The last-16 matches of the Euro2020-21 gave us a few matches that might soon be referred to as EURO-classics. Stunning football interchanged with nail-biting tension and a plethora of goals. With a few hours to go before the start of the quarter-finals, we are ready to go.
Amazing 8th finals
Well these last-16 matches surely had a few surprises in store. It began with Wales – Denmark which saw a continuation of the Danish resurrection in the tournament as Wales went down in flames. Although it was perhaps not entirely unexpected that Denmark would defeat Wales, the scale of the victory surely came as a surprise. Especially given that knock-out stages usually aren’t goal-scoring fests!
After a remarkably drawn out win of Italy over Austria within the regular 90 minutes, the 3rd of the 8th finals saw the sinking of the Dutch ship. Although the Czech’s did not play a stellar game in any way, they definitely deserved a win over a lacklustre Orange whose coach announced his resignation the next morning. Belgium – Portugal saw the first ‘shock’ of the knock-out stage although I think almost everyone could have seen it coming. Portugal played unconvincingly in the group-phase and the team has been on a steady decline since their EURO2016 win four years ago. Belgium on the other hand has been on a steady incline since 2016 and for the past two years has ranked pretty consistently in the top 3 of international football for nation teams. The Belgian win over Portugal was therefor no real surprise, the nerves of the still relatively young team held and the Portuguese were never really close to winning that match. But … he exit of a title-holder always feels as a surprise anyway.
Croatia – Spain however was a game of a very different kind. Croatia, World Cup finalist just 3 years ago, Croatia’s team saw its last chance here at the EURO2020 to earn some gold. To get there they needed to defeat a Spain who had only days before started to show some ‘form’ in their 5-0 win in their final group game. Croatia had struggled to qualify but is a team with a lot of quality and talent. After regular playing time the score 3-3 saw an unusual amount of goals for a knockout game. In extra-time the Croatian team however collapsed within minutes. Two Spanish goals took the air out of the Croatian strategy and they knew they were heading home.
But who knew that the second game that night would bring a very similar scenario, for the regular time that is. France – Switzerland proved to be a tense match where the all-star team of France found itself struggling unexpectedly with the all-morale team of Switzerland. In what should have been a one-sided match according to the theory, another 6 goals equally balanced saw another extra-time. This time however, there was no decisive goal in the additional 30 minutes. Even after 9 penalty-strikes there was a chance for the impasse to continue as the excellent french player Mbappe readied himself for his strike. The full weight of the evening was on his shoulders as missing this 10th penalty would be the end. One hand of the Swiss goal-keeper was enough to bring Switzerland into the quarter-finals and send the World Cup titleholder home.
The Tuesday was the day for England – Germany, a “classic” and yet no classic. The competition between these two “greats” of football is great, however their meetings in tournaments like EURO2020 is rare. Where the German team is a quarter-final regular, the English team is a more seldom visitor of those rounds. The German team had been struggling in the group phase despite occasional flashes of brilliance. The English team equally had a less than convincing run with Sterling being the stand-out player so far. In the end the German lack of quality and experience and a revival of Kane alongside Sterling delivered England the 2 goals it needed to secure a win that was never really challenged by the German team. Germany out before the quarter-finals … now that is something unusual.
Sweden – Ukraine was a game where I had my expectations on Sweden to progress and my hopes for Ukraine to do so. In 90 minutes in which Sweden never really managed to convince and Ukraine never stopped searching for an opportunity the dice fell on the right side and Ukraine secured a deserved, and historic, victory leading them into the quarter-finals for the first time.
Well, this is what we are here for isnt it? How did the forecasters do in this first big bite out of the knockout stage? A few seemingly decided there was no point in continuing (or I haven’t found their Email so far) whilst others saw their predicted winners lose and thus may dread to see the future stagnation of their scores. Let’s first have a look at the time-series of points won
The race at the top is still a tight contest between three forecasters. Luke Langer, “Ferris Bueller” and “Surfing Manatees” are in the lead, occasionally overtaking each other but never far apart. However, for those following there still is hope as there is a distinct chance we will see additional scire-lines “flat-lining” in the coming quarter-finals.
The full scores are the following
Today Switzerland and Spain will kick-off the quarter finals. We have 4 highly interesting matches ahead of us and … Denmark may well be the dark horse of this tournament. I think the Danes have a good chance on Sunday against the Czechs, and the Ukraine might prove surprisingly difficult for the English if they think they are already in the final. But tonight might bring another “shock” when Belgium would win against Italy! Will that happens? We will know in a couple of hours!