EURO 2020 – ahead of the quarter-finals

30.06.2021

The European Championship 2020 has already dished up great football and some surprising results, particularly with reigning world champions France and European champions Portugal having been eliminated in the last 16. Luckily, less excitement has been seen on the coronavirus pandemic front – no surge in cases in the 11 host countries, nor massive infections within the playing squads have intruded up to now, posing an extra burden at the unprecedented pan-European tournament.

Actually, some host cities decided to allow more spectators into stadia than originally planned. Denmark, for example, eased lockdown rules just before the tournament started, increasing Copenhagen’s Parken stadium capacity to 25k. The UK government also approved boosting the capacity of London’s Wembley Stadium from 25% to 50% for the knockout stages, and to 75% (up to 60k spectators) for the semi-finals and final. However, several venues did not see their stadiums filled to the capacity allowance so far. For example, England’s home match vs Croatia saw an attendance of 18,500, compared to the allowed capacity of 22,500 at Wembley Stadium. Hungary’s 67k-seat Puskás Aréna, the only venue allowing for a full-house, saw an average of 55k spectators at the four matches it hosted.

The tournament has already seen some heavyweight ties, including France, Germany and Portugal playing against each other in their so-called “group of death”, as well as England beating Germany and Belgium overcoming defending champions Portugal in the last-16. In addition, the way Switzerland eliminated France and Spain beat Croatia created probably the best matchday in EURO’s history.

The upcoming quarterfinals promise further standout matches – hereby we provide a snapshot of the contenders in the last four ties.

Switzerland vs Spain (2 July, 18:00 CET, St Petersburg)

The two sides presented probably the best games of the tournament so far in their last-16 matches: Switzerland eliminated world champions France on penalties, while Spain reached the quarter-finals beating Croatia 5-3. Both games on Monday saw late goals overturning 3-1 deficits in extra time, and produced 14 goals in total – the day is widely referred to as probably the best matchday in EURO’s history.

The success of Switzerland over France is also a surprise, as the Swiss team had a slow start into the tournament and finished only 3rd in their group. On the other hand, they have a solid squad, with a majority of their players contracted by big-5-league clubs, and FIFA ranks the country 13th, right behind Germany.

Spain nominated only a 24-member squad to the tournament, which is also less star-studded than in recent tournaments, nevertheless has a great number of young talents. The younger and less experienced team had a rugged start, with two draws (against Sweden and Poland), before hammering Slovakia 5-0, and then overcoming Croatia in the last-16, scoring 10 goals in their last two matches.

Spain may win the tournament for a record 4th time, while the Swiss reached the quarter-finals now for the first time. 

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Belgium vs Italy (2 July, 21:00 CET, Munich)

Belgium entered the tournament as one of the top favourites, also leading world football according to FIFA’s confederation rankings. They have one of the oldest and most experienced teams – registering both the most international caps and goals by their players combined among all the 24 national teams of the tournament.

Italy’s relatively younger and less experienced squad was seen as one of the dark horses. Nevertheless, the rejuvenated Azzurri under Roberto Mancini have been a pleasant surprise, displaying spectacular and impressive football.

Both teams have won all their four matches so far. The quarter-final will be the first true heavyweight tie for Italy - so far they faced only less powerful opponents, overcoming Switzerland, Wales, Turkey and Austria, and conceded only one goal. Belgium passed through Denmark, Finland and Russia in the group stage, but had a tougher test in the last-16, beating title holders Portugal 1-0. By winning the tournament, Belgium could collect their first European Championship trophy, while Italy could snag their second.

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Czech Republic vs Denmark (3 July, 18:00 CET, Baku)

The two surprise sides of the tournament have to travel to Azerbaijan for their clash. They last met in the quarter-finals of EURO 2004, when the Czechs beat Denmark 3-0.

Denmark had a horrid start in their campaign, not only losing star player Christian Eriksen in their first match, but also losing their first two ties against Finland and Belgium. An emotional revival and win over Russia, however, sealed the second spot in their group, with three points only. In the last-16 they comfortably beat Wales 4-0.

The Czech Republic brought about one of the shocks of the tournament so far by stunning the Netherlands in the last-16. Along with Switzerland and Ukraine, they are also a team that finished only 3rd in their group, but managed to progress to the quarter-finals. Being ranked 40th in the world by FIFA, the Czechs are 30 places behind the Danes, and are also the lowest-ranked national team among the quarter-finalists.

The Danes already shocked the world by winning EURO 1992. Although they had not qualified, they were invited to partake in the eight-team tournament with just over a week's notice, as Yugoslavia, in a state of civil war, were not allowed to participate. The absolute underdogs, the Danes cut their holidays short and went on to become champions.

The Czechs have participated in 10 EURO tournaments – three as Czechoslovakia and seven as the Czech Republic. In 1976, as Czechoslovakia, they became European champions, while as Czech Republic they were runners-up at EURO 1996.

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Ukraine vs England (3 July, 21:00 CET, Rome) 

Having beaten Germany in the previous round, the revitalized England squad is seen by many as the favourites to win the European Championship, for the first time. While they have one of the youngest and least experienced squads, the power of their individual talents is proven by the fact that England boast some of the most valuable players of the tournament, and almost all of them play in the Premier League. Their chances are boosted by the fact that the semi-finals and the final are to be played on home ground, in London’s Wembley Stadium.

Ukraine progressed from the group stage with three points and a negative goal difference, and beat 10-man Sweden in the last 16 with a last-gasp winner to secure a quarter-final with England. This has been Ukraine’s best EURO achievement so far – they exited the tournament in the group phase in 2012 and  2016. Now they have a rather young, but more closely-knit team, with 10 players coming from the same club, domestic champions Dynamo Kyiv.