Huge upheavals, historic victories and goals galore – Euro 2020 is a tournament that never stops giving.
Few could have predicted that the quarter-final roster would look like this, after Switzerland stunned world champion France and the Czech Republic knocked out a team from the Netherlands that had impressed many in the stages of groups.
England ended a 55-year-old hoodoo by finally beating Germany in the round of 16 of a major competition, while Ukraine secured a spectacular overtime winner to reserve their place in the quarter-finals of the European Championship for the first time in its history.
The Euro 2020 quarter-finals matches will take place on July 2 and 3.
Belgium vs. Italy
Among the favorites to win Euro 2020 before a ball is kicked, Belgium has so far lived up to the hype at these championships.
Roberto Martínez’s team reached the quarter-finals with very little fuss and they did so without so far being able to count on both a fit Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, two of his most important players.
Both players are unlikely to be fit enough to play in Friday’s quarter-final against Italy after injuring themselves in the impressive round of 16 victory over defending champions Portugal.
Luckily for Martínez, Belgium’s “golden generation” are blessed with a lot of depth and he can fall back on Dries Mertens, Yannick Carrasco and Thorgan Hazard – Eden’s brother – who scored the game-winning goal against Portugal.
Many have said this tournament is the last chance for this talented but aging group of players – currently ranked as the No.1 team in the world – to become the first to win silverware for their country.
Conversely, few expected Italy to shine like before the tournament, but Roberto Mancini’s side have become one of the most entertaining teams to watch at Euro 2020.
The boundless energy of Leonardo Spinazzola and Manuel Locatelli gave this team an exciting offensive advantage, while the return from injury from Marco Verratti gave the midfielder increased control.
The decisive 2-1 overtime win over Austria, by far the most severe test they’ve faced so far, proved that classic defensive DNA still exists in this version of Italy, even though the overall team looks different from previous years.
Granted, this team wouldn’t have been able to achieve their current 31-game unbeaten streak – eclipsing their own 82-year unbeaten record – without loyal defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.
Ukraine vs England
Could football really come home?
Having finally overtaken their former German rival, this is arguably England’s greatest chance to win a major trophy since winning the World Cup in 1966.
His journey to a potential final seems considerably easier than for teams across the board, but if there’s one thing that last week’s shock results taught Euro 2020 fans, it’s is not to take victory for granted when playing an underdog.
Head coach Gareth Southgate echoed those sentiments in his post-match interview, saying his players had already started to focus on Ukraine once they returned to the locker room after Tuesday’s victory against Germany.
Southgate’s opponent, legendary former Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko, was understandably optimistic about his side’s chances of entering Saturday’s clash.
After all, this group of players has already made history by going this far.
“England are a great team – they have a deep bench, an exceptional coaching staff and we are fully aware of how difficult this game is,” Shevchenko told reporters after Ukraine’s 2-1 victory in overtime against Sweden.
“They are incredibly difficult to face but their strength shouldn’t scare us. It should motivate us because anything is possible in football, as in life, and we will do everything to give our fans even more reasons.”
This is only the second time in Ukraine’s history that she has reached the quarter-finals of a major competition – she also made the last eight at the World Cup in 2006 – but all the pressure will be on England to win in Rome and return. at Wembley where he could face the Czech Republic or Denmark in the semi-finals.
Czech Republic vs. Denmark
After Christian Eriksen’s shocking collapse and the emotional reaction of his teammates, Denmark provided the heartwarming story of Euro 2020 as they advanced to the knockout stages.
It seemed unlikely after defeats to Finland and Belgium in their first two group stage matches, but Russia’s 4-1 hammering and Finland’s 2-0 loss to Belgium secured their place in the round of 16.
Many thought the game against Wales would be a close affair – it was anything but that.
The Danes struggled, scoring a hugely impressive 4-0 victory to herald his arrival in the final stages of Euro 2020.
Danish players spoke of the emotional toll of returning to end the game of Eriksen’s collapse the same afternoon, with several squad members criticizing UEFA for not allowing them to play the game the next day .
Given the remarkable mental toughness of this group, Danish fans may have already allowed themselves to dream of a repeat of Euro ’92, when the national team won their only major international trophy to date.
However, a team from the Czech Republic who have won one of the biggest surprises of the tournament so far is waiting for them.
The Czechs were hugely impressive in their 2-0 round of 16 victory over the Netherlands, a team many believed would be going for a deep run at Euro 2020 after an impressive performance in the group stage.
Striker Patrik Schick has been one of Euro 2020’s most notable players and is the competition’s remaining top scorer; another goal against Denmark would place him tied with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the Golden Shoe standings.
These teams will certainly be delighted to play against each other, and for both of them it will seem like a very realistic chance to advance to the semi-finals.
Switzerland vs Spain
These teams have taken part in two of the biggest European Championship matches we are likely to see.
Trailing 3-1 against France with just nine minutes to go, Switzerland leveled off somewhat and knocked out the reigning world champion 5-4 on penalties, the golden boy of French football, Kylian Mbappé, missing the decisive penalty.
The Swiss certainly did not have the chance to spend this match against France; they displayed a poise and quality that matched that of their more illustrious opponent across the court.
It was a remarkable comeback, seemingly impossible, and Switzerland will now rightly believe they can beat any team they come up against.
The next opponent, Spain, missed the group stage somewhat until a goal against his own disastrous side by Slovak goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka opened the floodgates for the first time at Euro 2020.
Luis Enrique’s side appeared to maintain that confidence until their final game against Croatia, opening a 3-1 lead with less than five minutes to go.
However, Spain’s soft underbelly was once again on display as Croatia scored twice in the dying moments to force a tie in overtime.
Much-maligned striker Álvaro Morata, who had had a scorching time in front of goal so far, managed a brilliant volley to put Spain back before Mikel Oyarzabal sealed the victory.
The oddsmakers now have Spain as their second favorite to win Euro 2020 behind England, and although questions remain about the squad as a whole, 10 goals scored in the last two games will be enough to give any defense of the opposition of sleepless nights.
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