Euro 2020: Predictions for the Knockout Phase

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJune 25, 2021

Euro 2020: Predictions for the Knockout Phase

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    Franck Fife/Associated Press

    The results of the Euro 2020 group stage set us up with some round-of-16 clashes that we can't miss.

    Belgium and Portugal play in one of the two marquee clashes Sunday, while England and Germany square off Tuesday.

    All of the European powers that were in the conversation to win the competition are in the final 16. Turkey, Finland, Russia, North Macedonia, Scotland, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland were sent home after the group stage.

    Before we get to Sunday's Belgium-Portugal showdown, three games take place across the continent, starting with Wales against Denmark.

    Italy and the Netherlands have opportunities to flex their muscles as potential title winners in what are perceived as weaker matchups.

    Pre-tournament favorite France and Spain face tricky matchups against Switzerland and Croatia, respectively, but they should find ways to get past their opponents.

    If the favored sides come out on top, we could see a star-studded quarterfinal round that features matchups like France-Spain and either Belgium or Portugal against Italy.

    Below is a look at each of the eight round-of-16 matchups and predictions on who will stay alive in the competition.

Wales vs. Denmark

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    Jonathan Nackstrand/Associated Press

    Date and Time: Saturday, June 26 (Noon ET, ESPN)

    Amid Christian Eriksen's recovery from his cardiac arrest, Denmark earned the most emotional victory of the tournament in its group finale to secure passage to the round of 16.

    The 4-1 win over Russia was the last match the Danes played in front of their home fans in Copenhagen.

    They play Wales on Saturday inside another arena with a deep connection to Eriksen, who began his professional career inside Johan Cruyff Arena with Ajax.

    Mikkel Damsgaard has stepped up in Eriksen's absence, becoming a vital part of Denmark's success in the final third over the last two games, and he scored the opener against Russia.

    Thanks to the exploits against Russia, Denmark's expected goals total from the group stage was 5.9. Wales' defense had an expected goals against of 4.5, which is the highest total of the teams that finished in the top two of their group. If not for the stellar performances from keeper Danny Ward, the Dragons would have conceded much more than the two goals they allowed in the group stage. 

    Denmark also scored more goals against Russia than Wales did in the entire group stage. The Welsh are coming off a 1-0 loss to Group A winner Italy.

    Wales, though, has more recent success at the Euros. In 2016, it needed an own goal from Northern Ireland to move on to the final eight, where it shocked Belgium 3-1 before falling to Portugal in the semifinals.

    In their last eight games in all competitions, the Welsh scored multiple goals only once, which came against a Turkey side that was among the worst of Euro 2020. Two of Wales' three goals in the competition occurred after the 70th minute.

    If Denmark gets off to another fast start, it could gain the advantage needed to eliminate Wales and move on to a quarterfinal game in Baku, Azerbaijan, on July 3.

    Prediction: Denmark

Italy vs. Austria

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    Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

    Date and Time: Saturday, June 26 (3 p.m. ET, ABC)

    Italy should be one of the heaviest favorites in the round of 16.

    The Azzurri had the most impressive defense in the group stage. They had the lowest expected goals against of the 24 Euro 2020 participants at 1.0.

    Roberto Mancini's squad produced three clean sheets and were rewarded with an easier matchup versus Austria compared to some of the other European powers.

    Austria feasted on the two weaker sides in Group D by earning a 3-1 win over North Macedonia and a 1-0 victory over Ukraine.

    But the Austrians struggled to deal with the Netherlands in their second group game, a 2-0 loss in which they lost the expected goals battle 3.3 to 0.4.

    In that matchup, Austria was without Marko Arnautovic, who was serving a one-game suspension for insulting a North Macedonian player. But his presence may not make too much of a difference against an Italian defense that commanded each of the three group matches.

    Italy has not conceded in any of its eight games in 2021. The last goal it allowed came on Oct. 14 in a UEFA Nations League match against the Dutch.

    Prediction: Italy

Netherlands vs. Czech Republic

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    Koen van Weel/Associated Press

    Date and Time: Sunday, June 27 (Noon ET, ESPN)

    Just like Italy, the Netherlands drew a favorable matchup on paper.

    To go even further, the Dutch have a clear path to the semifinals with the Wales-Denmark winner awaiting them in the quarterfinals.

    Frank de Boer's side will avoid Belgium, Portugal, Spain, France and Italy on the bottom of the bracket, where England or Germany will not advance to the next round.

    The Dutch attack scored multiple goals in each of their group games. Memphis Depay was the primary chance creator, but they also received goals from Georginio Wijnaldum, Denzel Dumfries and Wout Weghorst.

    De Boer's biggest lineup decision could come down to Weghorst and Donyell Malen in the position next to Depay. Weghorst is a more physical presence, while Malen owns the edge in pace.

    Outside of Patrik Schick, the Czech attack has not looked as dangerous as the Dutch's. Schick was responsible for all three group-stage goals, and he failed to attempt a shot against England.

    The Netherlands' back three, which includes Serie A center backs of Matthijs de Ligt and Stefan de Vrij, held Austria and North Macedonia to two shots on target on 22 attempts in the final two group-stage games.

    The Dutch have a stronger defense and a better all-around attack surrounding Depay to find a way past their round-of-16 foe.

    Prediction: Netherlands

Belgium vs. Portugal

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    Anatoly Maltsev/Associated Press

    Date and Time: Sunday, June 27 (3 p.m. ET, ABC)

    The entire weekend will be a buildup to Belgium-Portugal.

    Either the No. 1 team in the FIFA World Rankings or the Euro 2016 winner will be out of the tournament on Sunday.

    Golden Boot leader Cristiano Ronaldo spearheads the Portugal attack and leads the tournament with five goals, but three of those have come from the penalty spot.

    While Ronaldo will be in the spotlight, the defense will be vital in determining if Portugal advances far in the competition.

    It let up six total goals to France and Germany, which is a bit concerning with an in-form Romelu Lukaku in front of them Sunday.

    Additionally, the Portuguese have to find a way to silence Kevin De Bruyne, who made an immediate impact on the Belgian side when he appeared as a halftime substitute in the second group game against Denmark.

    Portugal have some chance creators behind Ronaldo in Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Jota, but none of them have been as effective as De Bruyne at Euro 2020.

    De Bruyne and Lukaku have the potential to match whatever Portugal throws at the Belgian defense, and the Manchester City man could be the ultimate X-factor in the contest.

    Prediction: Belgium

Croatia vs. Spain

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    Jose Manuel Vidal/Associated Press

    Date and Time: Monday, June 28 (Noon ET, ESPN)

    Monday's Croatia-Spain battle will not get top billing in the round of 16, but it is one of the most intriguing games of the round.

    The star power is arguably in Croatia's favor with Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic, but the likes of Sergio Busquets, Koke, Pedri and Alvaro Morata are all more than capable of playing a starring role on the day. 

    Both midfield units have the potential to take over a game with their passing abilities and their strength on the ball in possession.

    Perisic will get forward more to deliver goals and assists as Modric largely looks to control the game, while the Spanish midfielders typically deliver the final pass, or the second-to-last pass in the buildup to goals.

    However, it has been tough for the Spaniards to finish off some of those passes. La Roja scored a single goal in the first two group games before blowing by an outmatched Slovakia side.

    Alvaro Morata did not score in the 5-0 onslaught, but he did find the back of the net in the 1-1 draw with Poland.

    If the Spanish forwards bank off the confidence gained from the last two games and the midfielders keep the ball away from Modric and Perisic, Spain should find a path to victory in what could be a low-scoring affair.

    Prediction: Spain

France vs. Switzerland

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    Bernadett Szabo/Associated Press

    Date and Time: Monday, June 28 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

    France's knockout-round path to its attempted World Cup-Euros double begins with a potentially tricky game against Switzerland.

    The Swiss earned four points in matches with Wales and Turkey in Group A. Like all teams in that group, they struggled to get through the Italian defense.

    France's defense, led by Presnel Kimpembe and Raphael Varane, looked good against Germany, but there were some lapses against Hungary and Portugal.

    Haris Seferovic and Xherdan Shaqiri combined for Switzerland's three goals on Sunday versus Turkey, but those tallies came against one of the worst teams in the group stage.

    Switzerland only put one of its six shots on target against Italy, so expect a performance between that game and the Turkey matchup against a French defense that had an expected goals against of three in Group F.

    If the Swiss defense absorbs the pressure from Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema, they can stay in the contest for at least a half, and that could put more pressure on France, the pre-tournament favorite.

    France has too much talent up top to not score at some point against the Swiss defense, though, and if Les Bleus defense holds firm, it could set up a showdown with Spain in the final eight.

    Prediction: France

England vs. Germany

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    Justin Tallis/Associated Press

    Date and Time: Tuesday, June 29 (Noon ET, ESPN)

    England and Germany are both flawed teams with an abundance of star players and sky-high expectations.

    The Three Lions sputtered through the group stage with a pair of 1-0 victories over the Czech Republic and Croatia and a scoreless draw against Scotland.

    The inclusion of Jack Grealish in the group-stage finale eased some concerns about the England attack, but Harry Kane is still without a goal.

    Germany got better as the group stage progressed, but its defense showed some holes in the 2-2 draw versus Hungary, in which it gave up an 11th-minute opener and a goal two minutes after scoring in the second half.

    If the defensive lapses from Wednesday show up again, England's attack could have a coming-out party in front of its home fans at Wembley Stadium.

    For all the concerns about the offense, the English back line held firm in the group stage and did not concede a goal.

    While most of the focus will be on Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Grealish, England's defense will be what wins the game for the Group D champion.

    If the Three Lions slow down Kai Havertz, Robin Gosens and others, the path to the semifinals could get clearer with Sweden or Ukraine ahead in the next round.

    Prediction: England

Sweden vs. Ukraine

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    Anatoly Maltsev/Associated Press

    Date and Time: Tuesday, June 29 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

    Sweden was the quietest group winner of the six because most of the Group E focus was on the trials and tribulations of the Spanish team.

    Sweden held Spain and Slovakia to clean sheets, and it had to grind out a 3-2 win over Poland on Wednesday to finish ahead of Spain and set up a clash against Ukraine.

    The Swedes got by with their defense, as their lone concessions came against Robert Lewandowski in the frenetic second half against Poland.

    Sweden has the attacking punch to get past the Ukrainian defense that let up five goals in Group B and had an expected goals against of 4.3.

    Alexander Isak has been one of the players in the tournament with his silky dribbling and pace, but he is yet to score a goal. Isak holds the tournament lead in players dribbled past with 14.

    Emil Forsberg did the bulk of the scoring with three tallies in Group E, including a brace against Poland.

    Sweden seems to have the right combination of attacking prowess and defensive stability to quell Ukraine's threat in the final third and secure one of the eight quarterfinal positions.

    Prediction: Sweden 


    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

    Statistics obtained from


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