Euro 2020: Preview and Predictions for the Quarterfinals

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJuly 1, 2021

Euro 2020: Preview and Predictions for the Quarterfinals

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    Andy Rain/Associated Press

    In partnership with vivo – the official smartphone of Euro 2020 – we’re hoping everyone is celebrating and enjoying the beautiful moments of the tournament. As we enter the quarterfinals, there are surely more incredible plays and exciting moments ahead, and we’re here giving our predictions for the next round.

    The eight teams left at UEFA Euro 2020 will have a hard time living up to the drama-filled round of 16 that enraptured us over four days. 

    However, the remaining squads will not care about the quality of the quarterfinal matches as long as they advance into the final four. 

    Belgium and Italy's heavyweight battle in the top part of the bracket should catch most of the headlines going into the final eight. 

    The Red Devils are dealing with injury issues, and the potential lack of attacking depth could hurt the top-ranked team in the FIFA men's world ranking against an impressive Italy defense. 

    On the other side of the draw, England is viewed as the heavy favorite to cruise into the final at Wembley Stadium on July 11. 

    With the favorite role comes an added amount of pressure, and that will leave Ukraine to play with less stress compared to where its expectations may be. 

    While each squad faces its own set of internal and external expectations, they all share an extensive travel log. 

    Unlike any previous European Championships, every round-of-16 winner had to move across a few borders to reach their quarterfinal site, and that combined with some heavy legs could have an impact on the performances in the final eight. 

Switzerland vs. Spain

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    Stuart Franklin/Associated Press

    Date and Time: Friday, July 2 (noon ET, ESPN)

    Switzerland's reward for eliminating pre-tournament favorite France is a matchup with another modern European power. 

    The Swiss have to deal with a Spain side that has suddenly found its goal-scoring form over the last two games. 

    Spain's five goals in 120 minutes against Croatia should mean more to this matchup than the five-goal thrashing of lowly Slovakia to finish the group stage because of the quality of opponents. 

    Five different Spanish players found the back of the net in the round of 16. Even Alvaro Morata, who has struggled at times to score for La Roja, bagged his second goal of the tournament in that contest. 

    La Furia Roja's confidence in attack should be high, but they could feel nervy at the back after letting Croatia score two goals in the final five minutes of normal time on Monday. 

    Spain's two clean sheets at Euro 2020 came from its opening Group E match against Sweden in which it had 75 percent of the possession in a 0-0 draw and in the thrashing of Slovakia. 

    Switzerland's defense has not been perfect, either. It let in three goals against Italy in Group A, and it was torn apart by the French in the second half on Monday. 

    Despite those concessions, Switzerland displayed plenty of resilience to get into the knockout rounds and to advance to the final eight. The Swiss rallied from the loss to Italy by scoring a pair of first-half goals in a 3-1 win over Turkey, and they put in two late tallies to equalize against France and send the game to extra time before winning on penalties. 

    Haris Seferovic has been the danger man up top for the Swiss. He is tied for third in the Golden Boot race and carries plenty of confidence off a 22-goal season with Benfica. Steven Zuber should be providing the service from the flanks. He has been one of the underrated stars of the tournament with four assists, and he also earned a penalty in the France victory that wasn't converted. 

    The distance traveled between venues in such a short space of time might have an effect on the players. Switzerland played in Baku and Bucharest, respectively, in their previous two games, while Spain's trip to Copenhagen was nearly 3,000 miles away from their Seville base camp. A trip to St. Petersburg in Russia for the quarterfinals will not be welcomed by either side.

    If you add in the short turnaround and the 120 minutes both teams played on Monday, we could either see a wide-open affair with tired defenses or a drab one- or two-goal encounter.

    Morata rounding into some form and Spain's supporting cast carrying confidence could be enough of a difference-maker to power through to the semifinals.

    Prediction: Spain 3, Switzerland 1

Belgium vs. Italy

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    Lluis Gene/Associated Press

    Date and Time: Friday, July 2 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) 

    Belgium against Italy is the match that should attract the most neutral or casual soccer fans because of the quality of both sides and the talent from the big-five European leagues. It is also the perfect game to use as a reason to get out of work early on Friday at the start of a holiday weekend. 

    Belgium will likely be without two of its best players. Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard both went off injured against Portugal and could miss the quarterfinal against the Azzurri.

    De Bruyne and Hazard have been vital components of the Belgian attack, but even if they do not play, the Belgians are strong enough to win. 

    Romelu Lukaku recorded his highest single-season club goal total in Serie A last season, where most of Italy's defenders play. 

    Lukaku's experience from playing against center backs Leonardo Bonucci and Francesco Acerbi, as well as other Azzurri stars, could give him the slightest advantage to create additional chances. Lukaku created two shots on target in his lone league matchup versus Bonucci and Juventus. He put two goals and an assist past Acerbi's Lazio in February. 

    Belgium still has Thorgan Hazard, Thomas Meunier and Yannick Carrasco available to set up Lukaku in the final third in the absence of De Bruyne and Eden Hazard. 

    Italy's attackers were a bit disappointing in 90 minutes against a disciplined Austria defense. The Azzurri put six of their 27 shots on target and had an expected goals total of 1.7. 

    Ciro Immobile and Co. are capable of better performances, as we witnessed in the 3-0 win over Switzerland, but it will be somewhat concerning that the Italians weren't more clinical in the win over Austria.

    Belgium held Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal scoreless in the round of 16, and the back line has conceded just once in the whole tournament (in Matchday 2 against Denmark). 

    Italy needs to work on breaking down an organized defense, and even if it does once, it may come on a rare chance. 

    If Belgium remains strong in the back line and is able to feed Lukaku on a few occasions, it could steal the victory and keep its title hopes alive.

    Prediction: Belgium 1, Italy 0

Capture Beautiful Moments

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    Image captured by vivo X60 Pro

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Czech Republic vs. Denmark

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    Koen van Weel/Associated Press

    Date and Time: Saturday, July 3 (noon ET, ESPN)

    Denmark is the feel-good story of the tournament, but you also have to be happy for the Czech Republic and its surprise quarterfinal berth.

    The Danes managed to finish second in Group B under trying circumstances after seeing star midfielder Christian Eriksen collapse on the field in their opening group game against Finland because of a cardiac arrest. The team went on to lose that match after being told it needed to be finished, and it was then defeated by Belgium in an emotional back-and-forth encounter five days later.

    A 4-1 defeat of Russia in the final group game secured the Danes' progress, though, and they thrashed Wales in the round of 16 on Saturday to comfortably clinch a spot in the final eight. They had the largest margin of victory in the round and got an extra day of rest over the Czechs. 

    Nothing seems to be stopping the Danes at the moment. They got through the round of 16 without Yussuf Poulsen on the field, but a case could be made that Wales was the weakest team to advance to the knockout round. 

    The Czechs will provide a step up in competition, and Patrik Schick is probably the second-most dangerous forward Denmark will have faced in the tournament behind Lukaku.

    Schick's Golden Boot quest is one of the unlikely storylines that have developed during the team's push into the final eight. He has the most goals of any player left in the competition with four, while Lukaku, Raheem Sterling of England and Haris Seferovic of Switzerland have three each. 

    The Czech defense has been impressive as well. It held the Netherlands without a goal and did not allow multiple tallies in any of its four contests. 

    Jaroslav Silhavy's squad has not lost often in the last year, and when it has, it fell by a goal in most of those games. The lone exception is a 4-0 loss to Italy in a June 4 friendly. 

    Since March 2019, the Czech Republic has nine wins from 17 matches, with a 1-1 draw with Belgium and a 2-1 victory over England as its notable results. 

    The Czechs may not completely halt the Danes' momentum, but they could at least slow them down.

    Denmark's key to breaking down the Czech defensive line could be Eriksen's replacement, Mikkel Damsgaard. The Sampdoria player has a goal and an assist at Euro 2020 and has three goals and four assists in just six national team appearances. 

    Damsgaard could end up as the tournament's biggest breakout star. It may take a moment of brilliance from the 20-year-old in front of goal or setting up the likes of Kasper Dolberg or Martin Braithwaite for the Danes to move into the final four.

    Prediction: Denmark 1, Czech Republic 0

Ukraine vs. England

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

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

    The momentum behind England right now is roaring as loud as (pun intended) three lions. 

    Gareth Southgate's men broke the decadeslong major tournament curse against Germany, and they reside in the easier part of the knockout bracket. 

    England has the most all-around talent compared to Ukraine, Denmark and Czech Republic, and anything less than a final berth will be viewed as a disappointment. 

    Sunday's clash with Ukraine marks England's only game away from Wembley in the competition, and the Rome fixture might be beneficial to a squad with so much pressure on its shoulders. 

    England boasts one of the best defenses left in the competition. Jordan Pickford made some great saves, including a leaping one on Kai Havertz, against Germany, and the Three Lions have the second-lowest expected goals against total in the final eight. 

    The defense that has not allowed a goal in four matches should carry England into the final four, no matter how effective the attack-minded players are. 

    Ukraine is coming off a 120-minute battle with Sweden that could affect its fitness from Tuesday to Saturday. The short turnaround combined with the 1,200-mile flight from Glasgow to Rome could hurt the team's recovery process. 

    England played 90 minutes on Tuesday, is on its first road trip of Euro 2020 and had its attack show signs of life against Germany with Sterling and Harry Kane both finding the back of the net. 

    England could kill off the game early if Southgate inserts Jack Grealish into the starting lineup to work with Sterling and Kane for more than 30 minutes. 

    That could be the move that allows England to feel comfortable without having to wait until the second half for the breakthrough.

    Prediction: England 3, Ukraine 0       


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