A look at the Euro 2020 quarterfinalists

In my view, there are five teams left at Euro 2020 with a realistic chance of winning the tournament. (Full disclosure: I never imagined that Greece could win Euro 2004 until the Greeks made it to the final and even then I doubted their chances). The five teams, in no special order, are England, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Denmark.

England has been the best defensive team at the Euros. The English have yet to concede a goal. The center back pairing of Harry McGuire (Manchester United) and John Stones (ex-Everton, now Manchester City) has been solid and fullback Kyle Walker (Manchester City) has the pace to help cover for the pair, especially when he joins them in a back three.

Goals have been hard to come by for England, but the team scored two against Germany. Harry Kane, who led the EPL in goals and assists this past season, finally got his first goal. If he’s back in form, England, with a favorable path to the finals and the home field advantage if they get there, has as good a chance to win this tournament as any team. In fact, England is the current betting favorite.

Spain has probably been the best offensive team on display. No team dominates possession like the Spaniards with their short passing game. And when Croatia played a high line in the round of 16, Spain showed it attack more directly, as well.

The Spanish have scored ten goals in their past two matches. Sure, this was against mediocre opposition. But if Alvaro Morata, who like Kane has finally started scoring, can put away his chances, Spain has a shot at winning the whole thing.

Italy has been the most balanced team in the tournament and probably the strongest, as well. There are no apparent weaknesses in the starting 11, although pace might be an issue for the veteran center backs.

But Italy struggled against a previously unimpressive Austrian side. The team seems to be regressing as the tournament goes on. In addition, Italy’s path to finals requires beating Belgium and probably Spain.

The good news is that center back Giorgio Chiellini is back just in time to battle Belgium’s powerful striker Romelu Lukuku (ex-Everton). This is the renewal of a Serie A duel between the annoying Juventus defender and the Inter Milan forward. Lukaku is a handful, but Chiellini usually has the upper hand in that duel.

Belgium is the most talented of the remaining teams at Euro 2020, in my estimation. But that’s only when its star players are available and fit.

Two of Belgium’s three biggest stars, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), have battled injuries throughout the tournament. Both left the round of 16 game against Portugal, which Belgium narrowly won, with injuries. The status of both for the quarterfinal clash against Italy is uncertain.

With De Bruyne and Hazard, Belgium has a shot at winning the whole thing despite the difficult path the draw has created. Without them, or at least one of the two playing at or near his best, they are more likely than not to lose to Italy.

Denmark seems like the most inspired team in the tournament. Finland upset the Danes in their first game, in which team captain Christian Eriksen nearly died of cardiac arrest.

Since then Denmark has been on a mission. After a narrow loss to Belgium, the Danes put four goals past Slovakia and Wales.

Denmark is solid at the back and strong in central midfield with Thomas Delaney and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (Tottenham Hotspur). Unheralded wingback Joakim Maehle has been outstanding. Mikkel Damsgaard has filled in well for Eriksen.

Up front, the Danes lack a goal scorer remotely as lethal as Kane, Morata, Lukaku, or Ciro Immobile of Italy. But Yussaf Paulsen and Martin Braithwaite have chipped in with three goals (combined) in four matches.

No one will relish playing a Danish team inspired by their ailing but recovering captain.

Of the three other quarterfinalists — Ukraine, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic — the Ukrainians look like the weakest. They were mediocre at best in the group stage and probably would have been eliminated in the round of 16 had not a Swedish center back been sent off with a red card in the second half. Even with a man advantage, Ukraine made very hard work of prevailing in extra time.

Switzerland is a decent side. The Swiss sent the vaunted French home on penalty kicks after coming from two goals down late in the match. However, it’s hard to see Switzerland getting beyond the semifinals and even that would require another upset victory (this one against Spain). Remember, the Swiss lost 3-0 to Italy and could only get a draw against Wales.

The Czech team outplayed a good Dutch team in the round of 16. These guys aren’t mugs.

However, they didn’t impress much in the group stage. Against England, it seemed like they could have played another 90 minutes and still not scored. This, despite the presence of a very good center forward in Patrik Schick.

The Czechs have a shot against Denmark in the quarterfinals. But a spot in the semifinals is probably the best they realistically can hope for.

Here are the quarterfinal matchups:

Friday:
Switzerland vs. Spain
Belgium vs. Italy

Saturday:
Czech Republic vs. Denmark
England vs Ukraine

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