In the second knockout game of Euro 2016 we will witness an all-British encounter that is likely to be a game where we see two sides not committing many players into the opposition’s third.
For Wales and Northern Ireland, this is the first ever time any of them have reached the European Championships and they find themselves facing each other in a round of 16 match where the winner will face Hungary or Belgium in the quarter-finals. Northern Ireland go into this game as slight favourites as they are one place about their opposition in the newest FIFA world rankings.
Wales got to this stage through winning Group B. They were victorious in two of the three games they played scoring six and conceding on average a goal a game. Northern Ireland were one of the four third-place teams that qualified for the knockout rounds. The faced tough opposition in Germany and Poland but one win against a poor Ukraine side was enough to send them through.
A couple of Wales players will have to be careful as both Ben Davies and Sam Vokes are one booking away from suspension. Meanwhile, for Northern Ireland, four players currently face the same risk with Craig Cathcart, Stuart Dallas, Jonny Evans and Jamie Ward all previously picking up a yellow card in this competition. Neither team has any injury concerns going into this game and therefore have a full squad to choose from.
Wales Predicted Line-Up: Hennessey; Gunter, Chester, Williams, Davies, Taylor; Ledley, Ramsey, Allen; Bale, Robson-Kanu
Northern Ireland Predicted Line-Up: McGovern; Hughes, McAuley, Cathcart, J.Evans; Ward, C.Evans, Norwood, Davis, Dallas; Lafferty
In my opinion, Bale is obviously Wales’ key man. Bale is one of the best players in the world at the moment and he has the ability to win a game on his own. The Northern Ireland defence will have to be on top form to be able to stop the Welsh wizard.
For me, Northern Ireland’s Steven Davis is going to be key if Northern Ireland want to progress here. The midfielder will have to pull the strings for Northern Ireland and play balls into the Welsh box that will trouble the Wales defence.
I predict that the game will finish 2-0 to Wales. I believe Bale will be too much for the Northern Ireland defence, scoring both of the goals to give Wales a win in the round of sixteen and set themselves up with a game on Friday night in Lille against either Hungary or Belgium.