Euro 2020: Power-Ranking All 16 Teams in the Knockout Stage
We've been treated to an exceptional group stage at the European Championship, and the knockout round will be that much better.
For the most part, the big nations have done what we expected them to do, and given the expanded nature of the last two incarnations of UEFA's international centerpiece, we will see more teams (16 as opposed to eight in 2012 and prior) make it through to the single-elimination phase. A full-on round of 16 awaits with an excellent set of matches to dive into.
As we did ahead of the tournament beginning earlier this month, let's examine how the teams rank as we move into this next round, though we'll only be looking at those still in it this time.
One of the pitfalls of the expanded format of the tournament is that some unimpressive teams in the group stage can still qualify in third place. This is all well and good for the nations that get through but can be slightly frustrating for the fans.
Ukraine didn't really do much that would warrant advancing in the tournament and will find it extremely difficult to get any further. But hey, this is a first for the national team, so something has to be said for that!
For Ukraine to advance past the round of 16, it'll need to find inspiration from Andriy Yarmolenko. The West Ham United winger was instrumental in the win over North Macedonia with a goal and an assist.
Managed by the country's all-time leading goal scorer, Andriy Shevchenko, the Blue and Yellow could use his help on the pitch rather than the sideline but will have to settle for his tactical acumen in helping them past a tough Sweden side.
15. Czech Republic
It will be tough for Czech Republic in the knockout phase. Patrik Schick's stellar goals have been the main force behind its advancement from a third-place spot, but he was relatively quiet against England and may have a much tougher time against the Netherlands.
Beating a disappointing Scotland side 2-0 and drawing with Croatia 1-1 were positive results for Jaroslav Silhavy's team. The 1-0 loss to England even saw chances on both sides and a number of openings the Czechs couldn't exploit.
Taking advantage of those openings going forward will be important if this nation has any hopes of being a Cinderella of the tournament.
The Swiss managed to get out of Group A in third place with some decent play but nothing too great.
Despite dominating the run of play in the first group game against Wales, the Swiss were unable to see out the result and surrendered a second-half equalizer.
A last-match win against Turkey—who were arguably the disappointment of the group stage—kept Xherdan Shaqiri and Co. in the tournament, but for how much longer? They'll face pre-tournament favorite France in the next round and will need a monumental effort to advance to the quarterfinals.
The French have seemed a bit more susceptible than most people may have thought with some spotty defending in the last two matches of the group, but quality usually comes out on top. We'll see if Switzerland is able to put up a fight and cause some headaches for the favorites.
Austria gave us some good moments in the group stage and somewhat quietly won two of its three matches en route to a runners-up finish behind the Netherlands.
Along with the quiet nature of its progress to the round of 16, the team showed balance in group play with all four goals coming from four different scorers. That balance will be needed against an Italy side that has arguably been the best team in the tournament so far and has bludgeoned teams from all angles.
If the Austrians can keep their shape and play as a team, they may be in with a chance. It's hard to look past Italy, though.
In one of the surprises of the tournament so far, Sweden topped its group over 2012 champions Spain and only surrendered two goals in the process, and those came against a desperate Poland side in the final match of group play.
After getting matched up with a beatable Ukraine in the round of 16, the Swedes should be optimistic going forward. England or Germany awaits if they pass that test, which will be a more difficult match.
RB Leipzig's Emil Forsberg will need to lead the way and keep the side grounded as it looks to play spoiler in the latter stages of the tournament.
The harrowing scenes in the opening match with Christian Eriksen's cardiac arrest have looked to impact Denmark throughout the tournament. But amid his recovery, Denmark has played better.
Martin Braithwaite said after the loss to Belgium that the players were motivated to play for Eriksen, who had been in touch with the team from the hospital. A thrilling 4-1 victory over Russia punched the Red and White's ticket to the round of 16. Just look at what it means.
Wales is the next team on the list in the first knockout round. What a match this will be.
The two sides are quite equally balanced and should provide a quality contest with both sides looking to be aggressive from kickoff to earn a spot in the quarterfinals. Or, and hopefully not, it could be a negative and defensive affair where neither team wants to take a chance.
Both teams should be relishing the opportunity, and Denmark will fancy its chances to keep its emotional run going.
It wasn't as smooth a run to the knockout phase as we saw in 2016 from the Welsh, but they are 2-of-2 in their competitive history of making it this far, so that stands for something.
Gareth Bale continues to do Gareth Bale things early with two assists against Turkey and an overall captain's showing across the three matches. Leadership and drive have pushed the Dragons into the next round, where they face a relatively favorable matchup with the Danes.
One player who isn't getting a ton of attention, though his impact has been huge, is goalkeeper Danny Ward. If Bale is dictating the attacking flow, the Leicester City goalkeeper, who hasn't started a league match since 2017, is making sure the door is shut for the opposition at the other end.
Ward will go head-to-head with the man in front of him on the Foxes' teamsheet in Kasper Schmeichel when Wales and Denmark do battle. If Wales can keep creating in front of goal, Schmeichel may have more work to do than Ward, though both sides are quite level overall.
We didn't really see the best of Croatia until it really mattered. Up against Scotland, needing to win to advance, it took a 3-1 result with some world-class play.
Even at the ripe old age of 35, Luka Modric was central to the proceedings and provided the goal of the tournament so far with a rocket with the outside of his boot to drive Croatia into the lead in the second half. He then set up the third, assisting another of the team's other key attackers in Ivan Perisic.
Having Modric, Perisic and Mateo Kovacic producing is going to be paramount to their success if they want to replicate the unprecedented run to the World Cup final we saw three years ago.
Against Spain in the round of 16, we will see a really interesting matchup that could go either way, depending on which team shows up as both squads have been inconsistent so far.
Since the turn of the century, Spain hasn't typically been seen this far down a power ranking at an international tournament.
The team's initial play in the group stage was largely uninspiring, and it only made it through on the last day with an emphatic "we're still here!" 5-0 spanking of Slovakia. The last match showed much more of what we like to see from Luis Enrique's men.
The win, which left Spain runner-up behind Sweden in Group E, sets up an intriguing round-of-16 match with Croatia. Both teams like to control possession and be creative, but La Furia Roja's insistence on ball dominance and a tight-knit passing game gives them the edge, especially if they can keep on the offensive the way they did against Slovakia.
After making it through the group stage with an impressive seven points, achieved in a mostly unimpressive manner, the Three Lions set themselves up for a match with old foes Germany, who finished second in the much-talked-about Group of Death.
Two goals in three matches won't please the local fans, despite winning the group. It would be nice if they could do it in style once in a while.
Harry Kane, unstoppable for the majority of this past Premier League season, has been largely invisible in the tournament. The chances created have been few, and the flow and pattern of play have been frayed at best. With so much hope and optimism going into the competition, it feels as though the momentum has been halted, despite results most countries would be quite happy with.
That's England for you.
Defense was the area of the pitch that presented the most concern heading into the tournament, but the unit has been strong with zero goals allowed during group play. In the final match against Czech Republic, Manchester United captain Harry Maguire made his return and helped to limit the opposition to only one shot on target. Expect Maguire and Manchester City's rejuvenated John Stones to start the rest of the way forward.
The expectations will always be sky-high for this team, and the reality may not match that. Beating a Germany side that's not at its best and nearing a long-overdue managerial transition at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday would be a huge boost for Gareth Southgate's side as it hopes to bring a major trophy home for the first time in over 50 years.
6. The Netherlands
The Netherlands has quietly put in a stellar showing at the Euros. Almost too quietly. Switching out of the traditional Dutch 4-3-3 Total Football formation to a back five with marauding wing-backs has yielded dividends for manager Frank De Boer. Right wing-back Denzel Dumfries has been all over the place and a constant threat going forward, contributing two goals and an assist in group play.
It's still been the stars who have been pulling the most weight for the Netherlands, though, as Memphis Depay (two goals, two assists) and Georginio Wijnaldum (three goals) have led the team through one of the easier groups in the tournament.
A tricky match with the Czech Republic in the round of 16 will challenge this Dutch side, despite its strong play to this point. We'll see whether the team is as good as it seems or has been benefiting from inferior competition in the group.
For a portion of the final group match against Hungary, Germany looked to be out of the tournament. Trailing twice against one of the minnows of the field, the usually dominant and in-control German side looked a bit lost and unsure of itself. Those are things that you rarely hear about the German national team.
After needing an 84th-minute strike from Bayern Munich's Leon Goretzka to salvage a 2-2 draw and a place in the round of 16, Die Mannschaft are in a rare position of not being heavily favored in an elimination match. Joachim Low has looked like a manager on the way out and hasn't instilled the kind of consistency and structure in his team that we've seen in years past.
Nevertheless, you can never count out the Germans in international tournaments. The three-time European champion is always a threat, and a win over England in the round of 16 would give it a favorable road to the semifinals. The win over Portugal on Matchday 2 showed evidence of a dangerous German side that can hurt even the best teams with its attacking depth.
Young stars such as Goretzka and Chelsea's Kai Havertz are central to Germany's success, but either way, a match with England at Wembley will be a sight to behold.
Cristiano Ronaldo is tied atop the all-time international men's goal-scoring charts with Ali Daei of Iran following his brace of penalties against France in the final group-stage match, bringing his tournament-leading total to five goals.
Unfortunately for Ronaldo and his teammates, the Group of Death will extend into the knockout phase with Belgium awaiting them in Seville, Spain, in what could be the match of the tournament.
Does Ronaldo have enough in the tank to break the goal-scoring record and to carry his team past an impressive Red Devils side? It's hard to say. Bruno Fernandes (who's been disappointing and was dropped against France) and Bernardo Silva need to shoulder some of the responsibility, but it's almost as if Ronaldo wants to do it all himself. It is kind of his thing.
The defense also presents cause for concern after conceding six goals collectively against France and Germany, and that number could have been higher.
The legendary Pepe is looking his age at 38, and Ruben Dias seems out of place when not surrounded by his Manchester City teammates. Belgium will not make things easy for them in the next round, and we could see a high-scoring affair with CR7 trying to be the difference for both personal and team glory.
The Italians have been outstanding at Euro 2020 and have given their fans good reason to be excited heading into the knockout phase. Three wins from three and no goals allowed has been the perfect start, and head coach Roberto Mancini has the Azzurri in a great position to go deep into the tournament.
Maybe more people (myself included) should have seen this coming as the results in the lead-up to the tournament suggested this might happen. Mancini has been good for Italy—very good.
A round-of-16 date with a beatable Austria side will be a welcome proposition for this team. In fact, Italy hasn't lost to Austria since 1960, a run spanning 13 matches (10 wins, three draws). There's little to suggest that trend will change Saturday.
Les Bleus didn't blow teams away in the group stage like many thought they might. Germany and Portugal looked off-color at times, but so did the French, who ebbed and flowed between looking like the favorites and a side that was more interested in individual glory.
Karim Benzema scored his first goals at a major tournament since 2014 with a brace against Portugal and his old pal Cristiano Ronaldo, but it was Paul Pogba who stole the show yet again with his brilliant vision and distribution for the French. If those two can keep their levels up, it'll be hard to slow this team down, even if they haven't always been at their best.
A round-of-16 match with Switzerland should be easier than the rough-and-tumble slugfest that was the Group of Death. Something tells me that even with the opposition as difficult as it was in the early stages, France is just warming up, and we haven't seen its best yet.
This Belgium team has too much talent. Its performance in the group stage was outstanding, and it continues to be among the top teams competing for the Henri Delaunay Cup.
The knock against Belgium was that Group B was relatively easy, with Roberto Martinez's squad enjoying mostly comfortable victories against Russia, Denmark and then Finland. It's almost as if it wasn't even in top gear, waiting for the knockout phase to begin before putting its foot on the gas.
This is doable when you have a side that is so well balanced across the pitch. Leading the line up front is Romelu Lukaku, who has already knocked in three goals and, as he has all season, been a handful for opposing defenders. His ability to be a focal point for the outstanding players around him allows them to toy with defenses and create problems from every angle.
In the Red Devils' last match against Finland, they had 17 shots on goal and 705 total pass attempts. They wear the opposition down with an endless barrage of attacking options. The back line has looked suspect at times with Jason Denayer struggling, particularly against Denmark, but the ball hasn't been at that end of the field often.
Awaiting them in the next round will be Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in what is the most anticipated match of the knockout phase. Get the popcorn ready.