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Ranking the 8 remaining teams in the Euros

Belgium, Italy, Spain and others who could prevail.

Updated Jun 30th 2021, 8:31 AM

WITH SWITZERLAND stunning France on Monday, this Euros has been anything but predictable.

Nonetheless, we are persevering with our regular rankings as the tournament approaches its business end.

We’ve tried below to separate the genuine contenders from the rank outsiders ahead of the quarter-finals, which begin on Friday.

8. Ukraine

romania-ukraine-north-macedonia-euro-2020-soccer Source: Robert Ghement

Not a team many people would have predicted to make the quarter-finals. A last-gasp extra-time goal saw them pull off a slight upset against Sweden. Having lost two of their group games and only beaten North Macedonia before Tuesday, they were somewhat fortunate to advance. They are not the most creative side, though they were involved in one of the tournament’s most entertaining matches — a 3-2 defeat against the Netherlands. Since that game, they have looked tighter and if the Sweden game is anything to go by, they will be difficult to beat. Moreover, in West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko, they have a player capable of producing a moment of magic, as he demonstrated with his stunning goal against the Dutch. They were impressive too in qualifying, finishing top of a group that also featured Portugal and Serbia. Nevertheless, when you consider how ordinary they looked for much of the group stages, it’s hard to envisage them overcoming England in the quarters.

7. Czech Republic

netherlands-v-czech-republic-uefa-euro-2020-round-of-16-puskas-arena Source: PA

Weren’t overly impressive in the group stages. The 2-0 win over Scotland flattered them slightly, while they managed a draw with Croatia and lost to England. Their 2-0 defeat of the Dutch was undeniably impressive, even if they again got the rub of the green with Matthijs de Ligt needlessly getting himself sent off. In Bayer Leverkusen’s Patrik Schick, they possess one of the most impressive attackers at the Euros so far. Schick has found the net four times, including a goal-of-the-tournament contender against the Scots, with only Cristiano Ronaldo registering more as it stands. But regardless of the 25-year-old’s heroics, it would be a major surprise if the Czechs could even emulate their Euro ’96 counterparts and reach the final.

6. Switzerland

azerbaijan-switzerland-turkey-euro-2020-soccer Source: Naomi Baker

Pulled off the result of the tournament in the game of the tournament so far by knocking out world champions France on penalties. That match highlighted Vladimir Petković’s side’s resilience, as they scored two goals in the final 10 minutes having looked dead and buried after Paul Pogba’s sumptuous 75th-minute strike made it 3-1 to Les Bleus. In addition, two-goal hero Haris Seferović and Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka produced the type of starring performances on the big stage that some critics might have felt they were incapable of. They weren’t especially impressive in the group stages, drawing 1-1 with Wales and getting comprehensively beaten 3-0 by Italy. So whether they can maintain the levels of the clash against France, who were arguably hampered by Didier Deschamps’ controversial and surprising decision to start with a back three, is doubtful.

5. Denmark

wales-v-denmark-uefa-euro-2020-round-of-16-johan-cruijff-arena Source: PA

Earned a highly impressive 4-0 round-of-16-win, albeit against a Wales side that looked totally off the boil. They were similarly good in their must-win final group game, as they defeated Russia 4-1, having lost their opening two matches, which were overshadowed by the traumatic collapse of star man Christian Eriksen in the opener. It would be a sensational story if the Danes could match the legendary ’92 side and go all the way, and they will perceive their quarter-final against the Czech Republic as a very winnable game. Their intense pressing and energy should ensure they are likely to give any side a good game and there is a sense that the Eriksen-related drama has galvanised rather than debilitated them ultimately. Nonetheless, the lack of quality in their squad in comparison to the very top sides may eventually catch up with them.

4. Spain

slovakia-v-spain-uefa-euro-2020-group-e-estadio-la-cartuja-de-sevilla Source: Dppi/Joaquin Corchero

It is not uncommon for eventual champions to make slow starts at tournaments — indeed it was the case with Spain in 2010 when they lost their first game to Switzerland before triumphing. And they will be hoping history repeats itself in the coming weeks. Following two opening drawn games, in which they managed a sum tally of one goal, they have now found the net 10 times in their last two fixtures. Suddenly though, it is their defence that is being questioned, as they looked vulnerable in the 5-3 defeat of Croatia, with goalkeeper Unai Simon in particular guilty of a howler for the opener. In some ways, though, they might find it easier down the other end as the tournament progresses, and they come up against teams willing to adopt a more adventurous approach against them. They will be optimistic of preventing the Swiss from achieving a second successive major upset, but the true test will surely be against either Belgium or Italy in the semis. At the moment though, it still feels as though there are more questions than answers with La Roja — Alvaro Morata especially remains under the spotlight. The former Chelsea striker took his goal brilliantly against the Croats, but whether he can be consistently relied upon at the very highest level is debatable at best.

3. Belgium

belgium-v-portugal-uefa-euro-2020-round-of-16-estadio-la-cartuja-de-sevilla Source: DPA/PA Images

The only side left in the competition with a 100% record (if you count Italy’s match with Austria as a draw, which it was after 90 minutes), there is still a feeling that people are waiting for Belgium to hit absolute top gear. The way they came back to beat Denmark in the second half was impressive, but that was preceded by an indifferent 45 minutes. Similarly, they played well for part of the game against Portugal but looked like they were wilting towards the end and the victory was somewhat fortuitous ultimately — they had four shots and one on target compared to 23 and four for their rivals. Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard both went off injured in that last-16 encounter, and the Belgians will surely need their star duo fit to retain hopes of prevailing. Another key factor will be how their ageing defence holds up — Toby Alderweireld (32), Jan Vertonghen (34) and Thomas Vermaelen (35) have all seen better days and may struggle against the most potent attacks. 

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2. England

england-czech-republic-euro-2020-soccer Source: NEIL HALL

It’s remarkable with England that the defence, routinely cited as their biggest weakness before the tournament, has been their greatest asset. They are the only side in the competition that has yet to concede, and credit must go not only to the backline but to Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips who have done an excellent job protecting them. And ominously for their rivals, Raheem Sterling, who has scored three of their four goals, has looked sharp throughout the tournament, while Harry Kane and Jack Grealish could be growing into the competition, with both having an impact in the win over Germany. Also noteworthy is that if they can get past Ukraine in the quarters, a game the Three Lions will be strong favourites for, they could potentially have both a semi-final and final at Wembley, which conceivably boosts their chances significantly.

1. Italy

britain-italy-austria-euro-2020-soccer Source: Laurence Griffiths

Probably the side who have impressed most consistently so far, even if their recent 2-1 extra-time victory over Austria was not totally convincing. That win set a new national record of 31 games unbeaten, which is bound to breed confidence, regardless of how it was achieved. Roberto Mancini’s men, though, face their biggest test yet amid a quarter-final encounter with another highly-fancied side in Belgium. But if they come through that challenge, it is difficult to see anyone halting their momentum. They possess real strength in depth, as indicated by the fact that two substitutes, Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina, scored the all-important goals against Austria, while Manuel Locatelli, one of the most impressive midfielders at the tournament so far, also had to be content with a substitute appearance, as fit-again Marco Verratti was preferred in the starting XI. Their defence is among the strongest in the competition, with only one goal conceded so far. None of their players have scored more than two goals and they lack an obvious superstar, though, of all the teams in the tournament, only Spain have found the net with greater frequency, which highlights the variety of options the Azzurri have in attack.

Quarter-finals:

2 July

Spain v Switzerland (5pm, Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg)
Belgium v Italy (8pm Allianz Arena, Munich)

3 July

Czech Republic v Denmark (5pm, Olympic Stadium, Baku)
Ukraine v England (8pm, Stadio Olimpico, Rome)

First published today at 00.00

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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