The round of 16 at the Euro 2020 tournament gave more than it promised despite the shocking fixture arrangements.
With 29 goals in the eight matches, there was excitement aplenty and at the end, all three teams that came through Group F, the group of death-France, Germany, and Portugal, were eliminated at the first knockout stage.
The world champions, France, have themselves to blame for the Switzerland shocker while defending European champions, Portugal were a smidgen unlucky in their ouster by Belgium.
England do a Germany on Low’s team
After 55 years, the English celebrated a win over the national German team, once again at Wembley Stadium. It was ironic that the roles were reversed this time around. Germany made all the early running, missed some goal-scoring chances, and even when they were a goal down spurned a golden chance for an equaliser from the [almost] always reliable Thomas Muller. The Germans played the game but Gareth Southgate’s team was more clinical and thus continue their ‘it’s coming home’ anthem when they travel to Rome to face Ukraine on Saturday.
Group of Death died very early
We rightly tagged it the Group of Death and it proved so until the last minute in the group games but at the end of the round of 16 matches, all the countries that rose out of that group are no more. Two-time world champions, France held a 3-1 lead over Switzerland until the 82nd minute before it all fell apart; Thorgan Hazard’s blast and Rui Patricio’s flailing grasp separated Belgium from Portugal, and Germany were just not good enough in Joachim Low’s last game as manager of the Die Mannschaft.
Team ethic shines through
No pundit expected the Czech Republic and Ukraine to be a part of their quarterfinal predictions but here they are. Ukraine, the FIFA-ranked 24th country and the 40th-ranked Czech Republic, have shown team ethic above the glorification of stars. While we cannot overemphasise that the two teams are well coached, they have shown a togetherness that does not bode well for their quarterfinal opponents-Denmark and England.
Rising from despair
Sweden’s last-minute winner against Poland sent Ukraine into the round of 16 where they duly bit off the finger that fed them by beating the Swedes 2-1 after 90 minutes. Denmark is another to have risen from the depths of despair and re now plumbing the heights of glory. The collapse and the trauma of Christian Eriksen’s collapse on the pitch against Iceland on matchday one have been replaced with the euphoria of survival and attainment. Denmark were peerless in dismissing Wales 4-0 and will prove capable semi-final opponents if they make it that far.
Who will win?
Belgium, Spain, Italy, and England are the favourites but either or Italy or Belgium will be absent from the semi-final. England are yet to concede; Italy have conceded once, in passing the test Austria posed; Belgium were stretched to the limit against a luckless Portugal while England got a confident 2-0 win over arch-rivals, Germany. All the squads will have to deal with injuries and suspension as the tournament progresses. So, who will win it?
Friday – July 2
Switzerland  v Spain  @ St Petersburg Stadium, Russia @6 pm
Belgium  vs Italy  @Football Arena Munich, Germany @9 pm
Saturday – July 3
Czech Republic  v Denmark  @Baku Olympic Stadium, Romania @6 pm
Ukraine  v England  @Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy @9 pm
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