There are three matches left in Euro 2020, a tournament which has provided oodles of entertainment for football fans across the world. The quarterfinals provided another dramatic penalty shootout and two matches decided by one goal with constant end-to-end action.
For all Euro competitions, there is not a third-place match unlike the FIFA World Cup, meaning the two teams that lose in the semifinals will have their Euro 2020 journeys end at the full-time whistle. Here is my breakdown of the two matches.
7/6/2021: Italy vs Spain at 3:00 p.m. EST on ESPN
So, we meet again.
This is the theme of the first Euro 2020 semifinal match between Italy and Spain. The two European powers will square off for the fourth consecutive Euro competition. Italy defeated Spain 2-0 in the round of 16 in Euro 2020. In 2012, Spain won their second-straight Euro Final, defeating Italy 4-0. In 2008, en route to their first Euro championship, Spain outlasted Italy in a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals.
Italy has arrived in the Euro 2020 semifinals after being the only team among the four semifinalists to win all five of their Euro 2020 matches so far. They did not conceded a single point in their group stage matches, then defeated a pesky Austrian side in the round of 16 in extra time. In the quarterfinals, they held off a furious Belgium comeback attempt to claim victory 2-1.
Italy has gotten it done with tremendous playmaking on the attack all across the pitch. Lorenzo Insigne has provided world-class scoring ability for the Azzurri, scoring the winning goal on a long-range curler against Belgium. Their backline has been sturdy, only allowing two goals throughout the entire competition. However, the Belgium win came at a cost as left-back Leonardo Spinazzola, who has been a breakout star in Euro 2020, ruptured his Achilles tendon, leaving him out for a significant amount of time.
Spain’s path to the Euro 2020 semifinals has been anything but smooth. Spain has been the possession masters of the tournament, gaining at least 66% of the possession in all five of their Euro 2020 matches. They finished second in Group E after drawing against Sweden and Poland, then blew a 3-1 lead to Croatia in the round of 16. They scored twice in extra time to outlast the 2018 World Cup runner-ups 5-3. In the quarterfinals, Spain was taken to a penalty shootout by Switzerland despite having a man advantage for nearly 40 minutes. They broke their streak of missing six penalty kicks in a row, defeating the Swiss 3-1 in the shootout.
Their midfield has been stout, always controlling the pace and flow of the match. However, despite becoming the first team in Euro history to score five goals in two consecutive matches, they have struggled to finish their chances on a consistent basis. It has led them to two draws and a penalty shootout despite having a man advantage. Striker Alvaro Morata has also failed to score most of his chances, leading to manager Luis Enrique benching him for Mikel Oyarzabal in the semifinals against Italy.
This match will be a battle between two teams that love to control possession and the tempo of the match. Without Spinazzola, Italy will be less effective on the attack. However, Spain has been inconsistent in finishing their chances, which will finally catch up to them. Insigne will dazzle under the bright lights and score Italy’s one goal that they need to advance to the Euro 2020 Final.
Prediction: Italy 1 Spain 0
7/7/2021: England vs Denmark at 3:00 p.m. EST on ESPN
England gets home field advantage for their semifinal match against the story of the tournament in Denmark. England has reached the penultimate match in their quest to “bring football home. This position is all too familiar for English fans, losing to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semifinals match 2-1 in extra time.
England has not conceded a single goal in Euro 2020 so far. After a disappointing draw against Scotland in the group stage, the Three Lions have taken off. They defeated the Czech Republic 1-0, then defeated Germany 2-0 in front of their fans at Wembley Stadium. They made a statement in the quarterfinals, dispatching Ukraine 4-0 in Rome.
Raheem Sterling has impressed throughout this tournament with three goals and an assist to ignite the Three Lions’ attack. Striker Harry Kane has finally found his form after struggling in the group stage, scoring three goals in England’s two knockout round matches. Their midfield and backline have not allowed any opposing attackers to gain a rhythm. holding five consecutive clean sheets at Euro 2020.
Denmark has been the story of the tournament. In their opening match against Finland, Eriksen suffered cardiac arrest on the pitch, then was stabilized at a hospital in Copenhagen. The Danes played inspired football for their teammate, escaping the group stage after a 4-1 win over Russia. In the knockout round, Denmark blasted Wales 4-0, then held off the Czech Republic to win 2-1.
While their mainstays such as midfield Thomas Delaney and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel have stepped up for the Danes, but new stars have emerged in Eriksen replacement Mikkel Damsgaard and striker Kasper Dolberg, who has three goals in the knockout stage. They have played with heart and passion, elevating their already impressive playmaking squad.
While Denmark’s run has been inspirational, it will end on Wednesday as the Three Lions will triumph at Wembley. Their backline will hold strong and Sterling will set up Kane twice for goals as England will be one win away from achieving their quest to “bring football home.”
Prediction: England 2 Denmark 0