Following an exciting first knockout round at Euro 2020, the tournament’s quarter-final round was perhaps less exciting.
Despite lasting 120 minutes against Croatia, Spain needed extra time and a nerve-wracking penalty shootout to defeat ten-man Switzerland. Later in the day, Italy defeated Belgium in a heavyweight contest between two tournament favorites, setting up a tense last-four encounter with La Roja.
In the other two Euro 2020 quarter-finals, Denmark extended their fairy-tale run in the competition by defeating Czech Republic, while England won the most resounding victory among the semi-final quartet by defeating Ukraine 4-0.
It would be fair to say that three-time champions Spain have blown hot and cold at Euro 2020.
After opening their campaign with a disappointing goalless draw against Czech Republic, Spain were held to a 1-1 draw by Poland in their next game. La Furia Roja, though, announced their arrival at Euro 2020 with an emphatic 5-0 dismantling of Slovakia to book their place in the Round of 16.
Up against 2018 FIFA World Cup finalists Croatia, Spain recovered from an early own goal to lead 3-1 with five minutes to go, before Croatia scored twice to force extra time. Luis Enrique’s men, though, recovered to score two unanswered goals in extra time to reach the quarter-finals.
On their path to the Euro 2020 semi-finals, Spain struggled to break down ten-man Switzerland and also missed two spot-kicks in the shootout. In the process, La Furia Roja equaled their best goal tally (12) in a single European Championship edition.
🇪🇸 Spain equalled their highest ever EURO goals tally to bring Switzerland's #EURO2020 run to a close!— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) July 2, 2021
Luis Enrique’s men will now take on tournament favourites Italy for a place in the Euro 2020 final.
#9 Euro 2020 has seen more own goals (10) than all of the other editions of the competition combined
Denis Zakaria of Switzerland became the tenth player at Euro 2020 to score an own goal, continuing an unsettling trend at the tournament.
That tally is one more than the combined tally of own goals ever recorded in European Championship history.
10 – Denis Zakaria's own goal is the tenth we've seen at #EURO2020, which is now one more than were scored at each of the previous 15 editions of the European Championships combined (9). Dubious. pic.twitter.com/odGEGutwDK— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 2, 2021
Merih Demiral, Mats Hummels, Ruben Dias, Raphael Guerreiro, Wojciech Szczsny, Lukas Hradecky, Martin Dubravka, and Juraj Kucka all scored own goals earlier in the tournament.
Despite an own goal by Zakaria and a red card for Remo Freuler, Switzerland thwarted Spain for significant swaths of the game to force a second consecutive penalty shootout. Despite Yann Sommer’s heroics, the Swiss, who scored all five of their penalty kicks against France, only converted one of their four and were eliminated from the competition.
8 Italy set a new record for the most straight victories (15) in the history of the European Championship, including qualifications.
Italy has been on a roll under Roberto Mancini after failing to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The Azzurri won all ten of their Euro 2020 qualifying matches before going undefeated in the competition’s group stage. Since then, Italy has faced tougher competition in the knockout rounds, but has managed to lift the ante.
Mancini’s side needed extra time to beat Austria in the Round of 16, while Italy held off a late rally from Belgium to win 2-1 in the quarter-finals. In the process, the Azzurri became the first team in European Championship history to win 15 games in a row (including qualifications).
15 – Including the qualifying rounds, Italy have won each of their last 15 European Championship matches – a new competition record. Belgium themselves had won 14 consecutive matches before today's defeat. Goliath. #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/JOqngYjNIC— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 2, 2021
Denmark’s Euro 2020 campaign has been fascinating. After Christian Eriksen’s collapse against Finland in their tournament opener, the game’s outcome became secondary on the day.
After a brief break, the game resumed, but the Danes were defeated by a solitary goal. Denmark made a strong start against tournament favorites Belgium in their next match, scoring the first goal, but the Red Devils rallied back to take all three points.
Denmark, on the verge of being eliminated from the tournament, thrashed Russia 4-1 to earn an unexpected spot in the Round of 16. After losing their first two games, they were the first team in European Championship history to qualify for the knockout rounds.
Denmark hammered Wales 4-0 in the Round of 16 and beat the Czech Republic 2-1 to reach their first European Championship semi-final in nearly three decades, buoyed by their performance against Russia.
Denmark’s 29-year gap between Euro semi-final appearances is now the biggest in the competition’s history.
1992 – Denmark have reached the semi-final stage of the European Championship for the first time since 1992, with their 29 year gap between last four appearances the longest in the history of the competition. Patience. #CZEDEN #EURO2020— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 3, 2021
The buoyant Danes will face tournament favorites England in the next round for a spot in the Euro 2020 final.