Euro 2020 or Euro 2021, whatever you want to call it, kicked off on Friday 10th June being played in a number of countries with the final to be played at Wembley in London on Sunday 11th July.
The 24 teams were divided into six groups of four, with the top two teams in each group being joined by the four best third-placed teams in the Round of 16 knockouts. In the knockout rounds, games that are still tied after ninety minutes will go to extra time and then penalties if needed.
The Round of 16 has already provided us with some exhilarating drama that the remaining rounds will be hard-pressed to match.
We’re at the quarterfinal stage of the competition with just eight sides left to duke it out for the trophy. Here’s the groups those eight sides emerged from -
Group A - 1st Italy, 3rd Switzerland
Italy came into the tournament on the back of a 26-game unbeaten record, and were perfect in the group rounds, something Azzurri fans are not used to seeing. They have hit the ground running and look one of the best and deepest squads in this tournament.
Despite qualifying as one of the four best third-placed sides in the group stages, Switzerland have not looked out of place and had the biggest giantkilling act of the Round of 16, eliminating defending World Champions France despite being two goals down with less than ten minutes to play. They would need to beat Spain and then either Italy or Belgium to get to Wembley, but after that performance against France, they might be worth a wager.
Group B - 1st Belgium, 2nd Denmark
The Belgian side bears all the hallmarks of a Roberto Martinez side - prone to conceding cheap goals from over-elaborating playing out from the back, but also capable of scoring breathtaking goals in transition. Will they finally shed their tag of underachievers?
Has any side overcome more adversity than Denmark this tournament? From watching talisman Christian Eriksen collapsing in a heap in their first game, the Danes have somehow held it together playing some determined and direct football and are fully deserving of their place in the quarterfinals.
Group C - 3rd Ukraine
A Ukraine side consisting mostly of Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk players and coached by Andrei Shevchenko have gritted out some results and despite only finishing third remain the sole survivors from Group C as they now take on England.
Group D - 1st England, 3rd Czech Republic
England played large parts of their first four games with an overabundance of caution, with Gareth Southgate knowing exactly when to bring on some key subs and let the players play. The Three Lions now have a pretty easy path to the final and need to ensure they keep playing with the control they have so far.
The Czech side have had some key players showing up at the most opportune times, and despite finishing third in Group D, slayed Netherlands in the Round of 16 and now face a winnable game against the Danes.
Group E - 2nd Spain
Despite being in transition, this Spain squad is loaded with talent and a number of youngsters in the team are coming into their own. They are certainly capable of burying anyone with a deluge of goals, but have shown themselves to be suspect in defence as well.
Group F - N/A
The pre-tournament ‘Group of Death’ was so difficult that France, Germany and Portugal all made it out of Group F only to promptly perish in the Round of 16.
Before the tournament, this is what we had written about the Everton goalkeeper - Jordan Pickford answered his critics with an almost flawless second half of the season for Everton that pretty much sealed his spot between the sticks for England at the competition. He has maintained that form with the Three Lions yet to concede a goal in four games played, and Pickford cool, calm and collected between the sticks.
Despite Harry Kane struggling in front of goal, Southgate has persisted with him and Dominic Calvert-Lewin has only played a minute of football so far. The bracket does seem to favour England and it will be a big surprise not to see the Toffees duo in the final at Wembley.
France are out but in some bad news for Everton, Lucas Digne’s tournament looked like it was over even before that after he hobbled off with a hamstring issue just minutes after coming on a substitute during the group stages. Hopefully the extended rest gets him back to full fitness before he has to report to Finch Farm.
Two players linked with Everton have both had excellent tournaments at personal level. Denzel Dumfries looked incredibly good marauding up and down the right flank, and with rumours that Marcel Brands has just returned from Netherlands on transfer business, you have to wonder if he was at his former club PSV Eindhoven finalizing a deal for the right back.
The Blues had apparently made an inquiry about Swiss striker Haris Seferovic before the tournament started, with Benfica quoting a price of €15m that they have since doubled with the forward scoring thrice in four games.
Euro 2020 Knockout Rounds Fixtures List
Round of 16
Tuesday, July 6
49 - Winners Match 45 vs. Winners Match 46 (London; 3 p.m. ET, 9 p.m. CET) - ESPN
Wednesday, July 7
50 - Winners Match 47 vs. Winners Match 48 (London; 3 p.m. ET, 9 p.m. CET) - ESPN
Sunday, July 11
Winners Match 49 vs. Winners Match 50 (London; 3 p.m. ET, 9 p.m. CET) - ESPN, BBC One