The group stage is over and knockout football begins, there are no draws and no second chances, teams now must play to win and it couldn’t be more exciting. The round of 16 will see eight games played over a four day period with the prize of a quarter-final looming for those who progress. The biggest games that standout on the fixture list include Belgium vs Portugal, Croatia vs Spain and England vs Germany, here we preview the first knockout stage of EURO 2020.
26th June – Wales vs Denmark – Johan Cruijff ArenA, Amsterdam – 17:00
A key factor to note for this match is the absence of Wales fans in Amsterdam due to Dutch Covid related rules, this means that Amsterdam will be a primarily Danish populated area on matchday giving them a significant advantage. However, on the pitch Wales go into the game the side in better form and with a more stable route to this stage of the competition knowing they were already qualified before their final group game in Rome. The key threat for Wales is Real Madrid star Gareth Bale and Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey, the pair experienced at the elite level will look to support the target man Kieffer Moore in attack, Wales a side based on hard work and organisation while hoping their attacking quality can win them the game. On the other hand, Denmark are without one stand out performer due to Christian Eriksen’s unavailability for the team after his health scare. As a result, the Danes have changed their system and rely on their desire and willpower to see them through, which so far they have showed in abundance this summer. Hojbjerg, Kjaer and Schmeichel are a solid spine epitomising what is great about the side, this game will be a close one and tough to call.
(Aaron Ramsey scores in Baku: Getty Images)
26th june – italy vs austria – wembley stadium, london – 20:00
This feels like an uneven match-up but knockout football is capable of gifting us surprises. Italy are favourites having won all three of their group games without conceding. Roberto Mancini was given the luxury of resting eight players in his team’s last group game too due to their outstanding performances prior so will go into the game fresh faced and ready to play with the pace, directness and quality that saw them top Group A. Contrastingly, Austria’s fate went down to matchday three as they beat Ukraine 1-0 to qualify. The Austrians typically play a pressing style often adopted in the German Bundesliga, where many of their squad play, this should give the Italian’s their biggest scare defensively with the qualities of Alaba, Arnautovic and Sabtitzer in the final thirds as Bonucci and co have had little to trouble them so far.
(Leonardo Bonucci organises the Italy defence: Getty Images)
27th june – netherlands vs czech republic – Puskás Aréna, BUDAPEST – 17:00
This game will see a clash in styles with the Netherlands a team comfortable in possession looking to use their pace and width to stretch teams. Now Barcelona striker, Memphis Depay is a talented individual with plenty of skill, Frenkie De Jong another who plays his football at the Camp Nou looks to control the game from the midfield while Dumfries uses his energy at wing-back to act as a key part of Frank De Boer’s system. Czech Republic adopt a more pragmatic style of play, Patrik Schick their technically gifted young centre forward the man they rely on for goals with him scoring all three of theirs they have netted in the tournament. Vladimir Coufal and Tomas Soucek two players who will be familiar with Premier League fans, the duo vital for West Ham United’s success in reaching Europa League football in the previous campaign. Combative, the Czech’s will make this a tough game for the Dutch.
(Frenkie De Jong dictates play in midfield: Getty Images)
27th june – Belgium vs portugal – Estadio La Cartuja de Sevilla, seville – 20:00
A heavyweight clash, this is the worlds number one ranked side against the current European Championship holders. Cristiano Ronaldo and this Portugal team have experienced a tougher route to this stage already testing themselves against top opposition in Germany and France, this could work in their favour for this tie, furthermore Ronaldo is in the mood, he is currently on five goals making him the top scorer at the tournament, he sits just one goal away from becoming the greatest ever international goalscorer. Belgium are another team with a plethora of talent, Romelu Lukaku is on top form and has the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Buryne returning from injury to provide him even greater service. This is a match that will be decided by the midfield battle as in Lukaku and Ronaldo both sides have a world-class clinical forward.
(Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring against France: Getty Images)
28th june – Croatia vs spain – parken, copenhagen – 17:00
Croatia and Spain will both interestingly be happy with this draw. The two teams are similar in their approach and the tempo they like to play the game. Croatia are World Cup finalists from three years ago and have quality throughout the team but they struggled through their group only beating a lacklustre Scotland team. The Croatians are ageing and adopt a slower paced way of doing things with former Ballon d’OR winner Luka Modric looking to dictate the play. On the other hand, Spain are a younger side looking to transition into a new era under coach Luis Enrique, midfield playmaker Pedri a great example of the emerging talent they have to offer. New players may be involved but the style very much feels the same as the Spanish look to suffocate teams by keeping possession at all costs, this may be a tough watch for some but those who enjoy the tactical side of the game should be intrigued.
(Pedri of Spain brings the ball forward: Getty Images)
28th june – france vs switzerland – national arena, bucharest – 20:00
France will be firm favourites to progress through this tie but Switzerland have the talent to be a threat going forward. Xherdan Shaqiri is in goal scoring form and has the eye for a spectacular goal which he showed in Baku against Turkey in their 3-1 victory. The French have yet to lose a game with Manchester United’s Paul Pogba and Chelsea’s Ngolo Kante starting together in midfield, a run that stretches 30 games, this showcasing how they’re not just a team full of skilful attacking talent but they’re capable of winning unfashionably too.
(France’s Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane: Getty Images)
29th june – england vs germany – wembley stadium, london – 17:00
A famous rivalry that has added incentive being played on English soil with the manager of the homeside the player that missed the penalty to send his country home the last time these two played in a major tournament at Wembley. Gareth Southgate and Euro 96 are synomynous with eachother and now the current England manager has the chance to get revenge. In current day, England are the team in form having topped their group without conceding a goal but English fans and the media are putting pressure on Southgate to get the best out of the attacking options he has at his disposal. Germany struggled to qualify from Group F with Hungary giving them a scare and nearly dumping them out the competition. However, Joachim Low is a stalwart of international football having been in charge for 16 years and led his country to World Cup glory in 2014, furthermore he oversaw a 4-2 victory over Portugal in the group stage which can be labelled as the most impressive performance of EURO 2020 so far.
(England manager embraces forward Jack Grealish: Getty Images)
29th june 2021 – sweden vs ukraine – hampden park, glasgow – 20:00
The final fixture in the round of 16 is a battle between the yellow and blue nations. Sweden have been a surprise package as they topped a group that included Spain, Emil Forsberg has been the outstanding performer scoring three goals from midfield, the Swede who plays in the Bundesliga looks to arrive late into the box and play in the space between the defence and midfield. Wonderkid Alexander Isak will be looking to get his tournament up and running against a young Ukraine backline. Shevchenko’s side were lucky to qualify for the knockout stages as one of the best third place teams with their only win coming against minnows North Macedonia.
(Emil Forsberg opens the scoring for Sweden against Poland: Getty Images)