Many doubted that England could even escape the group when Roy Hodgson selected his squad and now a few weeks later the Three Lions are preparing to meet the Italians on Sunday having finished top of the pile.

Finishing ahead of France was a massive result as it means that England avoid Spain in the last eight, but the last thing that Hodgson can do is underestimate the Italians. The bottom line is that England can progress to the semi-finals and I’ve seen enough from the past five matches to support that belief.

I expect Hodgson to stick with the same starting line-up that we saw in Donetsk unless Ashley Young fails to recover from his knock. Ukraine really tested England at times and another excellent defensive performance will be needed on Sunday.

Italy are no mugs and they’ve proved plenty of people wrong already at the tournament. Coming into the Euros under similar circumstances to World Cup 2006 the Italians have once again pulled together to thrive on the biggest stage.

Mario Balotelli should get the nod to start from manager Cesare Prandelli after his goal against the Irish. The Man City striker also knows plenty about Joe Hart and co and this could be the game that ignites his tournament if he can stay away from controversy. Both teams look capable of scoring and the draw after 90 minutes at 3.15 on BETDAQ appeals. It’ll be tight but I fancy England to reach the last four in extra time.

The first quarter-final sees Czech Republic take on Portugal and I have not been overly impressed with Michal Bílek’s troops. Portugal looked much improved against the Dutch and most of that was down to an inspired Cristiano Ronaldo. He looks to have found form at the right time and I’m happy to back the Portuguese to get the job done in 90 minutes.

Germany have been excellent so far and they usually save their best for the knock-out stages, which is a scary thought. The Germans have a wonderful squad to pick from and they’ll eventually grind the Greeks down. I don’t expect Greece to change their tactics and a counter-attack or set-piece is the only real chance they have of scoring. It’s three wins from three and a fourth should be no problem for Joachim Low’s side.

Spain versus France has the makings of a classic. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of the French yet and I’m still scratching my head as to how Sweden beat them – baring that strike from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Spain finished in first place without hitting top gear and have showed glimpses of what they’re capable of. They are so good on the ball that the likes of Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery could be starved of any meaningful possession and the reigning champions are worth backing at 1.87 on BETDAQ.

Betting on Betdaq – Alan’s Punts:
England v Italy: Back England to qualify at 2.02
Czech Republic v Portugal: Back Portugal at 1.8
Germany v Greece: Back Germany at 1.36
Spain v France: Back Spain at 1.87

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