year-old striker scored the only goal as the 2014 World Cup winners beat a stoic Northern Ireland 1-0 in their final Group C match to set up a knockout clash with the side that shocked them 3-1 in a pre-tournament warm-up game.
Manager Joachim Low praised Gomez for his contribution last time out and is set to continue with him up top with Mario Gotze in behind on the left.
Asked what the goal meant to him, Gomez, who missed out on Brazil 2014, said: “A lot. I am finally in my best form and know I am capable of finishing those chances we get. It’s great when your work results in a goal, but once again I never thought for a second about winning the Golden Boot – I just want to win the Euro. That’s all that matters to me.”
Germany progressed into the last 16 after topping their group on goal difference. Slovakia meanwhile secured their place in the knockout stages as a best third-placed side following a 0-0 draw against England in their final Group B game.
Germany have won 13 of their last 16 games at major tournaments, drawing two and losing one. Joachim Low’s side has averaged 71.9% possession over their first three games, the highest ratio so far at Euro 2016.
In the last game of the day, Belgium face surprise Group F winners Hungary. Belgium manager has said Marc Wilmots he would rather play England or Spain than Hungary.
“We would have nothing to lose against those teams. The press acts like the game against Hungary will be a walkover,” Wilmots said. “Did people not see them play against Portugal? There are no more small teams in international football.”
Hungary are 100-1 outsiders to win the tournament and captain Balazs Dzsudzsak said the whole team are delighted with how their tournament has gone thus far.
“At the moment everything seems like a dream, and we’re always asked after the matches what we feel,” he told Uefa.com. “I think our answers are too simple because we are still affected by what happened in Budapest and in Hungary – 15 million people went out of their minds.”
Mousa Dembele and Yannick Carrasco are in contention for Belgium, who will be hoping Everton striker Romelu Lukaku will continue his goal scoring form.