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Euro 2020 quarter-final preview: Belgium and Italy clash to take the headlines

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After a thrilling set of last 16 ties, the Euro 2020 quarter-finals are upon us.

We could be in for another exhilarating round of fixtures. With giants such as France, Germany, Portugal and Netherlands all eliminated, the tournament is wide open.

All of the remaining eight will know that there is a huge opportunity to get some silverware in the cabinet.

Here are our predictions for the quarter-finals.

Switzerland vs Spain

Morata got his first goal of the summer in extra time

Having looked down and out against France, Switzerland pulled off the shock of the tournament by coming back and defeating the world champions on penalties.

Spain’s game against Croatia was equally as thrilling. They were 3-1 up going into the closing stages but conceded twice late on to go to extra time before hitting two to progress.

We can only hope that this clash is anywhere near as entertaining.

Luis Enrique’s men are the favourites to reach the semi-finals. The Champions League-winning manager has got his side playing a heavily possession-based style, keeping at least two-thirds of the ball in all four of their games so far.

On top of this, they’re scoring a lot of goals, bagging ten in their last two games. And this is while being rather wasteful in front of goal. If they can be more ruthless, they should go through.

However, they have shown signs of weakness at the back. Alexander Isak and Robert Lewandowski caused plenty of problems for the Spanish defence, while Croatia managed to hit three past them.

This is where Switzerland, and especially striker Haris Seferovic, could benefit. The Benfica man is of the same mould as the aforementioned Isak and Lewandowski, being physically strong and good in the air.

He scored a brace of headers against France’s defence – can he do it again?

It should be a close game, but La Furia Roja should have too much for their opponents.

Prediction: Switzerland 2-3 Spain

Belgium vs Italy

Will Lukaku continue his push for the Golden Boot?

Later that evening, we’ve got the big one. Two of the tournament’s favourites go head-to-head. Whoever wins will be heavily fancied to lift the trophy.

In the group stages, Belgium were excellent going forward, winning all three games while scoring seven goals. And at the other end, they let just one in.

When they faced Portugal in the round of 16, however, they took up a very different strategy.

Instead of the expansive attacking football that they gave us in the groups, they played a far more cautious system, having just 43% possession and one shot on target. Thankfully for them, that shot went in.

Italy will feel like they can break down a defensive side, having comfortably seen off Turkey in their opening game. But Belgium are a completely different animal.

The Azzurri didn’t have as much joy in their knockout game against Austria. They needed extra time to win and may have even gone out had VAR not ruled out Marko Arnautovic’s second-half goal for a marginal offside. They must raise their game if they wish to beat Belgium.

They will take confidence that Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard are likely to be absent, having both gone off injured against Portugal. Nonetheless, there is still plenty of quality in the Belgian side.

It’s a tough one to call, but it should be close.

Prediction: Belgium 0-1 Italy

Czech Republic vs Denmark

Denmark have been lethal in front of goal lately

Not many people have given Czech Republic a chance throughout the tournament.

They were drawn against England and Croatia in the group stages and faced Netherlands in the round of 16. And yet, they’ve made it to the quarter-finals, all while conceding just twice.

They may not have the most star-studded lineup in the competition, but what they do have is one of the continent’s most in-form players.

Patrik Schick is currently second in the race for the Golden Boot, scoring four goals – including a halfway line screamer in the opening game against Scotland.

This will be a concern to Denmark, who have kept just one clean sheet so far. But luckily for them, they have a frontline that has more than made up for it.

In their last two outings, the Danes have scored eight goals, with the goalscorers ranging from centre-backs to forwards. This will give them confidence that they can beat anyone on their day.

After a slow start, Denmark have found their rhythm and should be on their way to the semi-finals.

Prediction: Czech Republic 1-3 Denmark

Ukraine vs England

Sterling put England ahead with his third of the tournament

The final game of the quarter-finals comes in Rome, as Ukraine face England.

It’s not been an easy ride for Ukraine so far. They were statistically the weakest team to qualify from the group stage but managed to get past Sweden with a last gasp winner.

Where they have struggled is at the back, failing to keep a clean sheet. However, with Andriy Yarmolenko, Roman Yaremchuk, Ruslan Malinovskiy and Oleksandr Zinchenko, they have enough attacking talent to cause some problems.

In contrast, clean sheets are where England have excelled. In fact, they are the only side who are still yet to concede a goal.

No matter who they have faced, the Three Lions have been cautious in their approach, starting the duo of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips in all four games.

This has been very effective in keeping the opposition at bay but has limited them to just four goals. For a side with their attacking talent, this is surprisingly low.

Perhaps the worst thing that could have happened to Ukraine was to see Harry Kane bag a late second against Germany.

The striker, who had been very underwhelming in the tournament so far, managed to notch his first strike of Euro 2020. This could be the confidence boost that he needs to kick-start a goalscoring run.

Ukraine won’t make things easy for England, but Gareth Southgate’s men should progress.

Prediction: Ukraine 0-2 England

Read also: Euro 2020 Best XI Round of 16: Unlikely heroes from a topsy-turvy round.

Euro 2020 Quaerter Finals

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