After a thrilling 16-player round, Euro 2020 reached the quarterfinal stage. France and Portugal, the 2018 World Cup winners, were eliminated. The big questions are discussed by our writers.
Which were your round-of-16 highlights and what did you think?
Gab Marcotti: The sheer drama in most of the games: Croatia's victory against Spain, Switzerland's win against France, Ukraine's win against Sweden, and the scares Italy got. There was also a lot of skill, but I preferred Paul Pogba’s goal (and celebration). The story of Denmark's progress to the quarterfinals is often overlooked. While the England vs. Germany match was disappointing, football can be about the outcome. That's okay.
Mark Ogden: Spain vs. Croatia, France vs. Switzerland was a memorable day. It will be remembered as one of the most thrilling and exhilarating tournaments. My highlight was attending Wembley to see and hear the joy and relief at Harry Kane's goal, England's second, which confirmed the victory. It was the first time England had beaten Germany in a knockout round at a tournament since 1966. This has been a significant loss for previous teams. This victory was a great cathartic win. It seemed like 55 years of frustration were released at the last whistle.
James Olley: It was a privilege to be at Wembley to see England defeat Germany in a tournament knockout match, which was the first in 55 years. Although the stadium was only half full, it was louder than ever for international fixtures. It was clear that everything was possible in this thrilling knockout round. Spain's win over Croatia is a worthy victory, but Switzerland's win against France was even more impressive considering they were down 3-1 with nine minutes to go.
Julien Laurens It will be remembered as a landmark in Euros history. It had everything: the upset and penalties, KarimBenzema's control of his equaliser, the Swiss return, Didier Deschamps tactical chaos, and the belief. Raheem sterling feeling at home again at Wembley and kick-kicking the Germans from London was another highlight. Another classic was Spain vs. Croatia. Alvaro Morata, Luis Enrique and Luis Enrique deserve credit for not giving up on their dreams and believing in themselves as well as their team. It paid off.
Rob Dawson: Both Spain vs. Croatia, and France vs. Switzerland proved to be thrilling matches. A late fightback from nowhere is impossible for neutrals. It's difficult to overlook England's victory over Germany in terms of individual moments. Gareth Southgate, in his postmatch interview, spoke of seeing David Seaman, his former teammate, smiling on Wembley's big screen. He said that he wanted to forget Euro 96, when he failed in the shootout against Germany and England lost. It was evident that something had changed in his shoulders and it was being reflected across the country.
Tom Hamilton: This round of matches has been too much for us. Each match was exhilarating and fascinating in its own right, with Spain's win over Croatia 5-3 a thrilling seesaw of a game that was later matched by Switzerland winning the penalty shootout over France. Pogba's goal against Croatia was amazing, and Thorgan Hazard's win for Belgium against Portugal was also impressive. Keep an eye out for Benzema’s Dennis Bergkamp-esque goal against the Swiss. It will soon be lost in the haze of France’s exit. It's impossible to not get involved in Denmark's Euros with Kasper Dolberg, their new hero. After all the hardships he has endured, it was easy to smile when Morata won against Switzerland. Morata has been in the news throughout this tournament, for good and for bad -- and he deserves his goal.
Is it necessary to revise your prediction of the final match-up before the 16th?
Olley: Just a little. France was my pre-tournament favorite, even in the difficult half, and Switzerland seemed the ideal springboard to the later stages. Even worse, I was adamant that the Netherlands would continue after their three Group C wins. It is difficult to predict Italy against Belgium, but Austria caused problems for the Italians and Belgium's firepower could win the day. England has the chance to win the final against the other half.
Laurens: I need to revise the final match-up, as I had predicted a France vs. Germany semifinal and both have been eliminated. The draw is now easy to predict: England will reach the final, as no one from that bracket can stop them. The opposite side of the draw is harder to predict. This time, I will be going for a spot in the final for Belgium. They've learned a lot from their 2018 World Cup defeat against France. This group of players is now ready to compete in the finals and win a major tournament trophy.
Dawson: France vs. England was my prediction, but that was before France won it against Switzerland with just 10 minutes remaining. France was 3-1 ahead. England should be able to make it out of the bracket that also includes Ukraine, Denmark, and Czech Republic. Even though Belgium beat Italy in the quarterfinals, they still have the players to make it to Wembley on the 11th of July.
Hamilton: My prediction of France winning the entire thing and reaching the final looks a bit foolish. Let's have an Italy-England game at Wembley on July 11. From the beginning, I predicted that Denmark would win the tournament. While Belgium is advancing well, I worry about injuries. Roberto Mancini is a brilliant coach for Italy, and England is riding high after their victory over Germany, it could be a tasty match-up.
Marcotti: Belgium vs. Germany was my choice, so I have to change Germany's position since they lost. Although logic suggests England at this stage, I still believe in the Danish fairytale, so I'll stick with them. After Kevin De Bruyne’s injury, I am less certain about Belgium but I feel that I should stay with them.
Ogden: Although I had predicted a France vs. England semifinal before the round of 16, I wouldn't be surprised if England lost to Germany. France's defeat to Switzerland was not in the equation and Euro 2020 has been blown open by their loss. Les Bleus being out, I'm going to vote for Belgium to reach final -- though it all depends on De Bruyne's fitness and Eden Hazard's performance against Italy in their quarterfinal.
play 1:00 Howard
What coaches have impressed you and what has been a struggle?
Dawson: Luis Enrique proved how strong a character his loyalty to Alvaro Morata was when it would have been easy to give in to pressure from outsiders and choose someone else. Morata scored Spain's fourth and final goal in their 5-3 victory over Croatia. His performance all round was outstanding, particularly the way he kept the ball up and brought others in to the game. Deschamps is to blame for the outcome. Kylian Mbappe missed out on the crucial penalty against Switzerland. His system was perfect and France was on the losing side from the very first whistle.
Hamilton: Kasper Hjulmand from Denmark has been my tournament star. He has managed to manage everything and they still play great football, giving them a chance at winning the tournament. Luis Enrique has stuck to his coaching philosophy, and it's paid off. England's Southgate as well as Italy's Mancini made bold decisions that have paid off. For those who are struggling, you can look to the managers back home in France's Deschamps or Germany's Joachim Low. Both teams were far less than the sum of their parts.
Marcotti: Mancini's tactical vision of Italy and the group of players has been a huge success. Luis Enrique is also very good, although his personnel decisions sometimes leave me stumped. Hjulmand deserves a mention, just from a man management perspective, considering what Denmark has been through. Frank de Boer, on the other hand, lived up to my expectations. Although I knew Low would struggle, it was something I did not expect to happen to such an extent. Deschamps is something I have always been critical of, so I don't think I'm surprised. However, switching to a back-three was an extreme decision (and one that I regret greatly), and I cannot let it go.
Ogden: Although Vladimir Petkovic is in charge of Switzerland from 2014, he doesn't often get the headlines or be praised. France and Deschamps underestimated Petkovic before their meeting in Bucharest. Petkovic led the Swiss to a celebrated victory through a strategic game plan and clever use of substitutions. Switzerland is well-organized, but they have flair. This is due to Petkovic’s savvy coaching. Low, the strugglers, looked out of sorts during Germany's short stay at the tournament. Low has enjoyed a period of success in his 15-year tenure, but he should have resigned after the group stage exit at last World Cup.
Olley: Southgate is a creditable player for having a clear strategy and tackling the tournament. Some England fans are still confused by the fact that it's not what they expected. A team with a lot of attacking potential prioritizes safety-first football over defensive stability. Although it's not pretty, and there is a possibility that the balance might tip in the opposite direction, it is very effective. Compare that to Low in Germany, who had talented players but could not mould them into an efficient unit during the tournament. However, Low was able to score four goals against Portugal. Deschamps' decision against Switzerland to change personnel and system clearly contributed to France's surprise exit. This is evident in how France performed when they switched to a 4-4-2 formation in the second half. However, things didn't get any tighter until the final whistle.
Laurens: Let's begin with the disappointments. France's failure lies on Deschamps. He chose the wrong tactics against Switzerland and the wrong players. Fernando Santos' selections for Portugal were just as bad as those made against Belgium. De Boer was unable to win as soon as the opponents of Netherlands rose. It was only the Czech Republic. Well done to Luis Enrique, Mancini and Hjulmand who gave Italy and Denmark an identity, and Roberto Martinez and Southgate who have remained strong under extreme pressure.
- European Soccer Pick'Em: Enter to Win $10,000
- Watch ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. Only)
- Euro 2020 on ESPN - Stream LIVE games, replays and more (U.S.
Nine of our own goals have been seen; are there any theories?
Ogden: It is a strange coincidence that so many goals have been scored when you think about the individual goals. For example, there is no direct comparison between Martin Dubravka’s goal for Slovakia against Spain or Unai Simon’s failure to connect with Pedri’s back-pass against Croatia. Although it may not be the most important factor, it is still an issue.
Marcotti: It's just randomness and sample size. Two goals by goalkeepers were accidental mistakes. It's hard to see much beyond the fact that domestic leagues seem to be more comfortable awarding goals, even with large deflections. This may be because it suits both the attacker as well as the defender. UEFA seems a little more rational in this regard.
Olley: One could argue that it is due to a decrease in quality from the increase to 24 participants and the third-highest number (three) of own goals. This was at Euro 2016, the first time the format had changed. The elite nations were heavily involved. The two Portugals that were'scored" came from large-scale overloads and the defenders had no other options. This is also true for Germany's Matshummels against France. This can happen anywhere -- Dubravka will not repeat the same error against Spain the rest of his career. Ditto Simon's mistake for Spain against Croatia.
Laurens: Can there be a rational explanation for this? It's not really, more bad luck and poor plays. Moments of madness were witnessed, such as Dubravka crashing the ball into his own net and Simon pondering his pass before he even controlled the ball. Moments of pure incompetence, like Juraj Kucka and Hummels not being able to get their feet under control. Merih Demiral and Ruben Dias are all great players, but they were also victims of great crosses. Wojciech Zczesny, Lukas Hradecky had bad luck with the ball hitting the woodwork.
Dawson: It's an exception. It's impossible to account for mistakes such as Simon's or Dubravkas. You won't get the same amount of own goals if you play the same tournament nine more times. It's one of the many things that can happen in soccer.
Hamilton: Many players will be feeling tired after a long season. This may have affected some key decisions. Poor positioning can account for a couple of own goals, Demiral's and Hummels respectively in their openers. Some are just plain unfortunate: Szczesny couldn't have done anything about his own goal against Slovakia, when the ball bounced off his post and hit him. After that, Croatia's pathetic opener against Spain was Pedri’s back-pass slipping past Simon. The nine don't seem to have any common factor, except for football's classics of misfortune like pressure and bad luck.