The knockout stage of Euro 2020 started yesterday with Denmark thrashing Wales 4-0 and Italy beating Austria 2-0 in extra time.
Sunday’s games saw the Netherlands take on the Czech Republic in Budapest,Hungary and the most anticipated game of the weekend between Belgium and Portugal (played in Seville, Spain).
The Netherlands v The Czech Republic
The Czechs, ranked 40th in the world and 24 places behind the Dutch national team, pulled off the biggest upset of the competition so far by beating 10-man Netherlands 2-0 to set up a quarter-final meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, with Denmark.
Defender Matthijs de Ligt was sent off in the 55th-minute when he tripped and pulled the ball back with this hand in the second half, whilst denying Patrik Schick a clear goalscoring opportunity. A VAR review left referee Sergey Karasev no choice but to overturn his original decision to just show a yellow card.
Tomas Holes nodded in the first goal of the game 13 minutes after the sending off, before providing the assist for Shick‘s goal and seeing his side double their lead in the 80th minute.
Schick‘s goal was his fourth of the tournament – only Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo has more goals than the Czech forward so far.
The Netherlands, who were shorthanded for over half an hour, had a huge chance early on as Donyell Malen went head-to-head with goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.
Denzel Dumfries was the oranje’s main threat, at one point getting in behind on the left and flicking it over the keeper, just unable to beat the last defender. The soon to be Barcelona striker, Memphis Depay, was also heavily involved, whilst Malen continued to get in to dangerous positions.
Dumfries was a defensive threat too, making a goal-saving block to deny Pavel Kaderabek, only for Holes to punish his side minutes later, finishing off a knock-back from Tomas Kalas‘ free kick.
The quarter-final clash between Denmark and the Czech Republic will bring the heat – the two teams met in the quarter-finals of the 2004 Euro championships, with the Czech’s 3-0 victors.
Czech Republic v Denmark – Saturday, July 3rd (12pm ET – ESPN)
Belgim v Portugal
Belgium continued their pursuit for a first major title thanks to a moment of class from Thorgan Hazard, younger brother of Eden Hazard, eliminating holders Portugal.
T.Hazard‘s swerving drive from 25-yards, which arrived late in an evasive first-half, proved enough for Roberto Martinez‘s side to set up a mouthwatering meeting with Italy at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany on Friday (Jul 2).
Portugal, who once again started Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes on the bench, will look back on their key chances – Diego Jota came close numerous times, Ruben Dias saw his header saved and Raphael Guerreiro‘s late strike hit the post.
Manchester City superstar Kevin De Bruyne‘s fitness will likely remain dominant in the media leading up to the quarter-finals after he limped out of the game just moments after half time. To add to Belgium’s woes they lost E. Hazard to a complaint later in the game.
Whilst the world’s highest-ranking side may have many key holes to fill, Belgium can breathe a sigh of relief as their team continues to possess the grit to compliment their undeniable quality.
Belgium v Italy – Friday, July 2nd (3pm ET – ESPN)
Monday, June 28th fixtures:
Croatia v Spain – 12pm ET (ESPN/UNIVISION) – Live from Parken Stadium (Copenhagen, Denmark)
France v Switzerland – 3pm ET (ESPN/UNIVISION) – Live from Arena Națională (Bucharest, Romania)