After a two-day break, the UEFA Euro 2020 returns this Friday with some excellent quarterfinal action.
The round of 16 served up plenty of excitement, unscripted drama and surprises. It was nothing like had been predicted. The qualified teams from Group F (group of death) were all eliminated at the first time of asking.
The defending champions, Portugal were edged out courtesy of a sensational Thorgan Hazard strike.
Strangely, the World Champions, France were dumped out by a resilient Switzerland side who were 3-1 down by the 80th minute. With the game stretched to penalties, Kylian Mbappe lost the deciding kick that sent Les Bleues home.
Germany was overpowered 2-0 by a compact and effective England team.
Another unexpected outcome was the Netherlands who were defeated by a Tomas Holes-inspired Czech Republic.
Croatia fought resiliently, coming from two goals down to take the tie to extra time but Alvaro Morata’s sublime finish was enough to guarantee La Roja a spot in the last eight.
Switzerland vs Spain
Switzerland will be brimming with confidence after defeating the World Champions in the most unimaginable way possible.
They have now gone from outright underdogs to favourites to lift the title. Also, a reason for their success can be linked to the core of the team having played together since they were teenagers.
La Nati, while being elated at qualifying for the quarterfinals of the Euro 2020 for the first time ever, will be wary of the Spaniards who they have only beaten once in 22 meetings.
Spain, meanwhile, advanced following an exhaustive game against Croatia. A match in which they had to win twice.
La Roja will look to win the title for the fourth time and become the most successful team at this tournament.
Morata seems to have shaken his early bluntness in front of goal after his excellent goal against the Croatians.
Luis Enrique has kept faith with the Juventus forward. He will be relying on his target man once again.
Both teams have not shown to be solid in defence. Hence, this fixture looks sure to rain goals.
Prediction: Over 2.5 goals
Belgium vs Italy
Two of the favourites of the Euro 2020 will face off this Friday. FIFA’s number one nation, Belgium take on Italy who is on a 31-match unbeaten run.
The Red Devils have won their last 14 matches, including 10 in the qualifiers. They managed a 1-0 win against Portugal in the Round of 16 after a 100% record in the group stage.
Time is running out on this generation of players who have been tagged the “Belgium Golden Generation.” 15 members of this squad were at the last Euro tournament.
Unfortunately, the second round win came at a cost as Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne will need to pass a late fitness test after limping off. Romelu Lukaku will look to lead the line for Roberto Martinez’s men.
Italy has been one of the eye-catching teams at this competition. The Azzurri also took out all comers in the group stage. However, they had to dig deep to overcome Austria.
Leonardo Spinazzola has been one of the key revelations for the Italian side from left-back. The Belgians will have their eyes on the Atalanta defender and his surging runs.
Very few margins will decide the outcome of this tie.
Czech Republic vs Denmark
The Czech Republic took out one of the favourites in emphatic fashion. Thomas Holes and Patrik Schick were the scorers on the night.
They have lost only two of their last 25 matches against Denmark. They will be inspired by their round of 16 progress when they take to the pitch tomorrow.
Jaroslav Silhavy’s side has been solid in midfield, led by West Ham’s Thomas Souchek. Their ability during setpieces will prove key.
Denmark, on the other hand, seems to have used the Christian Eriksen situation as motivation for subsequent matches.
They took out Wales in the second round comfortably, winning 4-0. Kasper Dolberg was in inspiring form as he scored a brace.
Denmark last reached the quarterfinals in 2004 and failed to qualify for the last two editions. They will be desperate to reach the last four.
Both teams will fancy their chances against one another. It is fair to expect both teams to fight keenly.
Prediction: Over 1.5 goals
Ukraine vs England
Ukraine has been one of the entertaining teams at this competition. Their first match against the Netherlands produced five goals and they came from two goals down before eventually losing.
Andriy Shevchenko’s men, however, qualified as one of the third-best teams.
Their second round progress had to be fought for after Sweden’s Emil Forsberg cancelled out Oleksandr Zinchenko’s opener. Artem Dovbyk scored in extra time to send them to the quarterfinals.
Ukraine faces a bigger test in England. They will attempting to break down a team that has not conceded so far in this competition.
England has slowly worked their way into becoming favourites. They only managed two goals in the group stages. However, Gareth Southgate’s changes yielded good results as they defeated Germany 2-0.
The introduction of Bukayo Saka in place of Phil Foden has brought changes. Harry Kane is also on a revival after scoring in the round of 16.
Harry Maguire has recovered from injury to beef up the defence with Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips have been assured in midfield.
The Three Lions will see this game as one they can win comfortably after overcoming the test of the previous round.
Prediction: England to qualify.