The 16 teams remaining in Euro 2020 have reached the first knockout round. Which ones will make it through to the last eight?
WALES – UEFA EURO Best: 2016 Semi finals
After winning one game, losing one and drawing the other, the Dragons managed to progress. Gareth Bale being their star man is the key player to watch, with help from the likes of Aaron Ramsey and late bloomer Kieffer Moore, Wales might cause an upset. Their match against Denmark should be very interesting.
DENMARK – UEFA EURO Best: 1992 Winners
With the absence of Christian Eriksen Denmark lost their first group game but managed to get wins in their next two games, not forgetting their emphatic 4-1 win against Russia in the last group game. The team has been inspired by their talisman’s loss. Mikkel Dammsgard has been the man to watch for the Danish, with his amazing vision and top notch finishing he is the man to watch. Let’s also not forget 21 year old Andreas Olsen. The striker contributed three goals and four assists in the qualifier and has been just as instrumental in Denmark’s success.
AUSTRIA – UEFA EURO Best: group stage 2008 and 2016
Having lost against the Dutch in their group Austria managed to win the other two games. They have now gone one up by advancing from the group stages for the first time ever. David Alaba has been their star man, playing in left-back or center-back he has been the teams rock. Another man to mention is Konrad Latimer who came back from injury just in time for the tournament. His hard tackles, accurate passing and role of playing in the middle of the park will be key for the Austrian’s.
ITALY – UEFA EURO Best: Winners 1968
With a record any manager would dream of the Italians came into the tournament winning all their last 11 games before the tournament, scoring 37 goals in the process. They didn’t stop there, having won all their group games with ease. They are definitely the team to watch with them being one of the favorites. Their player to watch will be Jorghino, always vocal, always giving instructions like a conductor at the orchestra, he has been instrumental. Alongside him is Nicollo Barella, the 24 year old energetic midfielder, full of energy, technique and always ready to tackle he is a great asset to the team.
NETHERLANDS – UEFA EURO Best: Winners 1988
Having missed out in qualifying for Euro 2016 the Dutch embarked on a rebuild of the squad and it has paid dividends. A mix of exuberant youth and players with experience, they are also one of the teams to watch after having a flawless group run by winning all their matches. They have the experience of Georginio Wijnaldum. His timing of late runs into the box has made him come up with the goals. With his locker also full of passing accuracy and physical prowess when needed. he has been their key player. The other man has been De Ligt, with the absence of Virgil Van Dijk at the heart of defence has stepped up and has had a good tournament so far despite a disappointing season with Juventus.
CZECH REPUBLIC – UEFA EURO Best: 1976 (Czechoslovakia)
Winning one game and drawing the other after their loss to England helped the Czechs go through to the knockout round. Let’s not forget the absolute goal of the tournament so far by Patrik Schick. The forward has been deadly in the final third with his goals helping get the Check’s to through. Tomas Soucek, the man in midfield who has been the engine not just for the Czech but also at West Ham having made a 10 goal contribution in the EPL this past season.
BELGIUM – UEFA Euro Best: Runners up 1980
Being the top ranked nation in the world, Belgium easily beat all the teams in their group. With the likes of Eden Hazard and his brother Thorgan Hazard this squad is full of talent. Having a key man like Kevin De Bruyne who has an eye for goal and tunnel vision passing at his disposal is truly the man to watch in this team. His tally of 20 EPL assists matching Thierry Henry’s record hasn’t gone unnoticed. His partner Youri Tielemans is another player to look out for, with venomous shots and great passing. This team will cause opponents problems.
PORTUGAL – UEFA EURO Best: Winners 2016
The defending champions got through the group stage by Lady luck smiling on them especially since they had lost abysmally to Germany who drew with Hungary in the final group match. Their man to watch is Cristiano Ronaldo, who is now joint record top scorer in the world with 109 goals for Portugal. His hunger and drive will definitely make him go for more goals especially since he has never been top scorer at any Euros tournament. The other player to watch is Renato Sanchez. His hardwork and energy have showed the manager that he is an asset. From venomous shots, to getting physical when need be and having loads of technical ability.
CROATIA – UEFA EURO Best: Quarterfinals 1996 and 2008
For a team that has been together for a while Croatia looked out of sorts in their opening group game against England. They rectified this and came through by beating Scotland. It was a great game for their main man Luka Modric. The 2018 Balon D’or winner didn’t look like he was tired, pulling his team through with his energy and pin point passing, with his wonder goal against Scotland helping his team through to the next round. He has able deputies like Ivan Perisic who is a constant threat on the wing, with his skill and pace always making the difference. And Andre Kramaric is lethal in the final third.
SPAIN – UEFA EURO Best: Winners, 1964, 2008, 2012
The former champions proved their worth on the final group game by scoring five goals albeit taking advantage of some horrendous blunders from the Slovakians. That win and their two draws made them qualify as group runners up. With youth and a few experienced players in the squad, Spain hey will hope to get into second gear especially with Croatia on the horizon. Gerard Moreno as well as the old guard of Sergio Busquets will be looked at to give inspiration to the relatively less experienced Spanish players. Very few players of his age can match Pedri for football intelligence, and at only 18, the Barcelona midfielder is already turning heads after a first full season playing in La Liga
FRANCE – UEFA EURO Best : Winners 1984, 2000
France have played entertaining football but heir group of “death” games have been scintillating and disappointing at the same time, drawing with Hungary and Portugal but beating Germany (even though it was an own goal). With Paul Pogba and Kante having a telepathic understanding, their partnership is proving to be good for Les Blues. With a true No.9 in Benzema back and the blinding pace of Mbappe and Kingsley Coman on the wings, France are obviously one of the favorite teams to possibly end up in the final. They have to beat an industrious Switzerland first.
SWITZERLAND – UEFA EURO Best: Round of 16 2016
After a disappointing draw with Wales and annihilation by the unstoppable Italians, Switzerland’s chances looked bleak. But then up stepped their key man Xherdan Shaqiri. The Liverpool winger hadn’t played much of the EPL as he had hoped but he made the difference against Turkey in the final group game. Dropping in the hole and operating as a no. 10 of sorts is where he shines, coming up with two goals and always a menace in the final third. Breel Embollo is another star, a forward full of pace and natural strength, linking up play and taking defenders on.
ENGLAND – UEFA EURO Best: Third place 1968
After two wins and a draw the English are through to the next round. The elephant in the room is how the manager has so much talent at his disposal but still insists on others not even getting a minute of Euro football for Jadon Sancho. The likes of Rashford have also only made brief cameo appearances. Harry Kane is the main man for England, being a creator by starting moves and linking play, to scoring goals. The man who would most help England in my opinion is Jack Grealish. Another man who is already helping their cause is Harry Maguire, the rock at the back. Back from injury the Man United defender is firing on all cylinders. English fans are really hoping this squad brings it home. They have to first get past Germany who have been ruthless in front of goal but at times woeful in defence.
GERMANY – UEFA EURO Best: Winners 1972,1980, 1996
Having qualified for the tournament with one loss and 30 goals scored, the stars looked aligned for Germany. Their rebuild was taking shape but after the five goals conceded in their group matches they have to sort out their defending. In attack they have the energetic Gnabry who drops into the pockets in midfield and confuses defenders. With Thomas Muller as the most experienced player in the field he has been instrumental in Germany unlocking defences. The dark horse in the squad is Gosens. He has been the left-sided player Germany have been lacking for a long time. With discipline and timed runs he has caused headaches for defenders in the past three games.
SWEDEN – UEFA EURO Best:
Drawing against former champions and winning their remaining two games is something incredible for Sweden. With the talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic not called to the squad, the youthful squad have played good football. With Emil Forsberg Pace’s creativity and strength, the Leipzig midfielder shoulders much of the responsibility for Sweden’s attack. He has a fine shot and a talent from set pieces, as he showed by scoring his team’s first goal at EURO 2020 from the penalty spot. Another young talent is Kris Olsson. His silky touch and pace remind me of the Brazilian Ronaldo. His skill and technique are a nightmare. As for defence, they have Victor Lindelof whose style of play bodes well for the team. Tactile know how, reading the game, and good passing are all part of his locker.
UKRAINE – UEFA EURO Best: Group stage 2012 and 2016
With this team having never gone past the group stages ever, they are truly the dark horse of the competition. The guidance of Andriy Schevchenko is having an impact on the team. The likes of Yarmolenko have also proved their worth. He has been the focal point of most of the team’s attacks with his two goals and one assist more than enough to help the team through. The other player having a good tournament for Ukraine, and one to watch, is Illia Zabarnyi. The youngest Ukranian player to be at a major finals tournament at just 18 he’s solid play and reading of the game is amazing.