Euro 2016: 5 talking points ahead of Wales v Northern Ireland face-off


Either Wales or Northern Ireland will advance to the last eight of Euro 2016 with victory at the Parc des Princes on Saturday.

The two tournament debutants meet in the round of 16 in Paris, with both countries confident a European exit can be avoided this weekend.

We take a look at the five talking points ahead of the clash.

1. Can Wales handle the "favourites" tag?

Wales manager Chris Coleman.

It is not often the Welsh head into a game with the bookies expecting them to progress.

And, if their qualification journey to France is anything to go by, it is not a status which sits easy with them.

They failed to beat Israel at home in September when victory would have guaranteed qualification, with a stalemate in that contest coming either side of less-than-convincing victories over Andorra.

Can Chris Coleman's side cope with the expectation that they are backed to advance?

2. Will Gareth Bale be stopped?

Gareth Bale.

The only man to score in each of the three group-stage games was absent during the 1-1 draw with the Northern Irish back in March.

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill had a twinge of regret that his team would not face the challenge of the 26-year-old Real Madrid forward then, though the last 16 of a major tournament is not an ideal testing ground.

Northern Ireland did an excellent job nullifying Robert Lewandowski and the Ukrainian wingers, though, something they will be encouraged by when faced with the world's most expensive player.

3. Who will dominate the midfield?

Steven Davis.

Northern Ireland have ceded at least 60 per cent of possession in each of their three contests so far while the Welsh had to weather an English storm in their only Group B defeat.

In Joe Allen and Steven Davis, both nations have an under-appreciated Premier League midfielder capable of dictating the play if given plenty of the ball.

"Possession doesn't win you a game, it depends what you do with it," Coleman said on Friday.

In that respect, both teams will be hoping Allen and Davis can set the tempo for their respective sides.

4. Should Northern Ireland shake things up?

Aaron Hughes.

The energy-sapping 1-0 loss to Germany in the same venue came four days before this fixture and a lot of O'Neill's unchanged team looked to be running on empty.

Defender Aaron Hughes, 36, may lack the legs to keep tabs on Bale from right-back, with Manchester United's Paddy McNair, 21, perhaps a more shrewd option, while switching Conor Washington for Kyle Lafferty should be another consideration.

5. Is it going to be a "Battle of Britain"?

Referee Martin Atkinson.

There were three red cards when these two met 12 years ago in a cauldron of noise created by 63,500 fans at the Millennium Stadium.

A loud, partisan crowd is expected in Paris too and cool heads will need to prevail.

England's Martin Atkinson is refereeing the game and that may ensure the type of full-blooded challenges that are viewed as unacceptable on the continent will be construed more leniently.