The round of 16 produced a medley of entertainment. Goals, red cards, penalty shoot-outs and last minute winners we were served up the best football has to offer. Here we review the first knockout stage of EURO 2020.
Wales vs denmark
Amsterdam was taken over by Danish fans with only a sparse few Welsh allowed into the city due to Covid-19 regulations. The scenes in the stands were reflected on the pitch with Denmark dominating the game from the minute they took the lead. Kasper Dolberg opened what would be a rampant display with a great strike from 20 yards curled into the corner past Ward in goal after 27 minutes. The score just 1-0 at half-time Rob Page’s side still had a chance going into the second 45 minutes but committed defensive suicide when Neco Williams could only clear the ball as far as Dolberg for him to grab a brace. The rest of the game saw Denmark ease to victory with Maehle and Braithwaite adding late goals to embarrass Wales on the European stage, their frustrations told with Harry Wilson being sent off to sum up a bad day at the office for Gareth Bale and his team. The Real Madrid galactico walking out of a post-match interview when questioned about the future of his career with rumours he could go into an early retirement. The Danish team have adapted since losing Christian Eriksen not only into strong and resilient characters but tactically too, their three at the back, fast paced vertical passing has seen them score four in each of their last two games, they will be feared going forwards.
(Martin Braithwaite celebrates making it Wales 0-4 Denmark: Getty Images)
Italy vs austria
Going into this game Austria were given little chance, Roberto Mancini’s Italy winning all three of their group games without conceding, a European Championships record. However, nobody accounted for the spirit, determination and organization of Austria. The Italians struggled to break them down raising concerns over how they can handle tougher opposition as they came from a more favourable group. If it wasn’t for the technology of VAR they would’ve been out as Marko Arnautovic nodded the ball in late into the game only for his goal to be disallowed. Extra-time came and the legs of Austria caved in as the chasing caught up with them, Italy with two goals from Chiesa and Pessina in the first period. Franco Foda’s side gave one final valiant effort breaking down the stubborn defensive door of the Azzuri as substitute Kalajdzic pulled one back heading past Donnarumma but ultimately it was too little too late.
(Matteo Pessina scores in extra-time: Getty Images)
Netherlands vs Czech republic
Underdogs Czech Republic used the cauldron of noise in Budapest to their advantage with the backing of their fans helping them pull off an unlikely result against Euro 1988 champions, Netherlands. It was the defence that stood tall dealing admirably with the fast paced football of the Dutch, the likes of Donyell Malen, Memphis Depay and Denzel Dumfries were all left with little in the way of chances with the exception of Malen’s great opportunity that was scuppered by Czech keeper Vaclik diving at his feet. The game turned on a decision early in the second half, after a VAR check Matthias De Ligt was judged to have deliberately handled the ball denying Patrik Schick a goal scoring opportunity. Shortly after Tomáš Holeš nodded in a header at the back post to send the following Czech army behind the goal into raptures. The game was controlled well against 10 men and the killer goal came through again star of the match Holeš, he set-up Schick to sweep home his fourth of the tournament. Netherlands the first of the traditionally major nations to be dumped out of EURO 2020.
(Tomáš Holeš celebrates giving Czech Republic the lead: Getty Images)
belgium vs portugal
This game epitomized the love for knockout football with two nations among the favourites to win the competition battling it out to send the other trudging home early. Belgium with De Bruyne, Hazard and Lukaku while Portugal with Silva, Ronaldo, Fernandes and Jota all had a plethora of attacking talent on display. The Portuguese made a promising start but it would be Belgium who took the lead in a cagey affair with neither team looking to give chances to the clinical players on the field. Thorgan Hazard caressed a fantastic curling effort into the far corner past Rui Particio, questions will be asked of the Portugal keeper but that takes little away from the strike. The second half played out in similar fashion, Ronaldo was in search for another record but unlike him was unable to deliver, Belgium sat back and frustrated Santos’ side and were themselves unable to take their opportunities in the transitions. A game hyped to be full of quality but instead a dogged affair full of tough tackles, bad sportsmanship and ultimately Cristiano Ronaldo and the current champions crashing out of the European championships.
(Cristiano Ronaldo leaves the pitch frustrated in Seville: (Getty Images)
Croatia vs Spain
This was the first of two games in which you begin to question why anybody wouldn’t like football. The tie in Copenhagen was expected to be a tight tactical battle decided by the odd goal but it couldn’t have been further from the reality. The drama began with the ninth own goal at Euro 2020 the same amount as had been in the 56 years prior of European Championship competition. Pedri laid the ball back to Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon, he let the ball roll over his foot and straight into the net, giving Croatia an undeserved lead. Luis Enrique rallied his side as they dominated proceedings from there on taking a 3-1 lead thanks to goals from Sarabia, Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres. A side, masters in possession, you would have expect Spain to frustrate the Croatian’s but it was their turn to fight back. Orsic then Palasic in the dying moments sent the Parken Stadium filled with a sea of red and white chequers into raptures and take the game to extra-time. This crazy match was finally to be settled in the next 30 minutes with Alvaro Morata silencing his haters and Orzyabal calmly finishing to put Spain through to the quarter-finals, a deserved but hard fought victory.
(Alvaro Morata volleys in his goal against Croatia: Getty Images)
France vs switzerland
The game in Copenhagen may have been mesmerising but what followed between France and Switzerland in Bucharest nobody could have called. Didier Deschamps changed his system to three at the back after his squad suffered injuries in the left back position, a decision that he would rue. Seferovic gave Switzerland the lead early on heading in from Steven Zuber cross, Zuber with his fourth assist the most at EURO 2020. The second half saw the game kicked into life, Zuber was the man again to create danger as he was brought down by Pavard, unfortunately for the Swiss they stuck with Ricardo Rodriguez as penalty taker, the full back missing from the spot once more, making that four from his last five taken. Things then began to change, two goals from Benzema in as many minutes giving France the advantage before a trademark Paul Pogba strike from 20 yards found the top corner, surely sending France through? It wasn’t to be, Seferovic completed a headed brace before Gavranovic took the game to extra-time in the final minute. Another game. Another comeback. However, this tie was to be settled on penalties, Kylian Mbappé was fancied pre-tournament as a potential golden boot winner, the young PSG forward expected to be the world’s best player in years to come, it was he who let the pressure get to him, the weight of a country expecting on his shoulders he took a poor penalty allowing Sommer to save. The world champions were out of EURO 2020. Switzerland will play Spain in the quarter-finals not fearing any opponent they should face.
(Yann Sommer celebrates sending Switzerland into the quarter-finals: Getty Images)
England vs germany
All the build-up to this game aside from the history that these two nations share was surrounding whether Gareth Southgate would change his tactics to match the German 3-4-3. The England boss did exactly that with sceptics across English shores unsure whether this was the correct choice however, he was proved correct once again in his decision making. The match began with Germany in control, the Germans looking to unsettle the English side in front of 45,000 at Wembley Stadium, a home crowd. The reflective systems on the pitch produced a tie that saw two teams cancelling each other out, the Germans an unstoppable force but the English defence an immovable object. The second life is where cracks began to appear, in both defences. England were the side who took the lead when Luke Shaw crossed for Raheem Sterling to score his third of the competition, Kane then made it game over breaking the goal scoring hoodoo that he has been carrying with him in recent weeks. In-between the England goals came a game defining moment when Thomas Müller broke through on goal but Jordan Pickford stood tall forcing the ever reliable Müller to drag his shot wide. England beat Germany at a major tournament for the first time since 1966 and now face Ukraine in Rome, away from home comforts.
(Harry Kane celebrates scoring his first goal at EURO 2020: Getty Images)
Sweden vs UKRAINE
Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko was the man who made the difference in this tie, for his country he operates further forward in a position that is naturally suited to his technical ability. He scored a great left footed strike that found the far corner to give Ukraine the lead before picking out a perfect cross in the last minute of extra-time for Artem Dovbyk to head home against the tired legs of 10 man Sweden as Danielson was sent off in the 99th minute. Emil Forsberg was once again Sweden’s best chance of winning this game, he equalised late on in the first period with a deflected strike from 20 yards. Andriy Shevchenko was a legend for Ukraine on the field, now from the dugout he is creating a similar status for himself, third place finishers in their group they’re now EURO 2020 quarter-finalists.
(Oleksandr Zinchenko scores for Ukraine from inside the box: Getty Images)