First of all, what a week of knockout soccer it was. Monday 28th June 2021 has to go down as the greatest single day in the history of knockout soccer. Two epic matches of exciting attacking play, drama and tension, with a shock as well. Switzerland, who are in their own right, a very good team, knocked out tournament favourites France in a fantastic match of football, in a penalty shootout.
The previous match Spain versus Croatia was even better, with Spain giving their best performance of the tournament so far, but a calamitous own goal from a mix-up between Pedri and goalkeeper, Unai Simon in the first and a late, spirited rally from Croatia leading to two late goals from Mislav Orsic and Mario Pasalic, meant that the Spain versus Croatia was a 3-3 draw in normal time. Spain won after extra time 5-3, with goals from the much maligned Alvaro Morata and substitute Mikel Oyarzabal. Simon, made up for his awful mistake in the first half with some saves.
Switzerland versus Spain.
Krestovsky Stadium, St. Petersburg. 2nd July 2021. 5:00 pm.
Switzerland gave the best match that I saw of them with a win after penalties, against tournament favourites for France. It was truly a fantastic ninety minutes from Switzerland, and Switzerland should have won in it that time, but for a penalty miss and some fantastic individual goals from France who hit three goals in a twenty minute golden patch. Switzerland showed fantastic team spirit, getting two late goals in an impressive rally.
Switzerland have a good, solid team, made up of players who play in England, Germany and Italy. Players like the much maligned Granit Xhaka and bit time Liverpool player, Xherdan Shaqiri, being better players for Switzerland then for their club teams. Switzerland don’t have significant weaknesses, but they don’t have any position that stands out. If there was a weakness, it might be up front, Breel Embolo looks in many ways a good player, but his goal scoring record is poor (6 goals in 47 caps. (Source:Breel Embolo – Wikipedia )). I just don’t have a feeling that any Swiss front man could win a team a tight game.
Spain have been good, but very frustrating to watch in this tournament. A combination of slow attacking play and poor finishing meant that Spain drew group games against inferior teams such as Sweden and Poland. The only match that Spain have won in normal time, was a 5-0 win against a hapless Slovakia team. The bringing in of experienced players with leadership capability such as Sergio Busquets and Caesar Azpilicueta, have improved the Spanish team from their opening two matches.
Verdict: This is really a tough match to call. Both teams started the tournament quite poorly, but have significantly improved over the last two matches. Spain are possibly a more talented team then Switzerland, but Switzerland are a more experienced team. I think that Switzerland’s experience as a team, could tip the match their way.
Score: Switzerland 2 Spain 1 (AET).
Belgium versus Italy.
Allianz Arena. Munich. 2nd July 2021. 8:00 pm.
Belgium are the only team so far to win all of their matches in ninety minutes. Belgium have looked a seasoned team, getting the results with a team who knows how to win matches with a handful of world class players. Injury scares to Belgium’s two playmakers Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne will tell a lot about how Belgium line-up. Belgium have capable replacements in Carrasco and Mertens, but are just not of the same class. Belgium have a capable and experienced three man backline, but Belgium’s backline is vulnerable to a fast attack. Thibault Courtois is an agile man-mountain of a goalkeeper, which means that it takes a very good shot on goal to beat him.
Belgium will also be dangerous up front, with Romelu Lukaku being among the best centre forwards in the world. Lukaku is a combination of dangerous finisher, but is also an excellent leader of the line and will sacrifice his goal scoring, for the team, in a tight match.
Italy have the best team to watch so far, and look like the team along with today’s opponents Belgium and England most capable of winning the European Championship. Italy were given a scare in the Round of 16 against Austria, being quite lucky to win, but these are the type of performances that win tournaments like the Euros. Italy’s two goals came from substitutes, Federico Chiesa (In my opinion, Italy’s best attacking player) and Matteo Pessina. Italy are another team, who are in solid in almost every position on the field, with Donnarruma being one of the best goalkeepers, good defence, but Italy’s best position is their midfield, with Jorginho, Barella and Locatelli, being impressive both as individuals and a collective.
Verdict: Belgium 1 Italy 2. This is another really tough match to call, with both teams being impressive in the tournament in different ways. I think that this match will be dictated by the team that scores first. Belgium have shown that they are willing to play a defensive game for at least an entire half of soccer, to protect their lack of pace in the backline. Italy is my opinion, better in midfield, then Belgium, and they have proven that substitutions don’t necessary weaken Italy and that might help shade the match for Italy.
Czech Republic versus Denmark.
Olympic Stadium. Baku. 3rd July 2021. 5:00 pm.
Czech Republic have been a surprise package in this tournament, beating the Netherlands quite comfortably in the Round of 16. It is a hard match to read into, Czech Republic did well, but the Dutch were truly awful after going down to ten men. The Czechs are a big, strong, but technically able team, who will give anyone a game and have in Patrick Schick, an in form centre forward. Even so, I think that the Czechs are the second weakest team left, and won’t go much further.
Denmark have had a tournament so far that would test any groups of players mentally. Denmark’s best individual player, Christian Eriksen collapsed due to cardiac arrest in Denmark’s opening match against Finland. Denmark gave Belgium a tough match, but a combination of poor finishing and Belgium’s better individuals won the match for Belgium. Denmark scored heavy victories over Russia and Wales, getting four goals in both games. Russia were hopeless throughout the tournament and Denmark still had to get two late goals to put them away. Denmark were impressive in their four goal victory against Wales. Denmark are another good team, with good players in every position on the pitch, without being world class, especially up front.
Czech Republic 2 Denmark 3. I think that Denmark are a better team then the Czech Republic, but Czechs will put it up to them. Both teams have goals in them and there is a good chance of a high scoring match. Denmark to shade it in an evenish game.
England versus Ukraine.
Stadio Olympico. Rome. 3rd June 2021. 8:00 pm.
England have been quietly getting the job done in the European Championships 2020, picking up three wins and a draw, not conceding a goal in these four matches. This is a more solid England team, then previous incarnations (I think England have had more talented squads, especially in the 00s, but this is a more solid team). There is still room to improve up front, but England, despite their cagey are making and taking enough chances to win tight matches. Raheem Sterling is currently England’s most dangerous attacker, with movement off the ball, and goals. Harry Kane has not had a good tournament, but a goal against Germany should settle him.
Ukraine are in my opinion the weakest of the quarter finalists. Ukraine were beaten by both the Netherlands and Austria in the group stages, with Netherlands and Austria looking better. Ukraine’s best performance was in the Round of 16 against Sweden, winning 2-1 after extra time, in an exciting match. Zinchenko getting a great goal for Ukraine. However, England have held three better teams then Ukraine goalless, so I don’t expect much exchange.
Verdict: England 2 Ukraine 0. England will get the job done, and will beat Ukraine comfortably, with another gear to go. England’s remarkable defensive record will continue for them.
(C). Ferdia O’Mahony 2021.
Euro 2020. Predictions for 23rd June 2021.
Euro 2020. Predictions for June 22nd 2021.
3 thoughts on “European Championship 2020 Quarter Finals. Previews.”
big calls again Ferd. Lets see!
Spain may be better than they have demonstrated so far but ……they have to show it.