We started with 24 of Europe’s finest, but now only Spain, Italy, Denmark and England remain. Euro 2020 is about to get serious.
The quarter-finals told us a lot about who is likely to lift the trophy on 11 July, but before we decide whether or not football is finally coming home after 55 years of delays, we should take a minute to try and get our heads around what just happened in an eventful last eight.
Here is 90min’s team of the Euro 2020 quarter-finals.
It was heartbreak for Switzerland as they reached the quarter-finals of a major tournament for the first time 1954, but it wasn’t for the want of trying against Spain – certainly not from inspirational keeper Yann Sommer.
The Gladbach stopper was the hero against France in the round of 16 and he made a number of key stops here even before the penalties. He saved two in the shootout , but it wasn’t quite enough to get the better of the three-time European champions.
OK, so he doesn’t actually play right-back for Denmark. But for three reasons, we’ve made an exception.
1. He plays right-back at club level.
2. We’ve already got a left-back.
3. He was really, really bloody good.
Big Slabhead came up trumps for England as they delivered their most complete performance of the Euros so far to dismiss Ukraine without any trouble whatsoever.
He commanded the back line masterfully and even came up with a goal – a great big towering header – to double the lead and get England on their way to a rout.
The Juventus captain is in his late thirties now, and might be playing in his final tournament with Italy. So you better believe he’s making it count.
He has reasserted his status as one of the best centre-backs in world football at Euro 2020 and was one of the best players on the park as Italy styled and sh*thoused their way past Belgium and into the last four.
Well if there was any doubt over who England‘s starting left-back is, there isn’t any more. Shaw may be the easiest pick of the bunch for this XI.
He was absolutely unplayable against Ukraine, hitting the mark with virtually every one of his crosses and laying on two goals for his teammates. Opposing wing-back Alexander Karavaev needn’t have bothered showing up.
Between Jorginho, Marco Verratti, Bryan Cristante, Manuel Locatelli and Matteo Pessina, Italy have no shortage of midfielders with a track record of performing for their country. But Inter star Barella showed why he deserves his starting berth against Belgium on Friday evening.
The 24-year-old was a constant presence in both boxes and came up with one of the goals of the tournament when he sold three Belgium players down the river and fired one beyond Thibaut Courtois from a seemingly impossible angle.
Denmark have been good value for their perennial ‘dark horse’ tag so far, and deserve so much credit for the way they have composed themselves after Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest. Whatever happens from here, they’ve done themselves and their absent talisman proud.
But their remarkable story at Euro 2020 isn’t over just yet.
Just five minutes were on the clock when Delaney headed them in front against the Czech Republic and it set the tone for a commanding midfield performance from the Borussia Dortmund man. They saw it out to make the semi-finals, and those dreams of going all the way are looking more realistic by the minute.
Here he is. The man of the hour. Pedro González López, better known simply as Pedri.
Spain’s midfield dynamo has been the biggest success story of all of 90min’s Our 21 so far at the tournament, playing virtually every minute of Spain’s run to the semi-finals and making his presence felt.
It was the same story against Switzerland as he delivered a well-rounded midfield performance, recovering the ball seven times and making five key passes – more than anyone else in the pitch in both metrics.
The teenager has also covered more distance at this tournament than any other player (61.5km).
The scorer of England’s first three goals at the Euros wasn’t on the scoresheet against Ukraine, but he did everything but. The Man City star delivered yet another inspiring performance, drifting in from the left to cause all sorts of havoc, and teamed up with Luke Shaw to terrorise the right side of the Ukrainian defence.
His assist for Harry Kane’s opener means he still has a goal or an assist in every match England have scored in at Euro 2020.
Speak of the devil and he doth appear.
The England captain came in for some serious, not entirely unmerited criticism for his group stage performances, but fortunately for England, he now seems to have remembered he is one of the best number nines on the planet.
His goal against Germany in the last 16 has lifted a weight off his shoulders, and his double against Ukraine means he isn’t a Golden Boot write-off just yet.
And to cap things off with a little more Italian representation, how about Lorenzo Insigne?
His goal alone qualifies him, charging through the Belgian midfield and picking his spot beyond Thibaut Courtois, but he was a constant threat and a key part of a measured Italy performance.