Were presented with the toughest of tests in the last 16 in the shape of the reigning champions, Portugal, but won a surprisingly feisty encounter 1-0 thanks to Thorgan Hazard’s sumptuous strike. The veterans Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Thomas Vermaelen (combined age: 100 years) coped admirably with everything Portugal threw at them in the kind of game they may have lost a few years ago. “We had to show an incredible mentality,” Roberto Martínez said. “Everything was about being disciplined and tactically astute. That is what a winning team needs.” The injured Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard may miss out against Italy but Belgium feel they have a squad that can cope with that.
The 2-0 win against Germany was vindication for Gareth Southgate and his tactics. True, England did not create many chances before Raheem Sterling scored the opener but neither, frankly, did Germany and once England were in front there was no stopping them. The back three worked well and so did having Jack Grealish spring from the bench in the second half. They now have to play away from Wembley for the first time as they face Ukraine in Rome but Harry Maguire said they are ready: “We don’t get carried away. If you don’t play to a level you will get punished. If we don’t perform we will lose.”
Gone was the fluency from the group stage so Italy had to rely on their willpower to get past Austria, winning 2-1 at Wembley after extra time. Perhaps the many changes before the third group game had unsettled Roberto Mancini’s team and perhaps the selection of Marco Verratti ahead of Manuel Locatelli was a little negative. But through they are and Federico Chiesa did everything possible to secure a starting place against Belgium in the quarter-finals with a scintillating substitute appearance and a goal 25 years after his father scored at the Euros.
What a rollercoaster ride it has been for Luis Enrique and Spain. There were the two opening draws, the two missed penalties, the abuse of Álvaro Morata and his family and then the release in the shape of a 5-0 victory against Slovakia. The last-16 game against Croatia packed a lot in too with Unai Simón’s horrible mistake, Spain being 3-1 up with five minutes remaining yet still having to play extra time, and finally Morata’s goal and a 5-3 win. It seems as if all this has got the group of players closer together and that can only work in their favour. Now Switzerland await.
The 4-0 win against Wales felt like the first game of the Euros where Denmark’s focus was completely on the football. Of course this championship will always be about Christian Eriksen, and his teammates will want to win every single game, every single tackle for him, but the players now sense a chance that they can go very far indeed in this tournament. That has, at least from the outside, felt secondary until now. It was impressive how the team responded to losing two starters, Yussuf Poulsen and Daniel Wass, and carried on as if nothing had happened. One of the replacements, Kasper Dolberg, scored twice.
The Swiss had gone out in the last 16 in the past two tournaments and they were expected to depart again at the same stage given they were facing the world champions, France. However, Vladimir Petkovic’s side were outstanding as they took the lead and responded to missing a penalty that would have put them 2-0 up to take the game into extra time and penalties. The striker Haris Seferovic, oft-criticised, now has three goals in the tournament, two of them coming against France.
“This is a dream, the best game of my life,” said Tomas Holes, who gave the Czechs the lead against the Netherlands, a game they won 2-0 to set up a quarter-final meeting with Denmark. The Czechs have been extremely organised and there is danger up front in the shape of Patrik Schick, who also scored against the Netherlands. The Dutch were so poor after the sending-off of Matthijs de Ligt that it is difficult to judge how good the performance was but Holes could not have been more pleased. “Tactically we played a great game when it was 11 v 11 and 10 v 11,” he said. “We never gave them any space to play and we were rewarded. We played as a team and with some great individual performances.”
Andriy Shevchenko’s side march on, beating Sweden 2-1 in their last-16 encounter after Artem Dovbyk scored the winner in the last minute of extra time. They were much improved on the poor performance against Austria in their last group game and they frustrated the Swedes with their deep defending and quick counterattacks. The win came at a cost though with several players injured, including the captain, Andriy Yarmolenko, and it remains to be seen if he is fit to face England in the quarter-finals. “With this performance and commitment, our team has deserved the love of the whole country,” a pleased Shevchenko told uefa.com after the game.
The champions went out at the last-16 stage, paying the penalty for finishing third in their group and facing Belgium in their first knockout game. They were not terrible in that encounter but neither did the result feel harsh. It is rare to see Fernando Santos and the rest of the team as tactically flummoxed as they were in the 4-2 defeat against Germany, with Bernardo Silva hooked at half-time, and there were several players who looked below their best after draining club seasons, Bruno Fernandes only one of them. Cristiano Ronaldo did his bit, scoring five goals, but they could not defend their title.
They did what they had to – which was to get out of the group – and nearly more. There was a sense that Croatia were getting better and better as the tournament progressed. They were a class above Scotland in their final group game and then produced a magical comeback against Spain to take the game into extra time. They had chances to go ahead before finally succumbing 5-3. The coach, Zlatko Dalic, was criticised back home but said he would continue in the role and try to take the nation to the 2022 World Cup. “We have nothing to be ashamed of,” he said. “We made some simple mistakes, which you can’t afford against the likes of Spain because they will punish you. But it’s part of growing up.”
Franco Foda’s side can be proud of themselves. Austria had never progressed from the group stage of a European Championship but they did so here and then pushed Italy all the way in the last 16. Few had given them a chance against Roberto Mancini’s swashbuckling side but they took the game into extra time and rallied once they went 2-0 down, too. In the end, Italy held out for a 2-1 win but Foda remarked: “Even after 2-0 behind the team kept believing. That was very impressive. We had a good dynamic. Defensively we were very solid.”
What a strange tournament for the world champions. They emerged from the group of death as winners and were given a last-16 tie against Switzerland, only to implode and go out on penalties. The game against Switzerland showed just how small the margins are at this level. Switzerland equalised in the 90th minute through Mario Gavranovic and even after that Kingsley Coman hit the bar in regulation time. “I am responsible when things go badly,” Didier Deschamps, the manager, said. “I am with them, they are with me. We will need time to manage this.”Haris Seferovic
Sweden dominated the second half against Ukraine, in which Emil Forsberg hit the bar and a post, and looked to have enough in the tank to put pressure on their last-16 opponents until the defender Marcus Danielson was sent off early on in extra time. Just before that, the coach, Janne Andersson, had made a triple substitution to try to win the game. “This is brutal,” he said after Ukraine’s winner in the 120th minute. Overall, Sweden will be pleased with their performance, with Forsberg in particular having an outstanding tournament.
Joachim Löw’s 15-year reign in charge of the Nationalmannschaft ended with a whimper. Germany started brightly against England at Wembley but faded in the second half and did not threaten particularly after the home side had gone ahead (apart from the good chance gifted to Thomas Müller). Löw will be criticised for some strange substitutions towards the end (is Emre Can really the answer when you are chasing a game?) and, apart from the scintillating win against Portugal, this was a poor tournament for Germany. They will be better under Hansi Flick.
Won all their three games in the group stage and looked in a decent position to go far in the tournament but folded like a house of cards once Matthijs de Ligt was sent off eight minutes into the second half against the Czech Republic. Frank de Boer failed to reorganise his troops and on the pitch the players lacked belief. On Tuesday De Boer left his post, saying: “The pressure is only increasing and that is not a healthy situation for me, nor for the squad.” Georginio Wijnaldum scored three goals and Denzel Dumfries had a good tournament but this feels like a lost chance for the Dutch.
There was to be no repeat of the heroics from 2016 and they were well beaten by Denmark. Wales started well in their last-16 game but seemed to run out of steam after about 25 minutes and could have no complaint about the result. Rob Page has done well as an interim coach and said after the defeat: “We’re a young group, we’ll bounce back and move forward. We’ve just said to them: ‘You’ll become bigger and better for this experience.’” The biggest stars, Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, did not produce against Denmark and maybe a season of bit-part roles at their clubs caught up with them in the end.