Football: Euro 2020 R16 and QF

The final eight teams are ready to play for a place in the semi-finals with the quarters about to take place today and tomorrow.

Quarter finals

Switzerland vs Spain
Belgium vs Italy
Czech Republic vs Denmark
Ukraine vs England

What happened in the Round of 16?

With the groups completed, it was time for the real competition to finally begin. The teams knew they had to win or go home, well at least some of them did.

The knockouts began with a masterclass from the Danes, who destroyed the Welsh. The game was never even close. Wales were left complaining about the foul on Keifer Moore for the second goal – which was a foul – but they had so many chances to deal with the situation. After the game, Wales were complaining about their schedule. Funnily enough they weren’t mentioning any of these concerns prior to their elimination. In fact, they managed to play both Switzerland and Turkey in Baku, whereas Switzerland and Turkey had to travel between Rome and Baku. Both those nations were their biggest rivals in the group, giving Wales an advantage ergo shut up complaining.

Italy found it tough against Austria but their class shone through in the end. They were able to get through with a couple of goals in extra time, much to the relief of coach Roberto Mancini.

On Sunday, came the first shock of the round with the Czechs eliminating the Dutch. The game wasn’t very interesting, with a lot of half chances. It was a five minute spell in the second half that decided the game. Donyell Malen went through on goal with all the time in the world, but couldn’t even get a shot away. A mere four minutes later, the Netherlands were down to 10 men with Matthijs de Ligt being given his marching orders. The Czech onslaught began after that, and the rest is history. Dutch coach Frank de Boer resigned after the game, knowing full well he would be relieved of his duties.

The later kickoff saw Portugal go behind to a swirling strike from Thorgan Hazard. They then dominated the game, creating chance after chance without scoring. The best opportunity fell to Ruben Dias who headed straight at Courtois. The win came at a price for the Belgians with both Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne going off injured.

Monday was one of the best days of knockout football that I can remember. Two games, 14 goals, a penalty shoot-out and an upset. Spain (vs Croatia) and France (vs Switzerland) both went 1-0 behind, then lead 3-1 before conceding two late goals to end up playing extra time. Spain managed to make amends and go through before the lottery of a penalty shoot-out. Tournament favourite France weren’t so lucky. They were eliminated after Kylian Mbappe missed the only penalty ending a poor tournament for him

The final two games were kickstarted by the rivalry between England and Germany. German wastefulness cost them badly as they were given plenty of opportunities. The English midfield kept losing the ball in transition, but Havertz, Werner and Muller weren’t scoring. Eventually, Raheem Sterling (who else!) scored for the Three Lions, putting them ahead. Germany had a huge chance in the second half as Muller went through on goal only to drag it wide. As the game was coming to an end, Harry Kane finally scored his first goal, confirming Englands first win over Germany at a tournament since 1966.

In the second game, Ukraine won in extra time thanks to the latest recorded goal in finals tournament history, beating the previous record held by Michel Platini by around two minutes.

Results (My Predictions):
Wales 0 DENMARK 4
(Wales 1 Denmark 2)

ITALY 2 Austria 1 ET (Italy 4 – Austria 0)

Netherlands 0 CZECH REPUBLIC 2 (Netherlands 2 – Czech Republic 0)

BELGIUM 1 Portugal 0 (Belgium 3 – Portugal 1)

Croatia 3 SPAIN 5 ET (Croatia 1 Spain 1 (3-4 Pens))

France 3 SWITZERLAND 3 PEN 4-5 (France 3 – Switzerland 1)

ENGLAND 2 Germany 0(England 1 – Germany 1 (2-4 Pens))

Sweden 1 UKRAINE 2 ET (Sweden 2 – Ukraine 1)

Quarter Finals

Switzerland vs Spain

The winners of the two most exciting games from the last round meet first which should mean fireworks, but not if recent history is anything to take into consideration. The last four matches have finished one-one on a couple of occasions, with each team winning a game one-nil, too. Switzerland will be without their captain Granit Xhaka which will be a huge loss. The Arsenal man has been magnificent in midfield, helping Switzerland to their first ever finals knockout win since the 1954 FIFA World Cup. Spain will be confident as long as they are not too wasteful.

Prediction: Switzerland 0 Spain 2

Belgium vs Italy

Belgium are in another tough game, this time against the Italians. There are question marks over the availability of Hazard and De Bruyne which will be a huge loss for the Belgians. However, with the likes of Dries Mertens and Yannick Carrasco, they have good enough back-up players. Even the highly rated youngster, Jeremy Doku could come on if needed.

Italy will have Giorgio Chiellini back after missing the last two games. The tough tackling defender will be renewing his Serie A battle with Romelu Lukaku which will be a great watch. Roberto Mancini is also likely to drop Domenico Berardi for Federico Chiesa, something he should have done a while ago if truth be told.

Italy will go into the game as favourites, but the manner of the victory Belgium got against Portugal makes you think that this may be their year.

Prediction: Belgium 3 Italy 2

Czech Republic vs Denmark

The Czechs have already done incredibly well to reach this far. Even though they have a good record against Denmark, they haven’t beaten the Danes in the last six games. The two nations have played 12 times, with seven games ending in a draw. Denmark will likely drop Dolberg, who scored twice against Wales, as Poulsen is available again. Czech Republic will need to decide whether to keep Kaderabek at left-back or go back to Boril who returns after serving a one match suspension.

Prediction: Czech Republic 1 Denmark 2

Ukraine vs England

This will be England’s first Euro 2020 game away from Wembley. They will travel to Rome to play Ukraine who are another nation performing beyond expectations. England are the only nation yet to concede a goal in the tournament, which will be less likely to change if Andriy Yarmolenko is unavailable for Ukraine. The Ukraine and West Ham player has been excellent all tournament and is vital to a lot of the things Ukraine do in the final third.

England will likely rely on Raheem Sterling again for inspiration, especially with their fans not expected to travel to Rome. England and Ukraine have only played once in the finals of this tournament which England won one-nil, in 2012. Last two meetings ended in boring draws. It’s going to be interesting to see how the officials control the game, as they are all German…I hope they don’t hold a grudge…

Prediction: England 1 Ukraine 0

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