Fourteen days, 36 matches, and 3240 minutes into Euro 2020, and we’ve been treated to nothing less than breathtaking and entertaining football by the countries involved. The competition began with 24 teams, but after a highly dramatic group stage, only 16 teams are left to battle it out for the trophy. We have seen some mind-blowing goals like the the middle of the field lob by Patrick Schick, the beautiful side foot shot from Luka Modric, and the lovely curled effort from outside the box by Andriy Yarmolenko.
So far, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium have been the stand-out teams of the tournament. All three teams topped their respective groups by claiming the maximum points available. World Champions France, former World Champions Germany, and Euro defending champions Portugal all faced each other in the “Group of Death”, with each of those fixtures carrying the feeling of a tournament final.
More surprising has been the Swedes, impressively navigating their way to the top of a group that included Poland, Slovakia and Spain.
But that’s enough looking backwards. Let’s take a look ahead at the Round of 16 fixtures and their likely outcomes.
Wales v Denmark
Wales faces Denmark in what is a very even match that should treat us to 90 minutes of breathtaking end-to-end football. Wales will come into this fixture full of confidence after finishing ahead of much-touted Turkey and Switzerland in group A. The superstar duo of Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale have led the Welsh team from the front, both instrumental in scoring goals and creating chances for each other. Denmark is another team that has had to overcome difficult circumstances to qualify for the Round of 16. The Danes recovered from defeat in their first two matches to trash Russia 4-1, enough to send them through. The dominant win gives the Danes confidence also.
Note that we will have confirmed lineups for this match ahead of the transfer deadline, so be sure to check this space in the countdown hour.
Prediction: 2 – 1
Italy v Austria
Group stage team of the tournament Italy squares off against Austria in Saturday’s second match. Italy sailed through group A with a perfect record of 9 points, 7 goals scored and none conceded. The Azzurri have displayed a high level of discipline and team cohesiveness. The Italians have successfully kept tight at the back while also carving out and converting chances at the other end of the pitch. The tempo this Italian team plays at is nothing like the prior generation’s defensive-minded and slow Italian sides we grew up with.
Austria came into the tournament in fairly poor form that reduced the level of expectations placed on them, but the team has exceeded those expectations by making it to the Round of 16 for the first time in the country’s history. Austria will have to play a perfect game to overcome the competition’s most in-form team. The Azzurri will dominate this fixture while Austria will look to sit back and hit the Italians on the counter.
Prediction: 2 - 0
Belgium v Portugal
This match should be fun to watch. FIFA #1 Belgium faces the defending Euro champions Portugal in the most anticipated tie of the round of 16. This match promises a lot of excitement as neither team is known for sitting back and defending. It will be an enthralling end-to-end thriller that will see competition top-scorer and record-breaker Cristiano Ronaldo renew his club rivalry with Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku. The impressive and powerful Renato Sanches will also come up against midfield maestro Kevin De Bruyne.
Portugal will have to shore up its leaky defense to stand any chance of advancing against this very fast Belgium side. Having Ronaldo in your fantasy Euro 2020 team is a no-brainer; he is on PKs and has scored in every group stage match, so it would be unwise to bet against him once again taking the center stage in this round of 16 fixture. This will be a tight affair that will be decided by little details.
Prediction: 2 – 3
France v Switzerland
World Champions and competition favorites France square off against Switzerland in what should be a fairly straightforward fixture. Les Blues made light work of the Group of Death, qualifying for the Round of 16 with a game to spare. The last group stage fixture also saw Karim Benzema score his first pair of goals since his return to the national team. Switzerland qualified as one of the best third-place teams behind Italy and Wales in group A. The Swiss sprang to life in its last group fixture when they comfortably put Turkey to the sword, so they should come into this fixture with confidence. But the quality of the French team should prevail over Switzerland.
Croatia v Spain
World Cup finalist Croatia has been unable to hit the heights associated with their previous tournaments. The team captained by aging former Balon D’or winner and midfield magician Luka Modric has failed to find a replacement for Mario Madzukic, and this has seen the team struggle to score goals. The Croatians scraped through to this round with their first win of Euro 2020 in the final group game against Scotland.
Spain is also another team that has failed to hit the heights expected of them. La Roja have had problems in attack, their strikers failing to impress. Gerard Moreno and Alvaro Morata have both been guilty of missing golden chances, and both strikers have also missed penalties. To beat Croatia, Spain will need to replicate the kind of attacking football and killer instinct they displayed in their last group match which saw them put five past Slovakia. This should be another close fixture that will be decided by little details.
Prediction: 1 - 2
Sweden v Ukraine
Sweden faces Ukraine in what will be their fifth meeting. Ukraine has won on three occasions while Sweden have only been victorious once. Ukraine came into this tournament in the best of form, having traipsed unbeaten through their qualifying matches, but the team has since failed to build on those performances. Ukraine barely sneaked into the Round of 16 as the last of the four third-place teams from the group stage (and the only one with negative goal differential).
Sweden comes into this fixture in good spirits after performing above expectations, winning a group that included Poland, Slovakia and former World Champions Spain. Sweden’s defense, led by Man United defender Victor Lindelöf, has been most impressive, while Emile Forsberg and Alexander Isak have been taking care of business at the other end of the pitch. The return of Dejan Kulusevski to the starting lineup after a positive Covid test will add an extra dimension to Sweden’s attack. The midfielder announced his return to the match-day roster by providing two assists after coming on as a substitute against Poland.
Prediction: 3 – 1
England v Germany
England welcomes Germany to Wembley Stadium in another heavyweight Round of 16 fixture. The Three Lions’ back line has impressed as one of only two that are yet to concede a goal. But that tightness has come at the expense of attacking players failing to impress. England has managed to score only twice in three games. It will be interesting to see the S-11 Gareth Southgate puts out for this fixture, as he is under enormous pressure from fans and pundits to field a more attacking team (and also start Jadon Sancho).
Former World Champion Germany has been quite inconsistent in this tournament, opening with a loss, then impressing in a win, and finally settling for a nerve-wracking draw in the group stage. The Germans were on the verge of being knocked out of the competition by unheralded Hungary until they grabbed an equalizer six minutes from time. This current German team is a shadow of the one that won the world cup, but the swagger and vigor with which they dispatched defending champions Portugal in the group stage shows that they shouldn’t be underestimated in this fixture. Another close and low-scoring match is expected.
Prediction: 1 - 0
Netherlands v Czech Republic
Not much was expected of the Oranje heading into the Euros as they failed to impress in pre-tournament matches and qualifiers. But they have turned opinion around by coasting through Group C with a 100% record. The Dutch are in fine form as they take on the Czech Republic in the Round of 16 where they look to win their first knockout fixture in this competition since 2004.
The Czechs qualified for the Round of 16 as one of the best third- place teams in the group stage, so they need to provide something special to get past the Netherlands. They will need to be solid at the back and also be ready to take advantage of chances created on the counter.
Prediction: 3 - 1
If you haven’t already checked out MiQ’s player picks article, make sure you do. You’ll also want to read Dhivakhar’s rate my team article, which includes difficulty indices for each of the R-16 matches as well as a discussion of chip and non-chip strategies for the knockout rounds.
Cheers, and may all your arrows be green!
Which teams are you overweighting for the Round of 16? Are you expecting any upsets? Are you going with a safe “template” team, or are you rolling the dice with some under-the-radar differentials? Please post your team in the comments, and then stay to chat with us as we call the R-16’s action live!