Ireland players celebrate with their fans at the final whistle after beating Italy to confirm their place in the round of 16, June 22, 2016Reuters

After a sometimes-breathless, sometimes-mundane, but-most-of-the-time-gripping group stage of Euro 2016, the final 16 have been selected. From the rubble of 24, 16 have emerged, ready to do battle to lift that European Championship title.

The final day of the group stages was a breathtaking one, with Hungary and Portugal playing the game of the tournament so far, while Republic of Ireland and Belgium struck what has been the norm in Euro 2016 – late goals – to confirm their places in the knockout rounds.

Cristiano Ronaldo made light of the criticism garnered after two forgettable outings in the first two matches with Portugal, scoring two vital equalising goals to squeeze Portugal through to the pre-quarterfinals. His first goal was a thing of beauty, a flick that only the Real Madrid superstar could have managed to pull off.

While Portugal will contemplate a difficult round of 16 match against Croatia, the Republic of Ireland joined England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the second round courtesy an 85th minute goal from Robbie Brady. The Irish fans, players and coaching staff, Roy Keane included, went crazy at the final whistle, not just for beating a strong team like Italy, but for making it to the round of 16, after losing all three of their matches in Euro 2012.

"I don't think I've ever been prouder," Ireland manager Martin O'Neill was quoted as saying by The Guardian. "I've had some great nights but this was very special. It all became very emotional at the end.

"We deserved to win the game but I must admit I thought the chance had gone when the goalkeeper saved from Wes Hoolahan (a one-on-one chance just a couple of minutes before the winner). It doesn't matter now though, it was a phenomenal win, a phenomenal night."

Hoping for more phenomenal nights will be the Republic of Ireland and the other 15 teams left in Euro 2016.

Here is the last 16 lineup:

Switzerland vs Poland

Wales vs Northern Ireland

Croatia vs Portugal

France vs Republic of Ireland

Germany vs Slovakia

Hungary vs Belgium

Italy vs Spain

England vs Iceland

Eliminated: Albania, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Czech Republic, Sweden, Austria.

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