Part of the fun of loving sport in the feel good factor when something you predict comes true. There must be some smug guy sat (probably in Ohio somewhere) rubbing his hands after the Cleveland Cavaliers came back from 3-1 down against Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals, the first team ever to achieve that comeback result, you know, JUST AS HE PREDICTED THEY WOULD! You know his friends will never hear the last of it. So part of the excitement at Euro 2016 so far has been the predictability of the unpredictability.
Who'd have thought England would lose to Iceland? Well, everyone in England will have had a negative mindset after the failings of the previous tournaments, whilst the Icelanders were on a high after taking 5 points from their group games despite being the smallest nation ever to take part. The two combined perfectly to give a result which few would have predicted but which really surprised nobody. Iceland have a good team; whilst player for player they are weaker then England, they have a clear tactic and style which works. England leave the tournament with no idea what their best team is or who would be the best person to run it, so it is hardly a surprise they were unable to break down the Icelandic defences.
England's failings are in stark contrast with the success of the Welsh, but whilst not many would have predicted them being quite so dominant shouldn't we all have seen their success coming? Gareth Bale is only one small part of a very effective team with a rare tactical set up which unnerves other sides. The success of Neil Taylor and Chris Gunter on each wing have been unprecedented and the Welsh had a very strong qualifying campaign before the tournament, taking four points off the world number one side in Belgium. The players have played together for a while too, with most of them from the same under-19 group. Again, maybe the unpredictable shouldn't have been so unexpected.
Poland have two of the best strikers in Europe based on the numbers they put up in their domestic leagues over the course of last season, but neither has come to life in the Euros yet. With the expectations of a nation on his shoulders, Robert Lewandowski has failed to really hit his Bayern heights, whilst Arkudiasz Milik squandered numerous chances to put the Germans to the sword. Excitingly for Polish fans the team have carried the superstars to a quarter final with Portugal, which is a tricky one to predict. If the two front men find their form it could be embarrassing for the Portuguese; having said that, who expected them to beat in form Croatia after struggling to finish third in their group? Well, maybe that one was simply a case of the favourites not quite turning up on the day.
So how can we get better at predicting? Well, for one thing ignore the "experts" and listen to the experts. So many TV pundits are paid to give their opinion because people know their face, not necessarily because they know anything about the actual game going on. Unless our information starts coming from the real experts- the statisticians, journalists and professionals whose livelihoods are based solely on studying the game- then we can't expect our quality of information to improve. So go and follow Opta and Statista, find journalists for each country before making a decision, and make sure you know more about it than anyone else. Then you can be just as wrong as everyone else, but at least you can prove you aren't wrong for lack of effort...
I personally expect to see Italy, Poland, France and Belgium in the semi-finals. On the other hand, I can see Wales or Iceland causing an upset and Portugal turning up against Poland. Oh and the Germans are always strong, even if the Italians are their bogey team and currently on form. So my prediction is that all eight teams will make the semis.
See, this prediction game is easy! Enjoy the matches.