FINAL FOUR: A detailed look at the Euro 2020 semi-finalists
After 48 games across a period of just 25 days, the Euro 2020 semi-finalists have been decided so we take a detailed look at the teams left.
Italy, Spain, Denmark and of course England are the four teams remaining in the year-delayed competition. Pre-tournament favourites were France and Belgium but they have departed and it now feels like the trophy could be won by any of the countries left.
It’s a journey that started way back in March 2019 and now over two years later, each of the four teams are two matches away from glory. Here is a detailed look at the teams.
Euro 2020 results: Turkey 0-3 Italy (Group), Italy 3-0 Switzerland (Group), Italy 1-0 Wales (Group), Italy 2-1 Austria AET (Last 16), Belgium 1-2 Italy (Quarter-Final)
Top Scorer: Ciro Immobile, Matteo Pessina, Manuel Locatelli (2 goals)
Having topped their qualifying group by winning all ten matches, Italy have been incredibly impressive throughout the final tournament so far. During the group stage, they combined their traditional pragmatic defending with some electric attacking, surprising a few people having failed to even qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
They were particularly impressive in the way they took apart the much-fancied Turkey in the opening game of the tournament as the movement of Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Berardi really caught the eye. They then followed that up by sweeping aside a Switzerland side that has gone on to knock out World Cup holders France with midfielder Manuel Locatelli starring in that one. The Azzurri then changed most of their team and just about kept Wales at bay. At that point, Italy had only conceded one goal in fifteen matches.
In the Last 16, Italy played at Wembley and were given a right scare by Austria as they appeared to have grabbed a late winner only for VAR to spare the Azzurri’s blushes. That game went to extra-time and Federico Chiesa produced a moment of genuine quality and Italy took advantage of the momentum to grab another quickly. Despite conceding through Sasa Kalajdzic's brave header, that mean defence saw Italy go through to the quarter-finals.
Their mouth-watering tie against Belgium didn’t disappoint as it was a game of real high quality and Italy will have huge confidence from overcoming the number one ranked team in the world thanks to goals from Nicolo Barella and Insigne.
The consistency of their performances and a defence which looks tough to penetrate will make them favourites for the semi-final against Spain but that has counted for very little during Euro 2020. Roberto Mancini will need to use all his experience to guide Italy past a Spain team that has relied on a dominant possession game in the tournament, creating lots of chances.
But for a side that didn’t even qualify for the World Cup to now be many peoples favourites to win the tournament speaks volumes.
Euro 2020 results: Spain 0-0 Sweden (Group), Poland 1-1 Spain (Group), Slovakia 0-5 Spain (Group), Croatia 3-5 Spain AET (Last 16), Switzerland 1-1 Spain AET and Spain won on penalties (Quarter-Final)
Top Scorer: Pablo Sarabia, Ferran Torres, Alvaro Morata (2 goals)
Rather like Portugal in Euro 2016, Spain are in the semi-finals having only won one game in 90 minutes all tournament. They came into the tournament with a lot of doubts around their squad despite having topped their qualifying group. A young team missing injured talisman Sergio Ramos and lacking a clinical striker seemed valid reasons to be worried when Sweden held them to a goalless draw in Seville. They had 85% possession and seventeen shots but it was actually Sweden who missed the best opportunity for a winner.
Their next game was very similar and although they finally managed to score through Morata, they conceded a Robert Lewandowski header and again failed to convert some very good chances for another draw which left them needing to win to qualify. Fortunately, it all clicked against Slovakia as they stuck five goals past them with real style.
Spain then showed incredible character to beat Croatia in an all-time Euros classic. They conceded a bizarre own goal early on but came back through Sarabia, Cesar Azpilicueta and Torres to lead 3-1. However, they showed real defensive weakness to crosses in the final five minutes which allowed Croatia to level the game at 3-3 and take it to extra time. The momentum felt like it was against Spain but the much-maligned Morata was the hero as he volleyed home and then played his part to set up a fifth goal.
Yet more character and more inept finishing was on display against Switzerland as they took the lead through an own goal but that was cancelled out by Xerdan Shaqiri. The Swiss were reduced to ten men but Spain missed a number of opportunities, particularly Gerard Moreno. Nevertheless, they won a penalty shoot-out and set up the semi-final with Italy.
Spain have showed they can create a huge amount of chances and scored five goals in two consecutive games but equally, they have a vulnerable defence and Italy have shown they can be clinical.
Euro 2020 results: Denmark 0-1 Finland (Group), Denmark 1-2 Belgium (Group), Russia 1-4 Denmark (Group), Wales 0-4 Denmark (Last 16), Czech Republic 1-2 Denmark (Quarter-Final)
Top Scorer: Kasper Dolberg (3 goals)
It’s hard to think of a more remarkable story than if Denmark were to win Euro 2020 (although Danish fans would say their triumph in 1992 was equally extraordinary). They only qualified in second place behind Switzerland but a good Nations League campaign meant they were a ‘dark horse’ for the tournament.
However, their first game ended in disaster as their captain and one of their most talented players Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch, putting football very much into context. Eriksen fortunately survived but the Danish players were in no state of mind when the game resumed so it was no surprise they lost 1-0 to Finland. Since then, they have been well and truly inspired.
They outplayed Belgium for 45 minutes and it was only Kevin De Bruyne coming on as a substitute that prevented them from a victory but they then blew away Russia to finish as the second-placed team in the group. They then took on Wales and were ruthless in their dismissal of the British side, again scoring four very good goals.
Their quarter-final was decided by a real moment of quality with Kasper Dolberg volleying in a superb cross from Joakim Maehle to add to the two goals he scored against Wales as the Danes beat Czech Republic 2-1.
They are a dangerous opponent for England with good players all over the pitch, not least Maehle who is in with a shout of winning player of the tournament. Mikkel Damsgaard has done a phenomenal job coming in for Eriksen and provided a huge amount of creativity whilst goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel and centre-back Simon Kjaer provide leadership and solidity needed at the back.
Euro 2020 results: England 1-0 Croatia (Group), England 0-0 Scotland (Group), Czech Republic 0-1 England (Group), England 2-0 Germany (Last 16), Ukraine 0-4 England (Quarter-Final)
England seem to have grown into this tournament. They edged out Croatia thanks to a Sterling goal but there was then much frustration as they really failed to create anything against Scotland. Southgate again had to ignore a huge amount of negativity about his pragmatism when England ensured they topped the group by beating Czech Republic 1-0.
However, all of that was forgotten when that very same pragmatism brought unbridled joy when England beat old rivals Germany 2-0 at Wembley thanks to late goals from Sterling and Kane. Then came one of the most impressive performances of the tournament as England swatted Ukraine aside to win 4-0 with Kane at the double as well as goals from Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson.
The Three Lions can take great heart from the fact they are the only team not to concede a goal so far but there is a sense that England are yet to really be tested by an attacking team. Denmark will almost certainly change that, having scored 11 goals in their last three games themselves so it will be interesting to see how Southgate chooses to set up in that semi-final. If England win, it will be their first tournament final since 1966.
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